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Cabin Mass a High Point

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Brenton watches Fr James McCarthy say his homily, on his phone from inside his truck. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli.

The Shire landscaper is one of thousands of people watching the online offerings by Cronulla’s St Aloysius, and he says he has never felt more connected to his faith.

SMOKO has a whole new meaning for tradie Brenton Truscott.

Instead of tucking into a bacon and egg roll and catching up on his Facebook feed, these days he logs into his phone and catches the 8am weekday Masses live-streamed from his local parish.

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The Shire landscape gardener is one of thousands of people watching the online offerings by Cronulla’s St Aloysius parish introduced since COVID, and despite not being physically in Church all year, he has never felt more connected to his parish or his faith.

He said in years gone by he’d be lucky to go to Mass a few times a year – now he is tuning into mass that many times each week.

The father-of-three said being able to watch Mass has been a real blessing and while he acknowledges going in person is always his preference, due to his demanding work schedule watching online is the next best thing.

“I start work at 5.30am six days a week so my only day off is Sunday which revolves around my kids and sport and other activities so very rarely would I go to mass,” he said.

Fr James McCarthy and Parishioner Marie Ficarra livestreaming from St. Aloysius in Cronulla. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli.

“And then one day I was sitting at a job site and got a notification through Facebook that Mass at Cronulla was about to start so I clicked on it and before I knew it I had sat through the whole thing.

“I really enjoyed it, it enabled me to just stop and reflect on my life and what’s important to me.

“Looking back over the past few years we would really only go to Mass at Christmas and Easter but now I tune in a minimum of 2-3 times a week.

“If there’s a positive to come out of COVID for me it’s been my reconnection with the Church and the live streaming at Cronulla.”

Parish priest of the seaside community Fr James McCarthy said despite the fears live streaming would stop people coming to Church, he disagrees believing there is a real place for it in evangelising in 2020.

And despite his current large and engaged online audience, participation in person at weekday Masses is now higher than prior to COVID.

He stresses there is no substitute for attending a Mass physically, but due to its success he is now looking at adding to his already extensive online presence.

“I know there are many, many people watching my Masses on the train going to work in Sydney for example, not to mention the thousands of views we are getting world-wide,” he said.

Fr James McCarthy and Parishioner Marie Ficarra livestreaming from St. Aloysius in Cronulla. PHOTO: Giovanni Portelli.

“They are watching on Ipads, or their computers, or their Iphones, and at the end of the day are getting spiritual nourishment which they mightn’t have got without it.

“We are a global Church and even though we are so disconnected at the moment we are also so close to each other.

“I know there were fears that people would get used to live streaming and not come back physically to Mass but we are currently at capacity with numbers in the Church at the moment and I believe that’s because we have stayed so connected online.

“I guess at the end of the day I don’t fear live streaming, I think there is a real place for it.”

Fr James said his online Masses had attracted huge audiences from not just his parish but from around the world and in the past month alone, the Parish Facebook page has reached over 100,000 devices and had more than 36,000 engagements.

“We do a weekday Mass and consistently get over 1,000 live views every day mainly from Australia but also around the world,” he said.

“And Sunday night is the real surprise, we get about 6,000 views and only about a quarter of those are in Australia, the rest are overseas who are engaging with us and then sharing with their contacts.

Cronulla Catholic Youtube didn’t exist in March and now it has 595 subscribers while the Cronulla Catholic Facebook page has increased from having 200 followers in March to over 3,000 followers so we must be doing something right.”

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