Reactions of Victorian clergy whose livestreamed Masses were interrupted by an earthquake on 22 September were notable for their distinct lack of panic.
Fr Dan Serratore MGL, parish priest of St Benedict’s, Burwood, was introducing the Prayers of the Faithful at the weekday 9am Mass when the 5.9 magnitude earthquake struck near Rawson, causing tremors across three states felt as far north as parts of Sydney.
The Mass was being livestreamed on Facebook, so the 10 seconds of strong shaking of the church was captured, with a large glass behind the tabernacle shuddering ominously. Throughout, Fr Dan and the reader, Bernard Hennessy, stood still, looking around the church and then at each other.
“We just had a little tremor here,” Fr Dan is heard saying to viewers, smiling, as it subsided.
“It was a tremor,” Bernard agreed.
“Ok, we’ve come good.”
Several social media users commented on how laid-back the men’s reactions were, with one declaring it a “most Aussie response ever”.
At St Mary’s Church in Dandenong, Fr Brendan Lane had just begun his daily livestreamed Mass when the earthquake hit, the highest recorded in the state.
“Wow, how’s that? We’ve just had an earth tremor here,” he said to viewers. But then he promptly added that “God used to speak through theophany, thunder, lightning and tremors and all this”.
“So he must be speaking with us today. I don’t think I’ve said anything wrong yet, anyway.”
At St Mary’s, Ascot Vale, the earthquake caused two life-size solid marble statues to crash to the ground. Parish priest Fr Justin Ford told Melbourne Catholic that the statues were more than 80 years old and were imported from Italy in the 1930s when the church building was officially opened. “They’re not repairable but we’ll get them replaced.”
Fr Dan told The Catholic Weekly he hoped it might have been a “Pentecost moment” for a second there and was glad no injuries had been reported.
“I’ve never experienced a tremor like that before,” he said. “It was intense for a moment than just subsided so I assumed it was just a passing thing.”
With the state seeing rising COVID-19 case numbers, violent anti-lockdown protests and now an earthquake, Fr Dan agreed that Victorian Catholics had been through a lot this year.
“We’re just trying to reinforce to people that we can keep hoping when challenges persist and today was a good example of that, and it was reflected in the readings and the psalms as well. We can keep our gaze on the Lord and maintain our faith and hope even in the midst of trials.”