Faith in focus for Fairfield under pandemic scrutiny

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PHOTO: Our Lady of the Rosary, Fairfield

Parish in hotspot suburb launches online rosary campaign

Our Lady of the Rosary parish, Fairfield, is inviting all to join an online novena (nine consecutive days of prayer) to pray with parishioners for an end to the pandemic.

Each day at 6pm beginning on Friday 23 July until Saturday 31 July, prayers will be led including the rosary at the parish’s Facebook page. It comes amid weeks of focus on Fairfield as a coronavirus hotspot with parishioners are turning to the church for spiritual support.

“As we journey through the last few weeks in lockdown, there are many unknowns that are ahead of us,” said parish events and marketing coordinator Kathryn Gerardino. “We might not have all the answers but have faith that Jesus is always with us. He knows our pain and He knows the plan. So let us remain in Him as one community as we pray together in these next nine days to Our Lady of Lourdes. Let us be comforted by Our Lady and surrender to God’s Providence.”

The novena was welcomed by the Director of the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation, Daniel Ang.

“This novena will bring together in spiritual communion not only the parish community at Fairfield but Catholics across Sydney,” he said.

“At this time of lockdown and uncertainty we seek the intercession of Mary, with whom we turn to Christ. We pray for consolation and hope for all those suffering in this pandemic, and especially for the protection and care of families and communities in south western Sydney, among all those impacted by this latest outbreak”.

Fr Robert (Bob) Bossini, parish administrator, said a sense of fear had prevailed over last week as south west Sydney, Fairfield in particular, featured in daily briefings by Premier Gladys Berejiklian and the state chief medical officer Kerry Chant.

Fairfield parish’s sacramental and youth coordinator Katelyn Del Rosario. PHOTO: OLOR Fairfield

For some, an increased police presence to enforce social distancing rules added to a sense of oppression rather than safety, he said.

“People are telling me they feel spiritually assaulted,” Fr Bob told The Catholic Weekly, adding that it seemed hard to justify the focus on south western Sydney and Fairfield in particular, as opposed to other places and groups.

“People were confused by anomalies in the health orders as they were updated, they weren’t sure for example whether they had to be tested every three days, or once a week if they needed to leave the area for work, and that caused a lot of stress as people queued for hours to be tested and then were turned away,” he said.

“The government said it has consulted leaders of the community but as a pastor here in the Fairfield area I haven’t been approached at all. To keep hearing this week that the problem is in Fairfield creates bit of a ghetto mentality which I don’t think bodes well for people’s mental states.”

Fr Bob said the parish was doing all it could to give people hope, including livestreaming Mass daily, regularly updating its website, keeping in touch with parishioners by phone and letting them know that priests are still available for sacraments such as the anointing of the sick.

Fr Bob Bossini. PHOTO: OLOR Fairfield

“We expose the Blessed Sacrament inside the locked church at the window where people can come to pray and they timetable themselves so there are no more than a couple of people there at one time, otherwise they stay in their car,” he added.  “That’s given people a lot of hope.”

Our Lady of the Rosary’s sacramental and youth coordinator Katelyn Del Rosario agreed that recent events had been a “real struggle” for the normally vibrant parish community. “The community here have very strong faith and family values and we do have a number of larger families,” she said.

“So people were already missing being able to pray and connect with each other at church and then really felt a sense of injustice about the government’s focus on larger and tight-knit families in our area [as sources of viral transmission].”

Katelyn said her focus is on being proactive during the lockdown. She is experimenting with ways to keep the parish’s young people connected with each other, including hosting a games night and youth groups online and she is considering adding a praise and worship event.

“Relationships are so important for them and it’s been a real strength and blessing to be able to pray together, and play games and do these things with them even if it is front of a screen you can see it’s so great for them to get together,” she said.

“The faith is alive and active and so I don’t want to wait until the lockdown ends to try and grow this ministry. My hope is that when it ends they will be ready and will really want to do bigger things.”

* Article updated to include information about the rosary novena.

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