Regulars are counting blessings as churches reopen
With gratitude and relief many Catholics returned to their churches for Mass last week, after lockdown restrictions were further lifted to allow for 50 worshippers at a time.
At St Kevin’s parish in Eastwood on Sunday Mark and Lisa Young told The Catholic Weekly that the two-month dry spell without Mass had only made their faith stronger.
“It really makes you appreciate what you do have.”
“It really makes you appreciate what you do have in the Eucharist and the fact that the Mass is a community event,” said Mark.
Lisa said she found the loss of personal contact with other practising Catholics on a Sunday difficult. “We’re used to looking at our phones all the time, and it was nice that our parish offered a livestream of Sunday Mass but it’s just not the same as participating here in the Eucharist and just being together,” she said.
Anne and Chris Hogan said they were most grateful that churches had been opened to larger numbers following a petition to NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian that saw 20,000 Catholics in less than two days ask for restrictions on places of worship to be brought into line with restrictions on pubs, restaurants and other venues from 1 June. “It’s good to be back,” said Anne.
Another parishioner, Rob Tibbertsma agreed that while many things in life can translate quite well to a move online, the Mass is not one of them.
“Mass is a big deal…our faith community is the most important thing in life.”
“I can work effectively online and do many things and it’s not a big deal, but Mass is a big deal,” he said. “Obviously many others also felt the same way, that our faith community is the most important thing in life.”
Parish priest Father Martin Maunsell estimated that well over a thousand people watched each livestreamed Mass, including from outside Eastwood, over the lockdown period and he hoped to see healthy numbers return to Mass in the church as soon as possible.
Like churches across the city it had COVID-safety signs on windows, taped-off holy water fonts and pews, hand sanitiser and sign-in sheet and stickers on the floor and pews marking places to stand, queue and sit.
“I’m pleasantly surprised things are coming back so soon,” Fr Martin said. “We have had no new local cases of the virus for a while in NSW and are doing physical distancing very well.”
The Archdiocese of Sydney launched the petition on 27 May after pleas from religious and some civic leaders to lift the limit on worshippers from 10 to 50, in line with other social venues, fell on deaf ears.
“The closure of our churches and indeed of all places of worship has been deeply distressing for many people of faith in our community,” said Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP when it was announced that churches could open for up to 50 people.
“With restrictions easing, many were concerned that the churches were being left behind, and wanted to make their voices heard,” he said. “People of faith weren’t asking for special treatment, but wanted to be treated equally.”
The archdiocese is also asking people to register at massregister.com.au in keeping with government health directives.
Archbishop Fisher’s dispensation from the obligation of attending Sunday Mass is being
maintained throughout the pandemic. He has asked people who are unwell to stay away and those with compromised immune or respiratory systems or aged over 70 to be extra cautious.
Catholics not attending Mass are asked to keep Sunday holy with activities such as prayer, scripture reading and watching a livestreamed or recorded Mass online.