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Survey to reveal pandemic prayer life

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Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is livestreamed on Facebook by Father Tom Kovatch at St Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Bloomington, Ind., March 24, 2020. PHOTO: CNS/Katie Rutter

Study will look at trends in worship during lockdown

A new national study will explore how Catholics in Australia have responded to church closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The anonymous online survey from Monash University is open to all Australian practising Catholics aged 18 years and over. It will ask about what types of worship choices individuals made during lockdown, and what they would like to see done in future.

The study is part of a research project by The Catholic Weekly columnist Philippa Martyr, who is interested in mapping Catholic responses to the pandemic.

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The national project also aims to measure Australian Catholics’ spiritual wellbeing and religious orientation during COVID-19. Lay people, priests, and religious are all invited to participate.

“During the church closures, I met Catholics who benefitted from watching livestreamed internet Masses, or televised Masses. But I also met others who found this difficult and spiritually unsatisfying,” Martyr said.

Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP is seen on national television as he celebrates Easter Mass via livestream on 12 April 2020, in St Mary’s Cathedral during the coronavirus pandemic. More than amillion Australians tuned in on television and online to watch Easter services broadcast from the cathedral. PHOTO: Peter Rosengren

“So I would really like to know what choices practising Catholics made about accessing different forms of worship, and look at some of the reasons why.”

All Australian places of worship closed on 23 March and did not begin reopening until early June 2020. This meant that for the first time in almost a century, Australian Catholics could not celebrate Easter publicly.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher’s televised Good Friday and Easter Sunday ceremonies from St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney drew record numbers of viewers from across Australia.

“The COVID-19 church closures have caused a lot of controversy, here and overseas, and there’s been a lot of debate about legitimate authority and the right to have access to the Sacraments,” said Martyr.

“I would really like to know what choices practising Catholics made about accessing different forms of worship, and look at some of the reasons why.”

“At the same time, no one wants to spread disease. It would be good to know more about this might translate into individual worship choices.”

This is a timely project, given the second wave of worship restrictions in Victoria and the emergence of church-based COVID-19 hotspots in New South Wales. However, in other parts of Australia Catholics are now resuming Mass attendance under almost normal conditions.

Survey author Philippa Martyr

Martyr said, “It would be good to find out if Australian Catholics are recovering spiritually from church closures, and if they are coming back to Mass in greater numbers now.”

“It’s also possible that next time we have a pandemic, we could do things better – help more people to find worship choices that meet their spiritual needs and are safe for everyone.”

Participation in the national survey is voluntary, and it will be open from late August to early October 2020. The survey will take around 10 minutes to complete, and most questions can be answered by choosing from a list of options.

There is also an opportunity at the end of the survey to comment further on any related topics. To complete the survey, go to:

The survey link is also available on Facebook as ‘Australian Catholic Worship Choices During Covid-19’.

For more information about the project, contact Philippa Martyr at [email protected] or Josie O’Donohue at [email protected]

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