Thousands join priests at Mass online

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Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP and Fr Lewi Barakat (at right) offer Mass in an empty St Mary’s Cathedral while thousands watch online from their homes. Image: Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney screenshot

Faithful strengthen unity while forced apart

Thousands of Catholics participated in live-streamed Masses as parish priests led them from closed churches across Sydney last weekend.

More than 15,000 people joined either live-streamed or pre-recorded Masses from about 10 parishes and St Mary’s Cathedral, with more parish Masses set to come online from this weekend. Such was the demand for Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP’s first private Mass in the cathedral on Sunday morning at 10.30am that one website hosting it momentarily crashed.

The archbishop assured the faithful that priests, “even if they cannot celebrate Mass with you, are celebrating Mass for you – and not just today but every day”.

“We must be especially careful at this time that ‘social distancing’ does not mean distancing ourselves socially or spiritually from each other,” he said. “Indeed, as we separate physically we must find new ways of maintaining contact and strengthening communion.”

In his homily he pointed out that this is the fifth time Masses have been suspended or banned – three times during the early stages of the country’s colonisation and the fourth time to try to contain the ravages of the Spanish flu.

University students and chaplains join in an online daily rosary hosted by the University of New South Wales Catholic Society.

“Every time we’ve faced this before, the lay faithful have maintained their faith and devotion,” said the archbishop. “Every time the Church has bounced back after the crisis stronger than before, more hungry for the Eucharist and with higher rates of Mass attendance.”

Along with Masses, priests also provided digital prayer resources for Catholics to use at home and other opportunities for church communities to come together online to pray throughout the week.

Keeping a sense of normalcy

Margaret and Julian Flitcroft watched their local parish’s recorded Mass on their TV for the first time on Sunday with their young children Sam, 11, Lucy, 9, Tom, 7, and Georgia, 4.

“We lit candles and had flowers. I was worried it might be a bit cheesy watching a live-stream Mass but it was really beautiful,” said Mrs Flitcroft. “We told the kids they still need to do their hair and dress nicely, just as if we were there in the church. It helped them to realise they still needed to be quiet and respectful.”

The Flitcroft family is keeping its prayer and Mass routines as normal as possible. PHOTO: Alphonsus Fok

She said it was important for them to keep their family rosary, Mass and other spiritual anchors embedded in their weeks. “Hopefully if we can keep that part of life ticking along while everything else is weird, when this is all over it will easier to continue from where we were,” she said.

David and Bernadette Jee and their children were among more than 200 who tuned to the Maternal Heart parish, Lewisham’s live-streamed Mass on Sunday.

Mrs Jee said she “wept” at the announcement that churches would be closed. “The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the closest we can get to heaven,” she said. “We long for Jesus and make many Spiritual Communions.”

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