• Wartakanlah Injil kepada segala makhluk.
    Mrk 16:15

  • 你们往普天下去, 向一切受造物宣传福音
    谷 16:15

  • Everything is possible by the power of the Holy Spirit’s Grace.
    St Arnold Janssen

  • Segala sesuatu menjadi mungkin dalam kekuatan karunia Roh Kudus.
    St. Arnold Janssen

  • 我当传教士不是为主牺牲,而是上主给我的最大恩赐
    圣福若瑟神父

  • Với sức mạnh Ân Huệ của Chúa Thánh Thần, Mọi việc đều có thể được.
    St Arnoldus Janssen

  • Preach the Gospel to the whole creation./Anh em hãy đi khắp tứ phương thiên hạ, loan báo Tin Mừng cho mọi loài thọ tạo
    Mk 16:15

  • There are many different gifts, but it is always the same Spirit.
    1 Cor 12:4

  • And the Word became flesh and lived among us.
    Jn 1:14

  • Let the word of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you.
    Col 3:16

  • To proclaim the Good News is the first and greatest act of love of neighbour.
    St Arnold Janssen

  • 传扬天国福音是第一且最大的爱近人行动
    圣杨生•爱诺德神父

  • Có nhiều đặc sủng khác nhau, nhưng chỉ có một Thần Khí/
    1 Cor. 14:4

  • 圣言成了血肉,寄居在我们中间
    若 1:14

  • Ada rupa-rupa karunia, tetapi Roh satu
    1 Kor 12:4

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Thursday, 28 May 2020 11:27

Thanksgiving as church doors begin to reopen

 

OLSH church Alice Springs doors open 550It was an emotional moment for Fr Prakash Menezes SVD when, after weeks of celebrating Mass in front of a phone camera at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart church in Alice Springs, he was finally able to look out and see his parishioners again.

The Northern Territory government relaxed its COVID-19 restrictions on Friday, May 15, and that very same day Fr Prakash celebrated Mass for the people.

News travelled fast, and Fr Prakash says about 63 people turned up for Mass that Friday afternoon, a big jump in numbers from the usual weekday headcount before the closure of the churches.

“It showed that people were eager to come back,” he says.

“It was very emotional for me personally, because instead of staring at the camera, even though I knew people were always out there behind the camera, watching, I was with the people again.

“It was a really good feeling.”

Under the current social distancing regulations in the Northern Territory, the OLSH church is only able to hold 75 people, but more are able to stand outside.

“So we have set up the outdoor speakers so that if there are people outside they can participate in the Mass,” Fr Prakash says.

“And we go outside to distribute Communion to those people out there.”

The parish holds four Masses each weekend, including a Mass for the indigenous community, so Fr Prakash says that most parishioners should be able to attend one of the Masses under the new rules.

He says there is a lot of preparation to be done, as well as cleaning and sanitising afterwards.

“We have cordoned off every second pew and have put marks on the ground to show the appropriate distancing requirement when people are coming up for Communion and there is now only one line for Communion,” he says.

Mass returns at Santa Teresa 550Fr Prakash says he will continue the livestreaming of one Sunday Mass for the time being for those who might not wish to come to Mass in person because of health or other reasons and to ensure all parishioners have access to Mass on the weekend.

“The live-streaming was really well received by everyone during this time of pandemic,” he says.

“It was our way of still reaching out to the people and they really appreciated that we were continuing with Mass and putting it online.

“We also reached out to a lot of people who were not regularly in the Church. People from Canberra, Adelaide, the United States also joined in. People were really participating and leaving comments, so it was an interesting experience.

“But it was wonderful to be back at Mass with the people again and I know the parishioners were really happy about it too.”

About 80 km away from Alice Springs, in the small community of Santa Teresa, Fr Elmer Ibarra SVD also resumed Masses on the weekend after the NT Government lifted the restrictions.

“It was a blessed day for us here in the parish,” he says. “It was also my birthday!”

The usual number of about 30-40 parishioners attended Mass, with some chairs and a speaker placed outside in case more people turned up than could be accommodated.

Cleaning up for Mass at Santa Teresa 550“I was so glad and blessed to have public Masses again in our parish church,” he says. “Even though I was already doing some Masses online and I was able to visit families and give them Communion, nothing really beats seeing your parishioners praying together in Church at a Sunday Mass.

“The parishioners were equally happy that some sense of normality was happening again in the community.”

Fr Elmer said that as Santa Teresa is one of the remote indigenous communities in total lockdown during the pandemic, with only essential workers allowed in or out, the community had been feeling uneasy.

“So having the Mass again in Church gives them hope that things are starting to get back to normal.”

He says before Masses resumed, the parish team sanitised the floor, the pews, movable chairs, doors, tables, and anything that would be touched and they did the same again after Mass was over.

Meanwhile, in other states, Divine Word Missionaries are maintaining their online outreach as Masses are slowly beginning to return in small numbers in some jurisdictions. From June 1, places of worship in NSW will be able to have 50 people in attendance, with appropriate social distancing, while in Victoria the number will be 20, also from June 1 and in Queensland it will be 20 people, from June 12.

PHOTOS

TOP RIGHT: The doors were open again at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart church in Alice Springs after the NT Government lifted pandemic restrictions for churches and public gatherings.

MIDDLE LEFT: Parishioners were also able to return to Mass at Santa Teresa in Central Australia.

BOTTOM RIGHT: Fr Elmer Ibarra SVD is pictured with a parish team helping to sanitise the church after Mass.