COVID can’t keep parishioners apart
Phone calls and e-mails have taken on new meaning in parishes across the Archdiocese as the weeks of COVID lockdown drag on.
Priests and parishioners alike are spending hours each week keeping in touch with other and showing acts of kindness, particularly to those who are feeling isolated.
In South Tuggeranong parish priest Fr James Antony and Fr Joshua Scott have been busy contacting parishioners.
Assistant priest Fr Joshua said a phone tree between parishioners was working well.
“We have been in contact with many people over the last few weeks making over 500 calls, which is huge,” he said.
“We’ve been live streaming our masses, and we are developing online initiatives to keep in contact with students.”
Corpus Christi’s pastoral team has been attending to unwell and isolated parishioners, fed-up and worn down families and grandparents missing their grandchildren.
At South Belconnen parish, apart from those who are isolated and unwell the parish pastoral council is in contact with parishioners who are experiencing stress through their occupations.
“We started thinking about all the different groups of people who are impacted by the lockdown,” parish priest Fr Simon Falk said.
“We have healthcare workers who are under a lot of stress. We have people who work in the Family Law Courts getting lots of domestic violence cases. We also have three schools in the area, so we are concerned about all the staff, families, and students’ faith and well-being.
“Some of the older folk in the parish have been excellent at regularly making contact with parishioners.”
Tumut assistant priest Fr Namora Anderson said phoning and e-mailing seemed to work best.
Pastorally attending to parishioners from over eight towns in the Western Deanery, parish administrator Fr George Ogah and Fr Namora are in awe at the way people in rural areas keep in touch with one another.
“Even though geographically the parish is vast, most farmers always find ways to keep in touch,” Fr Namora said.
“There’s already a level of isolation by way of large farms and the general vastness of the area. I don’t think people here are as affected as those living in the cities.
“Some of the older ladies in town who are members or former members of the parish pastoral council are legendary. These people have grown up in this area, as did their parents and grandparents, so everyone knows everyone, and they all check up on each other.”
Cooma parish priest Fr Mick MacAndrew said young families were very anxious about the spread of COVID while the older generation in the parish “seem to be just taking it in their stride”.
Although some are struggling with isolation, Fr Mick and assistant priest Fr Adrian Chan have praised the existing support networks.
“The elderly have their own networks, which they have built up over many years,” Fr Mick said. Relationships had been a lifeline for them and many, but not all, elderly parishioners had their families nearby.
“Last Sunday evening, I received a message from one of the parishioners concerned about an elderly lady,” he said. “As her only daughter is living in Canberra, I was asked to decide on calling an ambulance.
“We’ve shifted our emphasis from one sort of work to another. I make home visits but stay at the front door, and visit the local school, but I can’t go into the classrooms.”
Kambah parish priest Fr Praveen Paul praised his parishioners for their care and generosity.
“They have been busy looking after me, working in the parish garden, and sending emails to find out how I’m doing,” he said. “This morning, one family brought some biscuits and left them at my front door while others have dropped by with delicious food. So I think that that shows their love and care.”
This shows how we care for each other. I have cousins living in Canberra and I have been in contact with them during this time.
No doubt Fr James and Fr Joshua are very busy, but, despite my many years of involvement in Catholic parish activities, it is the Tuggeranong Lutheran parish that has reached out to me.