6 June: On Thursday evening we commenced celebrating the Eucharist once again in the Parish. At the time writing, we have held 3 Masses so far. We are getting used to all the rules and regulations that we must follow - and there are quite a lot.
An important regulation is keeping a record of all who attend a particular Mass. We are grateful for the assistance provided by the Diocese which has set up an online registration. You will help us greatly if you go to https://www.dow.org.au/registration and register yourself and your family members. This is a once only process:
- Select our parish from the dropdown menu.
- Name and contact details
- Add family members
- Nominate your Mass time availability. Select the day(s) and time(s) of the day you and your family would be available to attend Mass.
This process is still in development. At present parishioner registrations will be emailed to the parish office, but when the tests have been completed on the final phase of this regestration process we will be able to log-in to the server and access the data directly.
And now for something completely different
Got an email from JeanMarc from the Varroville Gospel Choir. They have been busy during the lockdown. Here is the fruit of their work. Enjoy.
BREAKING NEWS - At 2.48pm today (3 June 2020) we received the confirmation from Bishop Brian we had all been waiting for: we can begin celebrating Mass - with 50 people.
There is a Government Safety Plan that must first be completed and submitted to the Bishop's office - then we will be good to go. This means that we will be ready to celebrate our first Mass at 7.30 pm tomorrow evening. Masses will then continue according to the new revised schedule (see below).
As we prepare to open our church once more for limited eucharistic gatherings it is worthwhile reviewing some of the directives issued by the Diocese to mitigate risks and ensure "COVID –safe" conduct when we gather for Mass.
The consequences for breaching the directives could result in me, as the parish priest, incurring "fines of up to $11,000 and/or 6 months imprisonment with a further $5,500 for each day that the offence continues" according to the Public Health (COVID-19 Public Events) Order 2020, in conjunction with section 10 of the Public Health Act 2010. So I do ask for your understanding and co-operation as we begin the initial stage of opening our church for communal use.
First of all, until such time as all are free to attend Sunday Mass as they please, then you are dispensed from the obligation to physically attend Mass on Sundays. Many are enjoying watching Bishop Brian's Mass livestreamed on Sunday, but you can equally keep Sunday holy by setting aside time for prayer at home, or reading Scripture – especially the readings of the day.
If you do wish to attend Mass at this time please be aware that the number of people inside the building must never exceed the limits detailed in the latest Public Health Order. Currently that number is set at 50.
The PLT has decided that now, since the number of 50 has been approved, we will have 10 Masses each week. That means that we will be able to provide for up to 500 mass-goers per week. All worshippers and attendees must register in advance. And in the interests of fairness and consistency, once you have registered, your name goes to the "back of the line" to re-register.
The new schedule is:
9am Mass on: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday (a new addition), Friday and Saturday.
7.30pm Mass on Thursday evening.
Sunday Eucharist: Saturday evening at 6pm; Sunday morning at 9.30am; and Sunday evening at 5pm.
Moving one of the Sunday morning Masses to Sunday evening allows the necessary time to ensure that the church is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before the next Mass.
According to Department of Health guidelines, all high touch surfaces are to be cleaned and disinfected after every Mass. This includes door handles, pews, lectern, computer, vessels, shared musical instruments, taps, toilets, handrails. So clearly we will need some more volunteers to ensure that we meet these new standards of hygiene. If you are available for this important service, please indicate your availability when you register for Mass.
To register for Mass please contact the parish office (9603 7373) Tuesday – Friday during office hours, or after hours you can contact Patricia (0409 307 246). Remember, in the interests of fairness and equity, please just book one Mass a week to begin with, until we have an idea of the numbers. And if you are able to book a weekday Mass then you will be leaving the weekend Masses available for those who cannot attend during the week.
Looking Ahead to the Next 40 Years
Last Sunday we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the creation of our Parish. We did this by live-streaming the Mass. Perhaps the kindest thing to say is that it wasn't a complete disaster. We can only improve. And that is not to dismiss the hard work and efforts of those who prepared for that celebration: Colleen Haughey for co-ordinating the liturgy; Maria Binney and Nick Turner for the music; Srs Ninfa and Nory for a variety of "behind the scenes" work; Patricia Wicks; and Loreta and Michael Binney for the readings. A big shout out also goes to Calvin Correya for helping out with the technical difficulties involved with streaming live on the internet. As I said, it will be better next time. And there will be a next time.
Every 2 weeks I've been meeting (on Zoom) with other parish priests in the Macarthur region and they have mentioned the emails they have received from people who have not attended mass for many years but have now started watching Mass online and are interested in returning to regular life in the parish. So even when things return to "normal" – whatever that means – and we can all gather once more as a parish community, I'm going to look into the possibility of streaming a Sunday Mass each week. It will mean purchasing some basic equipment, but apart from providing for our housebound parishioners who are unable to attend Mass, it could also prove to be an effective means of reaching out to those who are looking for a community of faith and only need that invitation to join us. Stay tuned.
In the week just gone the plumbers have completed their work and we are now connected to the mains sewer line. This was funded in part by a $20,000 grant from the state government. I liked to thank Mr Anoulack Chanthivong, our local member, for his help in recommending our Parish for the grant. And well done to the property committee for seeing this through – in particular, special thanks to Steve Locke. But this is only the start. The property committee have been meeting regularly and busily working on the next stage of our renovation work in the Parish.
As you know, this includes improving our toilet facilities, upgrading our kitchen and servery, and generally making our foyer more accomodating and welcoming. And then, of course, there is the work inside the church. Renovating the sanctuary with a new altar and ambo, and remodelling the reconciliation room to be more compliant with current regulations.
We are very fortunate to have an architect as a member of our Parish. His name is Johnny Ah-Ching and he has joined our property committee. Johnny has been very helpful in showing us ways in which we could make the improvements we want in an attractive and, more importantly, a cost effective manner. This involves abandoning our plan to build a toilet block to the right of the entrance to the church. Johnny has come up with a plan that does not involve changing the present footprint of the church building.
Here are some initial drawings and sketches. I look forward to your feedback.
Click here for a PDF file of the plans.
Here are some before and after artist's impressions of the renovations. (Right click on image to view full size image in a new tab)
Two books to sustain our spirits during the “Lockdown” and beyond
The Vatican’s Dicastery for Communication has published a downloadable book containing prayers, supplications and Pope Francis’ homilies as “a sure support in time of trial” during the COVID-19 pandemic. The 192 page ebook is available as a free download here.
Also available for free download the Meditations on the Stations of the Cross led by Pope Francis, this year, in an empty St Peter’s Square. The meditations on the 14 stations were written by members of the Catholic community of the Due Palazzi prison in Padua.These included not only prisoners, but also people directly affected by crime, including prisoners’ families, victims and even a priest falsely accused of a crime. These powerful reflections are available here.
Each Sunday at 9am AEST, the Diocese will be continuing to broadcast Sunday Mass online with Bishop Brian and other clergy from Lumen Christi Catholic Parishes, Wollongong. You can watch them on the Diocese’s YouTube Channel or Facebook page.
Lumen Christi Catholic Parishes Wollongong are also livestreaming weekday Masses from the Cathedral House in Wollongong Tuesdays—Fridays 12:10pm. These Masses are celebrated by clergy from Lumen Christi, including Bishop Brian and our vicar general, Fr Bernard Gordon. You can watch these Masses on the Lumen Christi YouTube Channel.
The Sisters of St Joseph have generously shared with us the “Novena for a World in Need.” Just click on the image. Please feel free to distribute this as widely as you can. May St Mary of the Cross MacKillop intercede for us as we face the challenges of our time with courage in the midst of fear and anxiety. St Mary of the Cross: pray for us.
We have now progressed to the next stage in our struggle to "flatten the curve".
Previously public masses we cancelled, now all churches have been closed. Our biggest challenge as a community of faith will be to keep connected, to maintain the lines of communication, to keep us all in the loop.
Fortunately, with the technology available to us these days, there are many ways for us to remain connected and in the loop. I am hoping to set up video conferencing facilities in the Parish. We will be switching to NBN next week which will give us the necessary bandwidth to stream smoothly. There is a slight hitch with webcams which seem to be a bit like toilet paper at the moment - the shelves in the stores are empty. I have placed an order so our fingers are crossed.
On a more basic level, the PPC and PLT are developing a project that will assist people who are self-isolated or unable to visit the shops easily to get provisions and/or medication. When we have finished drawing up the terms and conditions for the project and the necessary departments of the Bishop's Office have signed off on them, we will be ready to call for volunteers and start taking names of those who need assistance. There will be certain protocols such as: phone on arrival; leave the groceries/medication at the front door; there will be no face-to-face contact; and a follow up call to check if any more help is needed.
As a parish we want to support those in our community who need help. It may have taken the Coronavirus to launch this project, but there is no reason why it shouldn't continue in post-pandemic days. So stay tuned, and once we have got our webcams and broadband in place we can look forward to discovering other ways in which we can be community.
God bless, stay well
Calling for Volunteers to PPC
This is an invitation to members of our Parish to pray and discern whether God may be calling you to serve our community of faith in an important ministry: Serving on our Parish Pastoral Council.
Our current Parish Pastoral Council is about to conclude its term of office and one of their final tasks is to ensure a smooth transition and handing over to the next PPC.
The Parish Pastoral Council shares, with the Parish Priest and Parish Leadership Team, the task of developing and communicating the overall vision, mission and pastoral plan for the parish community.
The Parish Pastoral Council seeks to:
• Search out and analyse in the light of faith the state of the local and parish community, their hopes, needs and concerns.
• Respond in a strategic way through setting medium and long-term parish pastoral goals in line with the parish vision and mission as we live out the overall mission of the Church.
• Shape and Refine, Communicate and Sustain the desired vision, culture and goals of the parish.
• Ensure the effective operation of the Parish Structures Model
• Evaluate and review the fruitfulness of these responses in light of gospel values, the mission of the Church and Diocesan priorities.
• Measure outcomes against plans and deliverables.
The parish community is invited to nominate people for the Parish Pastoral Council. Each person recommended will be invited to attend an initial discernment evening. This gathering will inform them about the vision, role, purpose and responsibilities of being on the Pastoral Council. At the conclusion of this meeting, participants will be invited to complete a nomination and discernment exercise outlining their desire to be part of this team.
Nominations will then be given to the Parish Priest, Parish Leadership Team and current members of the Pastoral Council for further discernment and finalisation of appointment.