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Bonds stay strong during isolation at Our Lady of the Valley parish

Keeping in touch: Gatton Laidley parish volunteer Helen McGuirk, 78, (right) delivers newsletters, readings and a prayer card to fellow parishioner Josie Linnan, 96, who is in lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Chris Pingel

HELEN McGuirk felt like she was being released from prison when she set off on a special mission for her parish priest.

The life-long parishioner at Our Lady of the Valley Parish (Gatton Laidley), in the rural fringe west of Brisbane, had been asked to volunteer for a special outreach to people who, like her, had been self-isolating because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Parish priest Fr Noyichan Mamoottil, of the Missionary Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, had sent her a text message during Holy Week suggesting the parish send Easter greetings to the elderly, vulnerable and house-bound.

“He wanted to put in a card that carried hope, love, friendship, faith and unity, along with the weekly (parish) bulletin and appropriate Easter information,” Mrs McGuirk said.

“So he asked me for a list of people that I knew who may not have Internet, like me.

“I belong to a church Friendship Group that meets once a month and another group that plays cards every week and then there were choir members and a couple of personal friends, so they were the names that I sent in.”

Fr Mamoottil asked her if she would deliver the cards and messages to the 10 people, including three couples.

“I felt confident to call on people, because I’ve been in self-isolation since this started and I thought ‘Well, I’m going to people in self-isolation, and I’ve been in self-isolation’,” she said.

She’s been stopping by the same homes each week ever since, and she realises how beneficial it’s been for her as well as for her fellow parishioners.

“The first day that I went out, I almost felt like somebody let out of jail, and that somebody would tap me on the shoulder and say, ‘Hey you, get back home …,’” she said.

“And even driving the car, I thought, ‘Good heavens above, I’m driving the car … I haven’t driven the car for ages …’

“So, for me, it was really good. It was good for me; it gave me that opportunity, because neither of my children have been able to come and visit because one’s in Toowoomba and one’s on the North Coast.

“So I wasn’t seeing anybody either so, for me, it was good to be able to visit.

“They’d see me coming and we could do our social-distancing. I could hand the bulletin to them but you can do that by being the correct distance apart.

“It hasn’t only been good for them; I feel it’s been good for me.”

Mrs McGuirk said she knew the parishioners had appreciated these efforts, from the first Easter cards.

“A lot of the elderly … yes, they have their families but I guess they just appreciate that somebody else is thinking of them,” she said.

“And that’s the work of our parish priest, Fr Noy (reaching out).

“He’s just working so hard to try to keep the parishioners informed … without having the personal contact, which we can’t have (while) our churches are closed, of course.”

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