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Parishioners grapple with last public Masses and Church gatherings before new normal sets in

Socially responsible: Parishioners practice social distancing as they attend morning prayer at St Joseph the Worker, Hemmant on Monday March 23. Photo: Mark Bowling.

WITH parishioners practicing social distancing, today’s last public Church gatherings proved bitter sweet as Catholics grapple with the new normal imposed by the coronavirus restrictions.

“It’s a bit disconcerting that we can’t go to Sunday Mass. This hasn’t happened in my lifetime before,” Peter Owens said stepping outside the Brisbane Bayside’s Guardian Angels church.

Opened in 1905, the heritage-listed church near the Wynnum seafront has weathered many storms before, but none like COVID-19.

With weekend Mass suspended, parishioners tuned in to the first Sunday Mass streamed from an empty St Stephen’s Cathedral – but they also prayed the rosary together, as a sign of faith and solidarity.

“I think there has been an increase in the number of people saying the rosary – so I think that’s a good thing,” Mr Owens, a former policeman said.

“It’s really good we can pray at this time. If we’re going to worry about it, and hoard and buy things we are following the herd mentality and we just follow the lemmings over the side of the cliff, don’t we?”

Quite reflection: A Wynnum parishioner attends morning prayer on Monday March 23 before further restrictions took effect.

In the same parish, Catholics attending a morning prayer also acknowleged the new daily dilemmas of practicing faith.

“I agree with the distancing for the sake of myself and others, but also I need to nourish my soul, my spirit and know that Jesus Christ is with us,” Nora Pena, originally from El Salvador, said.

“I’m really struggling, not being able to go to the Masses and not to receive the body and blood of Christ every week – that’s been a big suffering for me.

“I feel really strongly that God’s testing us at the moment. Certainly by looking out for each other and taking care of them. We’ll see what lies ahead and trust in God,” parishioner Carmel Arandale said.

Many parishioners around Australia were already using social media to share their experiences of without Sunday Mass and adhering to “the new normal”.

Thousands of Catholics tuned into the live stream of St Stephen’s Cathedral 10am Mass, though many Facebook users said the server had crashed when they tried to watch.

How was your first Sunday without Mass?

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