TERRY Latchford sets the standard for Mass attendance in his parish.
He’s 101 and was among the first to return to Sunday Mass when churches re-opened around Brisbane during the COVID pandemic lockdown.
Fr Ladu Yanga, parish priest at St Rita’s, Victoria Point, is inspired by Terry’s commitment and said he was an inspiration to other parishioners.
Seeing Terry walk briskly – albeit with a walking stick – down the long corridor at the retirement village where he lives he could pass for someone 20 years his junior.
It could reflect a vitality he’s had all his life, because he remembers as a lad he preferred football to cricket, which he found to be “too slow”.
He was relatively “slow” in coming to Catholicism though, having been an Anglican until about 40 years ago.
Born in London, at Tottenham – home of the Tottenham Hotspur Football Club – in 1919, he migrated to Queensland with his wife Pamela in 1952.
Their journey to becoming Catholics started when they were parishioners at All Saints’ Anglican Church, Spring Hill, and they were inspired by a spiritual guide there who became a Catholic priest.
Terry leaned more deeply into his Catholic faith when he supported Pamela through eight years of dementia in a nursing home at Cleveland.
“Actually, when my wife died seven years ago, I was given the grace of God to come closer to Catholic Church …,” he said.
“I was then more involved in the Catholic Church … when she went into the nursing home.”
Terry moved to Victoria Point after Pamela died. After her death, he was on his own because they had no children and his only sibling, a younger sister, had died.
He cherishes the friends he’s made at his retirement village and in the parish.
In his later years, Terry’s life has become centred on prayer.
He’s become an Oblate of St Benedict, following the way of the great saint in living the Gospel.
“I meditate every morning for half an hour and half an hour in the evening. God means a lot to me,” he said.
“I have a breviary that I read every morning, at Lauds, and again at Vespers in the evening.”
In being among the first to return to Mass when COVID restrictions began to ease, Terry said what he had been looking forward to most was “to pray to Our Lord”.
“As you know, being a Christian doesn’t entail going to Mass but it’s best to go because you’re communicating with people who think the same as you,” he said.
Terry needs other parishioners to give him a lift to Mass because he gave up driving about 20 years ago.
Apart from that, he said he didn’t find it an effort to get up and go to Mass.
Fr Ladu said seeing Terry coming to Mass at 101 he thinks, “Oh, wow …”
“I was talking this morning to someone who was saying, ‘There are people younger than Terry and they’re still saying they’re comfortable watching Masses on TV …’,” he said.
“And then you look at Terry – 101 and still coming for Mass.
“It is really great that Terry is able to come for Mass, and he is an inspiration as well to others who see him at 101 still coming to Mass …”
Terry comes because he wants to.
“I understand it is possible to watch Mass on TV – but it’s not the same as coming to church,” he said.
“There’s something physical … Coming to church, you come in contact with other people who think the same and, of course, you’re able to partake of the sacred host.”
Fr Ladu agreed, and he had similar advice when he was told of others being “comfortable watching Mass on TV”.
“I say to them, ‘Look, yes, if you’ve got other illnesses which will prevent you from coming to the church, no problem, but if you haven’t got anything, this is not about watching Mass on TV’,” he said.
“‘This is about the community of the faithful gathered together to worship God …’
“It’s about community … we come together, and that’s the whole reason why the Eucharist was given, established and instituted.
“Our community gathered together; Jesus gathered His disciples together to have a meal.
“And after when He was gone as well, the disciples met in each other’s houses and shared a meal together.
“That’s the whole idea of the Eucharist; so it’s not about, yeah, I can sit there and just watch what is happening …
“We need to be nourished as well. We need to come, as Terry says, meet with the others, meet with the other people of the community and have a chat with them.
“Rather than, ‘Oh, yeah, I’ll stay in my living room and I’ll just watch it on TV …’”
Fr Ladu said Terry’s example was and would encourage to return to Mass.
“It’ll give them a bit of push to say, ‘Oh, well, if a 101-year-old can come for Mass, what about me? I think I better leave this remote and the dull screen there … I better go and join the community …’,” he said.
“It might not only be an inspiration to our parish here but also to the others around, because I believe since we have been locked down a lot of people haven’t come back yet into the parishes to show up for Masses.
“They’ve just been getting comfortable sitting at home watching it on TV.
“If you’re sick, of course, we’re not encouraging people who are sick to come because we don’t want them to come and infect others or, if they’re feeling unwell, we don’t want them even to come and (be infected) …
“But if you’re well, and not sick, it’s always good to come and join the community.”
Terry’s final word is “obviously it’s important to me to receive the Holy Sacrament, which by going to Mass I can”.