COVID-19: Necessity the mother of invention for Perth Parishes

09 Apr 2020

By Eric Leslie Martin

Photo: Annie Spratt, Unsplashed.

By Eric Martin

It was the Greek philosopher Plato who first said that, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention,’ and with COVID-19’s upheaval of society, priests and parishes around Perth are turning, many for the first time, to new technological innovations to keep the community together in this time of need.

Ballajura Parish has responded specifically to the needs of the community during Lent, with Mary Mackillop Church launching both an online and printed version of the Stations of the Cross, providing comfort and consistency to parishioners.

“It’s the stations that they’re used to,” said Fr John Jegorow, Ballajura Parish Priest.

“Though we would start and finish in the church, when we did our Stations of the Cross on site, we’d walk around the oval and broadcast it loudly to all and sundry.

“Now, we might not be able to do everything exactly the same way, but we’ve included the images and words that our parishioners are used to: they can just print off the stations and pray them, or press a button and watch a video with a voice over on top of the images,” Fr John explained.

“The rest of it, you can watch a service from New York or anywhere around the world and yet, the people are not familiar to you.

“Ours might not be the fanciest production, I know there are many flaws and errors, but they recognise the voices of the readers, they can say, ‘Hey, that’s Daniel.’ They recognise the priest and I think that it enables them to feel like they are still participating in these events alongside the rest of their local community’” he said.

“It’s about being able to stay engaged.”

Fr Liam Ryan of Midland Parish shared similar sentiments on the need for exploring new alternatives for maintaining community bonds within the parish, especially at this Holy time of year.

“Our first livestream was on Sunday at La Salle (our local school) hall and that was really well received by parishioners, but we need to work on a few of the technical aspects a little bit more,” Fr Liam said.

“We had 100 people watch it live on the day, we’re up to about 500 views by now, and the nursing homes put it on their televisions in their common areas.

“We have an Easter Vigil planned on Friday and on Sunday as well, though not clashing with the Archdiocese’s broadcast from the Cathedral,” he said.

Photo: Allie Smith, Unsplashed.

“As we get it up and running, we’re planning on adding more and more services online, for example we have Zoom meetings for youth already in the works.

“I had a parishioner say to me the other day that, ‘Hearing something form your own parish is like getting a big hug from your own mum,’ and I thought that was beautiful,” Fr Liam shared.

“I’m not a very technical guy, but when I heard it was well received, that people were hungry for local content: people are happy to know that our parish is doing something, that we haven’t just shut our door but continue to pray and are doing everything we can. That really spurs me on.”

Such requirements, disruptive though they may be, are essential as WA moves into the crucial flattening of the curve period highlighted by epidemiologists as essential in tackling the pandemic.

This week Western Australia saw the number of cases jump to 470 (as of 2pm 7 April) with the Department of Health reporting four deaths.

There are currently 54 confirmed COVID-19 patients in Perth metropolitan hospitals, with 15 in ICU.

Cases of COVID-19 were reported across all ages.

  • The median age of all cases is 47 years (range: 0 to 100 years).
  • The median age of deaths is 80 years (range: 60 to 94 years).

Nationally, the total number of Australians confirmed positive has risen to 5,908 and with the death toll standing at 50.

The good news in WA is that there were just 10 new cases reported in the last 24 hours.

The national rate of increase of new cases over the last 24 hours was 1.9 per cent according to the Department of Health. This has declined from 12 per cent reported this time last week.

However, it is too soon to tell whether this trend will be sustained.

The number of recovered cases in WA is now 170 and to date, with 2,547 cases recovered nationally and 19,201 Western Australians have tested negative for COVID-19.