Masked Masses: Perth Catholics act with ‘love of neighbour’ following COVID-19 lockdown

10 Feb 2021

By Amanda Murthy

Parishioners from St Mary's Cathedral with masks during the Eucharist.
Following the end of the snap lockdown on Friday 5 February at 6pm, the McGowan Government continued the implementation of the wearing of masks for all in the Perth and Peel region until 12.01am Sunday 14 February. Photo: Matthew Lau.

Perth Catholic parishioners have last weekend lived through the first weekend of Masses wearing and coping with the task of wearing a mask.

The weekend was also marked as the Sunday Word of God, instituted by Pope Francis last year following his Apostolic Letter, Aperuit Illis, in which he encouraged the celebration, study and dissemination of the Word of God.

Following the end of the snap lockdown on Friday 5 February at 6pm, the McGowan Government continued the implementation of the wearing of masks for those in the Perth and Peel region until 12.01am Sunday 14 February.

As of Wednesday 10 February, a total of 813,567 tests have been processed throughout the State.

Two new cases (returned overseas travellers) were detected this week with both in hotel quarantine. This brings the state number of confirmed cases to 909.

St Mary’s Cathedral Dean, Rev Dr Sean Fernandez confirmed that the response from the Perth Catholics have been nothing short of exemplary.

“Although it has been a rather strange adjustment, presiding with a mask, and looking out to the congregation filled with masked people, I have to acknowledge how blessed we are here in WA, to have people who not only comply with the directives, but do what is right for the benefit of the whole parish community,” he said.

“We had our usual Masses at the Cathedral capped at 150 people, and being a bigger parish, there were some instances where more than 150 people came for a Mass and had to leave – but they complied without any hesitation.

“Since the pandemic started to affect WA, I have time and again witnessed the kindness, love and compassion of the people in various forms – not just as a sense of duty, but as a way of showing their love for neighbour – this is how it should be and we should feel blessed to be a part of this wonderful community,” he added.

Ballajura Parish Priest, Father John Jegorow, said that there had been a significant drop in numbers of parishioners attending Mass after this recent lockdown.

“The attendance for the weekend Masses had dropped significantly, with only half of our congregation attending Mass physically, due to older parishioners choosing to stay home for health reasons and finding it difficult to adjust to the mandatory mask directive.

“The choirs sang with their masks on and just like everyone else, we complied with every rule.

“We have to trust the medical professionals who have been working tirelessly behind the scenes and try to use this time to make something positive from this situation,” Fr Jegorow added.

“Perhaps, we can use this time to slow down and take care of one another – time is what we have more of now, so let’s use it wisely and for the greater good.”

Parishioners of St Mary’s Cathedral attend a Mass with masks on, as WA transition from a five-day snap lockdown, which is scheduled to end at 12.01am on Sunday, 14 February. Photo: Matthew Lau.

Conditions issued by the McGowan Government of the post lockdown period on Thursday evening 4 February, included the mandatory use of masks when in public (for people over the age of 12) while inside places of worship and at workplaces, allowing four square metres capacity for places of worship and workplaces with a maximum of 150 people, 150-person capacity limits to all events including Masses, weddings and funerals, as well as visits to aged care and disability care facilities being restricted to compassionate grounds only, and only essential travel being permitted in and out of the Perth and Peel regions to other parts of WA.

Echoing similar sentiments, Whitford Parish Priest, Fr Cyprian Shikokoti, spoke about some of the additional duties of a Parish Priest during this time, the importance of setting a good example and journeying with the people of God.

“Mass preparation routines have had to change significantly, with additional tasks like adding signs in prominent points around the church, making sure we have enough sanitizers, reminding parishioners of the procedures, signing into the app etc – things like that, although they are vital and necessary,” Fr Shikokoti cited.

“As a priest, I have missed not being able to minister to those at the hospitals and nursing homes which was part of my weekly routine.

“But the parish community have done so well – They showed up for Mass in their masks, even taking extra precautions with the little kids, they extended help wherever possible and they have really lived out their faith through their words and deeds,” he added.

“Together we continue to journey in our faith, we continue to pray for WA and for one another, and that things will get better next week.”

In his Pastoral Letter released last Wednesday 3 February, Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB emphasised the need to Perth Catholics to put into practise the basic truth of what it means to be Christian.

“We will be who and what God created us to be when, in the face of suffering, of confusion, and of fear, we look beyond ourselves to the needs of others and do what we can to respond to those needs,” Archbishop Costelloe wrote.

Click Here to read the Pastoral Letter.