Latest Coronavirus (COVID-19) information

Parish Evangelisation Guide

This resource is intended to assist both parishes and the lay faithful during this time when our churches are closed and the Sacraments are not readily available. While not exhaustive, this resource offers ideas for continuing to build the spiritual and communal life of parishes, and to share the wisdom of the creativity demonstrated by parishes within the Sydney Archdiocese.

During these difficult times, communication is essential for parish life. This is the responsibility of the parish as a whole, and not only of the Pastor. The lay faithful are encouraged to reach out to their fellow parishioners, who are their brothers and sisters in Christ in a special way, worshiping in the same community.

Means of Communication

In recent years, our means of communicating with others has increased dramatically. Below are some examples of how it is possible to reach out to parishioners to see if they are ok, and to promote the many and varied ways that events and resources can be viewed and shared within the community.

 

Parish Website

This may be the first place that parishioners look to find out what is happening in the parish, so it is important to have a parish website and to keep it up-to-date. Consider providing easy access links to the COVID-19 resources on the CAS website, your parish bulletins, prayer resources, contact lists for assistance (particularly for the elderly), a location where people can submit their prayer intentions, testimonies from parishioners about how they are living in these difficult times, and other parish updates.

 

Email

Emails can be used to send out homilies, reflections and readings, information and links to live-streamed liturgies and prayer groups in your parish. You can create a separate distribution list for each of your committees, ministries or prayer groups, and send out bulk emails. It is possible to send emails where the recipient list is visible to all, or just to the sender.

 

Parish Bulletin

The Parish Bulletin contains Sunday readings, reflections, and other parish news. These can be emailed out and made available on the parish website and through other forms of social media. Hard copies can still be printed for display on the church doors and for delivery to parishioners.

 

The Parish Phone

It is important, now more than ever, that people are able to reach the parish by phone. Where possible, someone will be available to answer the phone when it rings (either onsite, or after diverting to another number). If this is not possible, the voice recording should give options of how the caller can speak with the priest or a member of staff by giving the relevant phone numbers. The recording should also provide current information regarding the limitations surrounding Masses at this time, and give directions to the parish website. If callers are able to leave a message, it will be necessary for someone to be checking the messages regularly and responding promptly.

 

Personal phone calls

For some parishioners, a personal phone call will be extremely important, especially for those who do not have access to the internet or any other means of finding out what is happening in the parish. Taking time to telephone the frail, elderly and isolated will be important to ensure that they are ok and that they have the spiritual and material support that they need.

 

Social Media (Each platform is free of charge unless otherwise stated):

 

Facebook Page

This is your parish’s public branding account – the way it communicates with the broader Church and world. It provides an easy way of keeping in contact with parishioners and of sharing parish and Archdiocesan news, reflections, stories, inspirational material and conversations. The Facebook Page account can be used to set up a Facebook Group.

Consider sharing the following Facebook Pages with your parishioners:

  1. Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney
  2. Archbishop Anthony Fisher
  3. Life Family Outreach
  4. Sydney Catholic Youth
  5. Mustard Seed Bookshop

 

Facebook Group

This can be used to organise your parish’s live-streamed and video-based prayer, and catechetical or social groups. It provides a platform for engaged parishioners to communicate with the parish and with each other. The bulletin can also be posted on the Facebook Group.

 

WhatsApp groups

WhatsApp allows users to send text messages and voice messages, make voice and video calls, and to share images, documents, user locations, and other media. Within the App, groups can be created for sending group messages and video conferencing of up to four people. This can be a simple method of having small prayer groups, and for checking on the welfare of parishioners and giving them encouragement.

 

Video Conferencing

 

Zoom

Zoom provides a remote conferencing service that combines video conferencing, online meetings, chat, and mobile collaboration. It can host up to 100 participants at a time so is ideal for large online prayer gatherings and meetings. It can also be used as a platform for providing teachings and formation, by either the priest or lay leaders of the parish.

 

Google Hangouts

This is for video conferencing with up to 10 people at a time. It is simple to set up and easy to use, as it only requires a link (which can be sent via email) for participants to be able to join a hangout. The link can be saved as a bookmark so that it can be used each time that group meets. A separate link can be used for each of the different groups.

 

Skype

Skype allows for video chat and voice calls between computers, tablets, mobile devices, the Xbox One console, and smartwatches over the Internet. It can be used for sending text, video, audio and images. It can host up to 25 on video conferences, allowing for larger prayer groups or meetings. A Windows account is required in order to download Skype.

 

Flocknote App

Flocknote is created specifically for pastors to communicate with their flock. It can be used for sending unlimited bulk texts and emails; sending newsletters or bulletins; and for keeping a parish database. It also allows members to send a text from their phone for connecting with your church to join a particular service or ministry.

 

Mail Chimp

A flexible, user-friendly method of sending out bulk and professional-looking emails to your parishioners. You can have up to 2000 subscribers and a monthly send limit of 12,000 emails. Features include being able to schedule when your emails are sent; creating groups within your list; and tracking how many people open the email which helps to gauge its effectiveness.

 

Snail mail

Posting out parish bulletins and newsletters, with a special note from the pastor during these difficult times, is an effective way of reaching out to those who do not have access to the internet, and for those who have no connection with the parish community. A wonderful way to evangelise the unchurched!

 

Note: Safeguarding and Online Ministry

When communicating with anyone under the age of 18 years:

  1. Ensure that you have a parent or carer’s permission to contact anyone under 18 years of age when communicating via web-chat
  2. Make sure there are at least two adults in each video-chat with under 18s.
  3. Check any private messaging options and disable this feature before starting.

Recipients of Communication

Parishes can use the means of communication listed above to reach out to those who are actively engaged in the life of the parish community, to those who have lost contact with the parish, and to those who have no association with the Church but live and work within the geographical boundary.

Where possible, it is important to contact people individually to offer continued prayer, practical support and companionship. It will be especially important to contact the sick, frail, elderly and those who are shut-in and feeling particularly vulnerable. This may be done by the Parish Priest with the help of volunteers from the parish.

The following suggestions may be used for contacting and identifying those in need, especially those who may have lost contact with the parish:

  1. The parish registry
  2. Current database with phone numbers and email addresses
  3. Parish ministry leaders can assist in identifying those who may be isolated

The broader community can be reached by words of welcome on the parish website and Facebook Page, and through letter-box drops.

Note: see addendum for an example of what one Sydney parish is doing to support those in need.

Content of Communication

This section provides information that can communicated and regularly updated using the various means outlined in the Means of Communication and Recipients of Communication section.

 

Communal Parish Prayer

The churches are closed but your parish can be busier than ever! There are numerous new and creative ways that parishioners can remain spiritually united with you and with each other, and continue to receive nourishment for their faith.   Consider starting or participating in some of the following:

 

Live-streamed and Recorded Events

For many parishioners, it will be important that their priest remains visibly present to them, even if only remotely. This can assure them that the parish is not ‘on hold’, but alive and active! It is also a way in which members of the community can remain anchored to the parish – which is their spiritual home – and maintain a sense of coming together in prayer and of belonging to their parish community.

Follow this link for information about How to Live-stream your parish Mass. Parishioners may be able to provide technological support where needed.

Consider live-streaming or pre-recording some of the following, and posting them on your parish website or Facebook Page:

 

Mass in the parish church

A livestreamed Mass is a spiritually beneficial way in which to partake in the Holy Sacrifice when we are unable to attend in person.  At Mass, Jesus is truly present and, via the livestream, it is as if we are video-calling into the Paschal Mystery! Jesus knows our desire to be there in person; He sees us and is pleased with our efforts to spend time with Him.

Consider also promoting some other options for Mass within the Archdiocese of Sydney:

St Mary’s Cathedral is the Mother Church of the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, and the Chair of Archbishop Fisher. Mass is live-streamed every day during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mon-Sat 9:00am Mass, Sun 10:30am Solemn Mass.

Over 25 parishes are live-streaming Masses for their parish communities, and beyond!

Note: The Importance of Spiritual Communion 

The Church encourages frequent, even daily, Holy Communion, but if at any time we cannot go to Mass, we can still unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion. By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us. Note: if viewing a live-streamed Mass, pray this prayer at the time that you would normally receive Holy Communion.

 

Daily Readings/Homily

A daily reading of the Gospel of the day accompanied by a short homily or reflection.

 

A message to the flock

Record a message of encouragement for your parishioners, assuring them of your prayers and availability to provide them with support during this difficult time.  Note: it may be more prudent to use a private forum such as Facebook Groups or a private YouTube channel rather than a public forum where everyone has access to the clip.

 

Other Forms of Virtual Group Prayer

This section provides examples of how some parishioners are uniting to create Virtual Prayer Groups. There are several ways of participating in these forms of prayer. They can be streamed from the parish, or people can register for certain times and days, to pray in small groups. Consider using Google Hangouts, Zoom, Skype or video call on a mobile phone.

 

Rosary

A devotion in honour of the Virgin Mary, consisting of a set number of specific prayers. It is prayed while meditating on aspects of the life of Christ and His Mother Mary. The word rosary comes from Latin and means a garland of roses – the rose being one of the flowers used to symbolise the Virgin Mary.

 

Lectio Divina

A form of prayer which invites us into a deeper encounter with the Lord through Scripture. It gives us the time to listen attentively to the Word, to be sensitive to its action on our hearts, and to reflect on what is being asked of us in our daily lives. Lectio Divina allows the Lord to penetrate our hearts and to fill them with His Love. Ultimately, through this encounter we are invited into an ever-deeper relationship and union with Him.

 

Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours)

“From ancient times the Church has had the custom of celebrating each day the liturgy of the hours. In this way the Church fulfils the Lord’s precept to pray without ceasing, at once offering its praise to God the Father and interceding for the salvation of the world.” Office of the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship.

 

Personal prayer intentions

Invite people to send in their prayer petitions via email, phone, your Facebook Page and Group or your parish website. These intentions can be offered up in the daily parish Mass.

Note: If you are arranging small video-based prayer or reading groups, you could advertise on your parish Facebook page that video groups are available to people who join your parish’s Facebook group. You can then control who joins your group by including group application questions, if you want to make sure they actually are parishioners or Catholics based in Sydney. 

Prayerful and Formative Resources

We invite you to make use of any or all of the resources below for the nourishment of your spiritual life and those of your fellow parishioners.

 

Aids for Prayer – Downloads

 

Prayers for the Sacrament of Reconciliation

 

Daily Examen

A method of reviewing your day with gratitude in the presence of God, surrendering your faults and sins to Him, and asking for the grace to do even better tomorrow.

  1. Place yourself in the presence of God
  2. Ask Him for the light to review the past day from His perspective
  3. Look back at all there is to be grateful for from your day
  4. Look back at all the occasions you fell into sin today
  5. Think about how you might do better tomorrow, and make a resolution to do so
  6. Make an Act of Contrition
  7. Do I allow myself to be totally vulnerable and transparent with Jesus during this special time of prayer?

 

Examination of Conscience

We use an examination of conscience to help call to mind our sins and failings during a period of quiet reflection before approaching the priest in the Sacrament of Penance.

For as long regulations permit, Parish priests will make local arrangements to provide parishioners with the Sacrament of Penance. Should this cease to be possible, the lay faithful are still encouraged to make an examination of conscience and an Act of Contrition.

 

Act of Contrition Prayer

In praying an Act of Contrition, we acknowledge our sins and ask God for forgiveness, expressing our desire to repent. This is prayed after confessing sins during the Sacrament of Penance. It can also be prayed daily as part of the Examen.

 

Spiritual Communion

The Church encourages frequent, even daily, Holy Communion, but if at any time we cannot go to Mass, we can still unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion. By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us. Note: if viewing a live-streamed Mass, pray this prayer at the time that you would normally receive Holy Communion.

 

Lectio Divina

A form of prayer which invites us into a deeper encounter with the Lord through Scripture. It gives us the time to listen attentively to the Word, to be sensitive to its action on our hearts, and to reflect on what is being asked of us in our daily lives. Lectio Divina allows the Lord to penetrate our hearts and to fill them with His Love. Ultimately, through this encounter we are invited into an ever-deeper relationship and union with Him.

 

Spending Time with Jesus at Home

Our churches may be closed, but the temples of the Holy Spirit remain open…that’s you and me! This is a basic guide for keeping company with Jesus at home every day. It includes tips on listening to God’s Word, responding to Gods Word, and allowing Him to love you.

 

Keeping the Faith in a Covid19 world

A featured article from the Catholic Weekly, April 1 2020. Includes tips for praying with the kids, and stopping to pray routinely throughout the day.

 

Prayers for the Family Home 

A resource filled with prayers and activities to sanctify the home and bring the family unit closer to Jesus and His Church, whether in lockdown or not.


 

Aids for Prayer – Apps

 

Laudate

Daily Mass Readings, Order of Mass, Liturgy of Hours, New American Bible, Latin Mass, Latin Liturgy of Hours, Rosary and Latin Rosary, Chaplet of Divine Mercy. Free of charge.

 

Universalis

Liturgy of the Hours and Mass Readings for every day of every year – no internet needed. Cost: $18.99  (Or get the readings of the week for free using the Universalis website)

 

Hallow

Prayers and reflections to bring peace and calm, includes daily Rosary, daily Lectio Divina, and a variety of other audio-based reflections and Catholic meditations. Example: prayers to let go of stress and anxiety. Free for 3 months.

 


 

Aids for Prayer – hardcopy

 

St Paul’s Daily Mass Book

Contains all the texts for Sunday and weekday Mass. It runs from Advent to Advent.

 

Daily Prayer 2020

Centres on a Scripture reading each day, along with a reflection, a psalm, intercessions, and closing prayer. For individual or group prayer.

 

Shorter Morning and Evening Prayer (Divine Office)

Part of the Divine Office range, the shorter version of the Morning and Evening Prayer is suitable for anyone seeking a regular, structured cycle of prayer. It includes the same four-week cycle of the fuller Office with Psalms, Scripture Readings and Intercessions.

 

For these, and hundreds of other books to aid your spiritual life, please visit the Mustard Seed Bookshop’s online store

Formation

Formed – The Catholic Faith on Demand

Formed is like a ‘Catholic Netflix’ – providing access to many movies, tv series, documentaries, books and study programs. Formed is offering a free 40 day subscription for non-members in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

 

Word on Fire

Founded by Bishop Robert Barron, author, speaker and theologian, Word on Fire is a global media ministry that reaches millions of people by utilising the tools of new media to draw people into or back to the Catholic Faith.

 

The Eucharist in Scripture

In The Eucharist in Scripture, discover God’s plan as it is expressed through the Bible and the Mass. This six-lesson study, presented by Dr Scott Hahn, will unlock the meaning of covenant, sacrifice, and sacrament as understood in the Bible, from Genesis through Revelation. Free, in response to COVID-19.

 

Catholic alpha Online – See Addendum B for information

Podcasts

This Catholic Life

The Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney presents an open and lively discussion about current issues, life, the universe and everything, unafraid to ask the hard questions and laugh at the absurdity and wonder of life.

 

The Furnace

Presented by Fr Josh Miechels, priest of the Emmanuel Community and Assistant Priest at Our Lady of the Rosary Fairfield. With each podcast, Fr Josh gives a 3-minute homily, sharing the love of God’s heart with every human heart.

 

Messy Family

Mike and Alicia’s mission is to empower parents, strengthen marriages and bring families to Christ. “Marriage and family is where the rubber hits the road with faith and values in our society, and the best thing we can do to help our world is to renew and strengthen marriage and family life.”

Invitations and News from the Holy Father

Stay with up-to-date with news from Pope Francis on the Vatican News website and consider posting it on your Parish Website and Facebook Page.

 

Prayer for Protection from COVID-19

Pope Francis invites us all to pray for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, with this prayer entrusted to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

 

Plenary indulgence to coronavirus patients and caregivers

The gift of Plenary Indulgences is granted to the faithful suffering from COVID-19 disease, commonly known as Coronavirus, as well as to health care workers, family members and all those who in any capacity, including through prayer, care for them.  Follow the link above for conditions.

Opportunities for Parishioners to Serve

This current situation is a great opportunity for the parish to strengthen the life of the community by serving those in need. Some parishioners may be unable to do their current ministry at the moment and be happy to volunteer in another way, while others may be willing to sign up to serve for the first time.

The Archdiocese is coordinating volunteers to assist with material needs, however, others may be happy to volunteer in another capacity:

    1. Create a buddy system with a volunteer who can accompany a particular person in whatever way is needed (email, phone, other form of communication)
    2. To intercede for the needs of all parishioners
    3. To make home visits
    4. To do shopping or cook meals (with consideration being given to safe distribution or pick up from the parish)
    5. To chat with someone on the phone every few days
    6. To pray with someone over the phone
    7. To administer Holy Communion
    8. Assist with social media and technological support for new and additional means of communication
    9. Letterbox drops – leaving a card with an offer to give support

Financial Giving

Many people are struggling financially at this time, especially those who find themselves without work. The parishes are working hard to provide assistance where needed, so please contribute to this work by making a donation.

It is also important, where possible, that you continue to make your regular financial payments, so as to contribute to the ongoing needs of the parish. Check on your parish website for details of how to do this online, or contact your Parish Priest directly.

Addendum A – Examples of parish initiatives

Visible signs of Hope

From the church

Many parishes are leaving the lights of the church on every night as a sign that the Light of Christ cannot be extinguished! This can be an effective means of reaching out to the community and giving a wonderful sign of hope for those who see it!

See what St Martha’s parish in Strathfield is doing to spread Hope during these times of lockdown.

 

From the Home

The faithful are encouraged to place a cross, a statue or a candle near the front of their houses to give witness to world of the love of God, who is the Father and the protector of all.

 

Providing Material Support

This is an example of what one of our parishes is doing to assist people who are without support, are ill or need to self-isolate:

If you or someone you know needs to self-isolate or is unable to visit the shops easily to get food and/or medication:1. Contact the parish office on (parish number), or email (first name of coordinator) at (email address) and leave a message with your name and best contact number. Messages will be checked regularly.

2. (Name of coordinator) will contact you, and a team member will bring groceries and/or medication to your home. Please remember that the team member will:

i.        Call you on arrival

ii.        Leave the groceries and/or medication at the front door

iii.        Have no face-to-face contact

iv.        Follow up the visit with a phone call to check if you need any more help.

3.  Payment for the groceries and/or medication can be discussed with (Name of coordinator). Please know that our primary concern is your health and wellbeing and we will support you in whatever way we can, including covering the cost of the groceries/medication, if you have a real need.

 

Testimonies

Parishes are collecting stories of how parishioners are surviving and adapting to this crisis with their families and loved ones, and sharing them with others for encouragement using various forms of social media.

 

Parish Ministries

Youth groups and other ministries are replacing their usual in-person gatherings with Zoom groups. These allow participants to continue to receive formation, to pray and to interact with each other at the usual time each week.

 

Holy Water

Parishes are providing holy water which is being made available for pick up.

Addendum B – Catholic Alpha Online

Catholic Alpha Online

While we are not able to gather for public Masses and churches are closed to the public, an opportunity that might assist your parish at this critical time and is in keeping with a focus on evangelisation and the formation of disciples is Catholic Alpha Online.

As you may be aware, Alpha is a series of sessions that focuses on the kerygma, the basic proclamation of the Christian faith, opens the opportunity for the people to encounter and learn about the person and message of Christ, and gathers people into small groups.

Australia Alpha have just made Alpha available online at no cost. A step-by-step guide is available at the following address: https://australia.alpha.org/online

Alpha Online may be a resource to assist the parish gather people in small groups online, to enable a continued sense of community though people are physically apart, and reach out to the wider community.

It could well be used with dedicated parishioners, those on the margins of parish or leaders or parents in the local Catholic school, in your parish team as a way of online formation and nourishment in these difficult times, those within the RCIA, whether catechumens or sponsors online, among catechists or any others seeking spiritual hope, conversation and ongoing community at this time.

If you are interested in training a lay leader in your parish to set up and lead Alpha Online, there is a training session for Catholics, please contact Helen Wagner at helen.wagner@sydneycatholic.org