Pastoral Letter from Archbishop Costelloe SDB 24th March 2020
24 March 2020
By The Most Rev Timothy Costelloe SDB
Archbishop of Perth
24 March 2020
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
As each day goes by the extent of the health crisis facing us here in WA, across our country, and around the world, becomes more obvious and more alarming. We are all affected by this crisis, and many will feel a growing sense of concern in themselves and in their families and friends as the dangers we are facing become more confronting.
It would be easy to give way to panic: we see signs of that panic in the empty shelves of our supermarkets. But the temptation to panic must not lead to an abandonment of our Christian hope and of our trusting faith in the providence of God. While so much is changing around us one thing remains the same: God is with us, his mercy and compassion overshadow us, and his call to us to love one another as Jesus has loved us still rings in our hearts.
Even though, in this letter, I must share with you the implications of decisions made by our governments and health authorities, I also want to reassure you that, in these changed circumstances, the Church will continue to be a living sign of God’s fidelity and God’s loving presence. But the Church will have to do this in new ways: we will have to do this in new ways, for all of us, the community of disciples, are the Church. We may not be able to gather together in our churches, but we can recreate the Church in our homes. Long before Catholics in Australia were able to build big churches for the celebration of Mass, they gathered together in their families for the rosary around an image of Our Lady. We may not be able to offer each other the sign of peace at Mass but we can offer each other the gift of our sincere prayer. We may not be able to organise morning teas for the elderly in our parish halls but we can ensure that those who are lonely and afraid are not left to themselves, even if all we can do is ring them on the phone or leave a casserole on their front doorstep. As our practical capacity to reach out to others is curtailed our determination to be disciples of Jesus, who gave everything he had and was for us, can lead us to discover new ways to live out our Catholic faith.
The recent decisions by the Prime Minister and the Premiers and Chief Ministers of the Australian States and Territories concerning the closure of “places of public worship” have significant implications for all Australians including, of course, for Catholics. In Western Australia, the Minister for Emergency Services declared a state of emergency from 12 noon on 16 March 2020 in respect to the pandemic caused by Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pursuant to section 56 of the Emergency Management Act 2005 (WA). Our way of life as Australians, and our way of being Catholic, will consequently alter dramatically while the COVID-19 health crisis persists. While the decisions taken by our leaders are dramatic and challenging, they are designed to ensure that our country is not overtaken by the spread of the virus to such an extent that our health services collapse under the strain and many more people’s lives will be at risk.
As Catholics we share with all other Australians the responsibility of adapting our patterns of living to the new reality we face. It is at the heart of our faith that everyone is a child of God, deserving of respect and care, and that each of us has a responsibility to live in such a way as to enrich and not diminish the lives of others. As I said in my most recent Pastoral Letter on this matter (Wednesday 18 March 2020), we are indeed our brother’s (and sister’s) keeper.
Extension of the Temporary Suspension of all Public Masses and Gatherings for Prayer and Worship in the Archdiocese of Perth
I am writing to inform you that all public Masses and other gatherings for prayer and worship are now temporarily suspended throughout the Archdiocese of Perth until further notice. We have no way of knowing how long this situation will last and I am very conscious of the distress this will cause to many of you. We all know how important the Mass is for us. It is, as I said in my last letter, at the heart of our lives as Catholics. It is our way of gathering as a community of faith to draw strength from each other. It is our way of listening to the Word of God in faith. It is our way of offering our lives, our needs, our hopes and our loved ones to God. It is our way of allowing the Lord to unite us to himself in Holy Communion. It is our way of renewing our commitment to “go out in peace, glorifying the Lord with our lives”. To be deprived of the Mass will be a great suffering for us all. But I believe it is what the Lord is asking of us at this time.
It had been my hope that, even with the suspension of public Masses, we might be able to keep the churches open for private prayer. Following directives issued by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday 22 March 2020, this option is no longer available. On Monday 23 March, Christopher Dawson (State Emergency Coordinator and Commissioner of Police) in accordance with Section 71 of the Emergency Management Act 2005 (WA) issued directions applicable to the state of Western Australia for the ‘Closure of Certain Places of Business, Worship and Entertainment’. Under these directions:
‘Every owner, occupier or person apparently in charge of an affected place must close that place to the public for a period commencing at 12 noon on 23 March 2020’.
Under the relevant definitions, ‘a place of worship, other than for the purposes of a wedding or a funeral’ is defined as an ‘affected place’, and is subject to Section 71 of the Emergency Management Act 2005 (WA).
For that reason, and with great sadness, I directed the priests of the Archdiocese of Perth to close all public churches and chapels at 12 noon on Monday 23 March 2020 until further notice. Should the State government of Western Australia make a different decision I will review the total closure of our churches, but for the time being, effective immediately, we will not be able to visit our churches and chapels for private prayer. I know that many of you will find this very difficult. I do ask you to be understanding and not to put unfair pressure on your priests.
Many of you will have specific questions about particular matters. I will try to address some of those questions here.
Baptisms and Confirmations
Unless a child (or other person) is seriously ill, baptisms are to be postponed until this health crisis is over. In emergency situations priests and deacons will make themselves available for baptism. In extreme circumstances any person can validly baptise, provided they have the intention to baptise according to the faith of the Church. If you are worried about this please contact your parish priest for clarification.
Confirmation will not be administered in the Archdiocese of Perth, except in the case of emergencies, until the crisis has passed.
Weddings can still be celebrated in churches but only with “very small groups” which in effect means immediate family. All other requirements relating to health precautions, including social/physical distancing in the church, must be observed. The church should be closed once the small group of guests has arrived and should also be closed immediately after the wedding. It would not be possible for the wedding party to linger outside the church for photographs or socialising.
Funerals can also be conducted in churches but the same rules apply as for weddings: “very small groups”, social/physical distancing, all the other health precautions, and the closure of the church during the funeral and immediately after. It will not be possible to organise any refreshments in the parish hall or centre after the funeral is concluded. Funeral Directors and the Metropolitan Cemeteries Board also have regulations relating to the conduct of funerals. Families will need to consult the Funeral Director about these matters.
The Sacrament or Penance/Reconciliation
Only the First Rite of Penance (individual confession and absolution) can be celebrated, because of the restrictions on numbers. Priests will do their best to respond to individual requests for the Sacrament, but it is not possible to establish and publicise particular times when the sacrament will be available. People who identify within themselves the need for confession should contact their parish clergy. It is also important to remember that in these extraordinary circumstances we are still able to come before God in sorrow and seek his forgiveness, confident that he is “full of mercy and compassion”. As I said above many things are changing, but God’s compassion, mercy and forgiveness never change.
Anointing of the Sick
While “Anointing Masses” can no longer be celebrated, it is important that the Sacrament of Anointing be available to those seriously ill and in danger of death. Our priests will do their very best to be available for this important ministry. They will, of course, be guided by the protocols of the relevant hospitals or aged-care facilities, and will also visit the homes of the sick and dying when asked. The priests know that they have to take the usual precautions in relation to those who may be contagious. If they themselves are in a high-risk category or for any other reason are unable to come, they will do their best to help you find another priest who is available.
At the moment Holy Communion can still be taken by the clergy or even by Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion to the sick, elderly and house-bound if this is explicitly requested by the person or their family. This advice may change if the government imposes new restrictions. When conducting such visits all the precautionary measures need to be taken and no-one, clergy or lay person, should undertake this ministry if they are in the high-risk category themselves or are in any way unwell.
At this time, when the normal patterns of pastoral ministry are so severely disrupted, it will take some time for us to find new ways of being present to each other and supporting each other in our faith. People will rightly look to me as the Archbishop and to my brothers in the ordained ministry to continue to support everyone in their faith. We are meant to be living signs of the presence of the Good Shepherd among his people. I think it will take us some time, and require pastoral creativity, for us to discover new and valid ways of being at the service of you all. Be patient with us, but don’t be afraid to offer us suggestions. It is together that we will discover how to continue to be the faithful people of God that we are called to be.
Our particular concern must be for those who are sick, lonely, isolated and afraid at this time. We have an enormous resource in the faith-filled and generous people of our parishes. I hope that we may find ways of making real and concrete our concern for those in need. All of us can offer spiritual support through our prayer, not just for ourselves and our families and friends but for everyone, and in particular for those in great need. We may not know how God will respond to our prayer – we do know that he will. In addition to this, many of us may be in a position to offer various kinds of material support: organising meals and other practical assistance for the housebound and visits, or at least phone calls, to the lonely. Depending on further government decisions we might be able to make ourselves available to help with household tasks, both inside and outside the house. If we all do what we can, and are prepared to “think outside the box”, then this crisis might also become an opportunity for us to rediscover what those outside the faith discovered in the early days of the Church: See how these Christians love one another! I ask, too, that this love and concern be extended to our priests. In the midst of their desire to be at the service of God’s Church they too are feeling confused and uncertain as they face an unexpected and unknown future.
There is so much more to be said about the experience we are all living through, but this letter is long enough. I will do my best to keep in touch with you all and will certainly let you know if any of the matters I have dealt with in this letter change or need further clarification. The government is issuing new directives on a regular basis and often they will impact directly on our Catholic community. For those who are able to do so I would ask you to keep visiting our archdiocesan website on a regular basis: www.perthcatholic.org.au. The Archdiocese will be offering various suggestions and resources to help you maintain your spiritual focus at a time when the churches are not available to us.
As we did last Sunday we will live-stream Mass from the Archdiocese of Perth each Sunday morning at 11.00am. We are also exploring the possibilities for streaming other liturgical celebrations as well as short messages from me and others in the archdiocese to provide information and, hopefully, inspiration. To the extent that it is possible, and following recent instructions from the Holy Father, we will live-stream the Holy Week liturgies in a modified form. The details of this will be available on the website as soon as they are finalised.
When the disciples of Jesus were overwhelmed by a storm which had overtaken them, Jesus came to them in the midst of the storm, encouraging them not to be afraid because he was with them. He reached out to Peter as he was sinking and lifted him up (cf. Matthew 14:22-33). The Lord is with us in this present storm which is engulfing us and he is encouraging us, too, not to be afraid. He has not deserted us. Rather he is calling us to discover him in the midst of this crisis and allow him to lift us up and lead us safely to shore.
The Lord also reminds us that, on the cross, he gave us his mother, Mary, to be our mother. In Australia we turn to her as the Help of Christians. May she come to help us now with her prayers for us and with her presence among us.
Yours sincerely in Christ,
Most Rev Timothy Costelloe SDB DD Archbishop of Perth
Lord Jesus Christ, you travelled through towns and villages curing every disease and illness.
At your command, the sick were made well.
Come to our aid now, in the midst of the global spread of the coronavirus, that we may experience your healing love.
Heal those who are sick with the virus.
May they regain their strength and health through quality medical care.
Heal us from our fear, which prevents nations from working together and neighbours from helping one another.
Heal us from our pride, which can make us claim invulnerability to a disease that knows no borders.
Lord Jesus Christ, healer of all, stay by our side in this time of uncertainty and sorrow.
Be with those who have died from the virus.
May they be at rest with you in your eternal peace.
Be with the families of those who are sick or have died.
As they worry and grieve, defend them from illness and despair.
May they know your peace.
Be with the doctors, nurses, researchers and all medical professionals who seek to heal and help those affected and who put themselves at risk in the process.
May they know your protection and peace.
Be with the leaders of all nations.
Give them the foresight to act with charity and true concern for the wellbeing of the people they are meant to serve.
Give them the wisdom to invest in long-term solutions that will help prepare for or prevent future outbreaks.
May they know your peace, as they work together to achieve it on earth. Whether we are home or abroad, surrounded by many people suffering from this illness or only a few, Lord Jesus Christ, stay with us as we endure and mourn, persist and prepare.
In place of our anxiety, give us your peace. Lord Jesus Christ, heal us.
On the 25th of August 2019, eight children made their first Holy Communion at the 10.00am Mass, with Fr. Ossie officiating. The children were involved in all aspects of the Mass, including reading, preparing the altar and bringing up the offertory gifts. Along with their families, the children shared a celebratory cake after the Mass, which proved a good way of settling the nerves. The day's moving and very special ceremony was made possible through the hard work of catechists Marie Tiley and Mark Ferroa, who are putting their teaching degrees to very good use! Congratulations to the children on meeting this significant milestone in their faith journey.
Parish Pastoral Council 2019 AGM Report
27 October 2019
Chairperson’s AGM Report
“Unless Jesus Christ is at the centre of our lives and of our Church, all our efforts at renewal and reform will come to nothing. We must try to listen then with the mind and heart of Christ.” (Archbishop Timothy Costello)
Our thanks to Fr Ossie for allowing his parishioners to take an active role in the management and pastoral care of the Holy Family Parish. Father’s leadership empowers his parishioners to step forward and take on roles and responsibilities demonstrating commitment to their Catholic Faith. Thank you also to our resident priest, Fr Greg Carroll, who assists Fr Ossie with masses in the Parish.
We are well supported by two pastoral assistants, Rose Hart and Tony Pires. Our thanks to them over the past twelve months as they have dutifully assisted in leading the mission and pastoral care of the parish community in accordance with the precepts, teachings and practices of the Catholic Church.
Fr Ossie is supported by an active Parish Pastoral Council (PPC). Our mission is to live gratefully the life God has given us, live in the spirit of Jesus and grow closer to God and one another. Monthly meetings are held throughout the year to discuss and action initiatives to support Father in carrying out his ministry within the Parish. Over the past twelve months these initiatives have included:
promoting Gospel values and the teachings of the Church which included a prayer and reflection day for the council at St Joseph’s Convent South Perth.
establishing short and long term goals to include the establishment of hubs, complete a new Parish website, establish new groups within the Parish viz a readers group and to complete the Parish History project. This work is done actively pursuing our goals as set down in our Mission Statement.
promoting courses of study and reflection to laity through the Understanding Change Loss and Grief Session offered to parishioners by Sr Dora McGuire, a Readers Workshop conducted by Tony Pires to reflect on the reading ministry and receive technical support and additionally by supporting the Altar servers and Extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist training.
seeking out and responding to the needs of people in the Parish and beyond through supporting appeals such as Caritas Australia with Project Compassion. Parishioner donations to this amounted to $4,506.70, being gifted to empower individuals and communities through education, to transform their future to create lasting change. Supporting the Good Friday Holy Land collection with contributions amounting to $2,077 as well as supporting the Vinnies Winter Appeal with parishioner donations of $1,304 directed to support local people in need. Ongoing support continues for the St Vincent de Paul through the Vinnies Christmas Giving Tree and Christmas card sales. The Parish also supports the Archdiocese Lifelink Christmas Appeal.
stimulating a Christian response to local issues and problems of the world. Discussion sessions for the Plenary Council meeting in 2020 were held in the Parish around the question posed by the Australian Bishops, What do you believe God is asking of us in Australia at this time? A Parish response was gathered from meetings and prepared for submission by a council member Claire Noonan. More dialogue is to follow around the six National themes for discernment; 1. Missionary & evangelising, 2. Inclusive, participatory & synodal, 3. Prayerful and Eucharistic, 4. Humble, healing and merciful, 5. A joyful, hope-filled and servant community, 6. Open to conversion, renewal and reform.
promoting communication within and beyond the Parish. Councillors David Periera and Marianne Taylor with the assistance of Julian Sieber have worked consistently to create a new Parish website which has now been launched.
The recently released Constitution for Parish Pastoral Councils has been unpacked by council members at monthly meetings. I attended formation sessions when the new Archdiocesan website for Parish Renewal was introduced. Four council members attended a Parish Renewal Gathering conducted from the Nollamara Parish to discuss the development of Hubs across the Archdiocese. The next phase is the development of a package that parishes working in a Hub can use to enthuse and engage all parishioners in parish life. The intention is that Parishes thrive by entering into conversations and pooling resources to support one another and streamline some Parish initiatives. Future dialogue with surrounding parishes will develop Hubs that will allow parishes to share their strengths and resources for the benefit of all.
As Chairperson I wish to extend my thanks to council members for their dedication and calling to discipleship. Our thanks also to the Parish finance committee who works within the constitution in offering sound advice to the parish priest on financial matters related to Parish funds.
The Parish Office operates from Tuesday to Thursday and is manned by our efficient Joanne Zappia. Our two Safeguarding Officers Mark Ferroa and Breda Piers are responsible for ensuring the safety of children, young people and the vulnerable within our Parish.
The parish is alive with workers willingly giving their time to prepare rosters, clean, teach sacramental programmes and take Children’s Liturgy, be acolytes, altar servers and members of choirs, do maintenance and gardening, provide care services through Holy Family Care, fundraise and provide and serve morning tea each fortnight. We indeed have a vibrant operating Parish.
Our pastoral assistants, PPC members, Finance committee, acolytes, altar servers, lectors, readers, extraordinary ministers, children’s liturgy team, liturgy committee, choirs and small Christian communities, Sacred Heart Sodality, gardeners, technical support, cleaners and St Vincent de Paul members, are all a visible sign of commitment to their Catholic Faith as they carry out their volunteer work for the Holy Family Parish.
Pope Francis said, “Evangelisation is the mission of the Church, not just of a few, but my, your, our mission.”
Fr Ossie says weekday Masses at local nursing homes and visits the elderly in the Parish. Extra-Ordinary Ministers of the Eucharist from our Parish visit local nursing homes to take Communion to the elderly. Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is privately conducted by Fr Ossie. The process involves a period of reflection, prayer, instruction, discernment, and formation.
Thank you to Mark Ferroa and his team for preparing children through the Parish Sacramental program to receive the Sacraments. The new program called ‘Gathered in My Name’ continues to prepare children for First Reconciliation in Year 3 and First Eucharist in Year 4. The Pre-Confirmation module begins in Year 5 so that, by the time these children are in Year 6, they will be better placed to prepare for Confirmation in a more meaningful way. Our enrolments in the past twelve months have seen ten children prepare for their First Reconciliation, eight for their First Eucharist; eleven completed the Pre Confirmation module with twelve preparing for their Confirmation in October. Faith formation opportunities have been offered for parents through meetings and workshops as their children have been prepared to receive their Sacraments.
Presently eleven Catechists take weekly Children’s Liturgy sessions during the Sunday masses to bring children closer to Jesus and his teachings in the Gospel. Adult faith enrichment sessions are hosted by the Parish to facilitate a deeper understanding of the Catholic faith and Church teachings.
The youth of our Parish have the opportunity to attend the Australian Catholic Youth Festival (ACYF) in Perth from the 8th – 10th December this year. The event is to be held at Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre and the theme is ‘Listen to what the Spirit is saying.’ It exists to provide young people with opportunities to deepen their relationship with Jesus, be empowered to be disciples in the world today and encounter and celebrate the vitality of the Church in Australia. Our blessings to the youth as they attend this event.
Social Outreach Services
The St Vincent de Paul Society with 40,000 members forms the largest volunteer welfare network in the country. Our Vinnies Como Conference services people in need in Como, Kensington, South Perth, Manning and Karawara. They offer assistance to their clients through food, fuel, clothing, bedding and furniture vouchers. Assistance is also given for utility bills, rent, medical scripts and financial counselling. The Holy Family Parish give generously to the Holy Thursday and Winter appeal for the Vinnies and support the Christmas Giving Tree and Vinnies Christmas Card sales.
The Holy Family Parish operates Holy Family Care which offers assistance to parishioners for short term home help, handyman jobs, transport, gardening and emergency meals. Our Parish is a community that can depend on one another when in need.
The Parish supports appeals locally, Nationally and Internationally through Caritas, the Archbishops Christmas Lifelink Appeal and Catholic Missions Propagation of the Faith Appeal and Little Sisters of the Poor Annual Appeal. Parishioners are generous with donations and their time given to people in need. Support is also given by parishioners through the sales of Josephite and St Columba’s Calendars.
Social activities and fundraising
Social and fundraising events are offered within the Parish. Parishioners offer both monetary and organisational support to ensure the success of these activities. Significant events over the past twelve months have included the Mad Hatter’s Party, International Lunch, Carols Night, Feast of the Holy Family luncheon, Family Movie Nights, Mothers Day Bazaar and the Quiz Night. The total funds raised amounted to $15, 651.60 for which we thank our generous parishioners.
The Catholic Church is amid challenging times. The Plenary Council has the capacity to propose legislation for the way the Catholic Church in Australia will operate into the future. Each one of us needs to pray and be actively involved in our Parish and trust where the Holy Spirit is leading us. Faith requires our full attention and engagement in following Jesus with committed integrity; to be an authentic disciple of God requires living the Gospel principles of justice and mercy and peace not in words alone but in the values we live and the works we take on.
The overall aim is to encourage not just greater participation by the laity at all levels but also an engaged and thriving community that understands the gift it has in its people. The key underlying principles are:
• True leaders emerge naturally through action.
• We are not simply “another organisation” - We are the body of Christ.
• Being a disciple involves understanding ourselves to be learners in a learning Church.
• Through our baptism we have all been called and gifted.
• The authority of lay ministry was re-iterated at the 2nd Vatican Council.
Our parish has held two listening and dialogue sessions for parishioners in response to the Church’s call for participation in the work of the Plenary Council.
This purpose of this submission is to convey the tenor of the key components of the dialogue as fairly and accurately as possible. It does not purport to exhaustively convey every opinion parishioners expressed.
Click below to view the document produced in light of these listening and dialogue sessions:
The last Plenary Council held by the Catholic Church in Australia was in 1937- just over 80 years ago. Much has changed! In 2020 we will hold a Plenary Council about the future of the Catholic Church in Australia. All Australians are invited to engage in an open and inclusive process of listening, dialogue and discernment around the question "What is God asking of us in Australia today?"
Pentecost Sunday is the National Launch of the Plenary Council 2020 followed by the formal launch for the Perth Archdiocese at the Vigil Mass on Trinity Sunday. A representative from each parish will receive a special “Plenary Council Candle” to take back to their parish. We will light this candle at our Parish Launch of the Plenary Council 2020 on Sunday 3 June, the Feast of Corpus Christi.