Outdoor Mass at St Therese’s

 By Fr Andrew Fewings 

Celebrating Mass “outdoors” was permitted by the Victorian Government Restriction Activities Directions (non-Metropolitan) No. 5, Clause 8, subclauses 2(e) and 5(a),(b), commencing 17 September.

At St Therese’s Kennington, we took that opportunity for weekday Masses (Monday to Friday), despite several difficulties to be overcome. The Presbytery is on a traffic roundabout; the Church is on another roundabout; cars and delivery vans drive in and around regularly. We checked out a few possibilities for an area that afforded safety, privacy, accessibility, protection from the elements and a worthy place to gather for the Mass.

Outdoor Mass 3
To facilitate both ease of daily assembly and disassembly, our handyman, Pat Curtis put a makeshift altar on castors. Clips, ties and weighted stands were prepared to keep cloths, cross and lectern in place. The Marist Brothers donated several long and narrow banners to give the area a more liturgical ambience. Hooks, rods and gold cords kept them in place during the bouts of wind. Rain had been forecast for every day, and so it did, but not during the times we were outdoors for Mass.
It is very disappointing that churches are not considered equal to hospitality venues where up to fifty people may gather outside. Limiting our attendees to ten was another challenge. We normally would have double that number at weekday Masses. Many phoned or emailed in advance, or wrote their names on the sign-in sheets. Everyone carefully self-regulated their attendances so that different persons were able to book in on the various days.

We have followed advice for hand hygiene, face masks and social distancing. Chairs are arranged around the space and parishioners bring their own Daily Missals. During the 30-minute Liturgy, communion is distributed in the same manner as at Masses in St Peter’s Square in Rome. Because of the wind, the host must be taken from Fr Andrew, using thumb and forefinger, once he says,‘The Body of Christ’.

The photo shows some of the congregation after Mass on Thursday 24 September. The three Altar Servers rode their bikes or walked to the church. It was during school holidays and, since restrictions started back in March, they had been “missing out”; therefore they seized the day and booked to serve.

With all the essentials for the Rite available, our opportunities to celebrate the sacred mysteries outdoors have been successful, due to great care, reverence and attention to detail from all participants.

Photograph courtesy of Liesbeth Van Emerick 

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