Kerbside rites and lockdown soup all part of Catholic work in Covid-19 times

WelCom May 2020: Catholic agencies and individuals around Aotearoa-New Zealand have been busy working from home and maintaining still-open ‘essential services’ supporting communities in need during the Level 4 Covid-19…

WelCom May 2020:

Catholic agencies and individuals around Aotearoa-New Zealand have been busy working from home and maintaining still-open ‘essential services’ supporting communities in need during the Level 4 Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown.

Foodbanks and soup kitchens are two very busy basic services that have been working hard behind the scenes. And some exceptional ingenuity is being used in these extraordinary times, when essential Catholic spiritual work such as attending to the sick and dying has severely restricted by Level 4 and Level 3 rules. 

Kerbside rites and lockdown soup all part of Catholic work in Covid-19 times Archdiocese of Wellington
Maurice Carmody praying by a hearse stopped near St Theresa’s Church in Plimmerton, north of Wellington.
Photo: Supplied

Fr Maurice Carmody of Plimmerton, north of Wellington, said prayers for the dead from the kerbside as funeral directors paused their hearse outside his home, near St Theresa’s Church, where he is parish priest.

Fr Maurice met the funeral directors – at the required social distance – by the roadside. Standing near the open rear door of the hearse, he said the prayers of final commendation while the family watched and prayed over a phone video link.

‘I was able to pray the prayers and bless the remains of the family’s loved ones knowing they were there,’ Fr Maurice said. ‘It was a beautiful experience, and it was something I felt graced to do.’

Archdiocese of Wellington Vicar for Māori Deacon Danny Karatea-Goddard has been using technology to remotely accompany whānau in their tangi.

‘Even though we are not able to be there kanohi ki te kanohi [face to face], we are reaching out using alternatives. It’s not the best way of doing things but it’s what we can do.’

Deacon Danny says he is able to train younger whānau members to offer words of farewell and prayer: ‘Families themselves are drawing on their own resources.’

Technology cannot help with all funeral lockdown problems, but grieving families should contact parishes to link with the support available. The Government has said the change to Alert Level 3 will allow 10 people to attend a funeral, though families will need to decide who the 10 will be.

With churches closed by the lockdown rules, online Mass has been popular. Daily Mass is streamed live in each of New Zealand’s six dioceses and from many parishes, with priests and bishops celebrating Mass from their ‘bubbles’. The National Liturgy Office regularly updates its list of online Masses. Go to the page: www.nlo.org.nz/news-and-events/media-releases/celebrate-mass-online/ 

Kerbside rites and lockdown soup all part of Catholic work in Covid-19 times Archdiocese of Wellington
Volunteers Clara, Rose, Louise and Sr Ruth keep the Compassion Soup Kitchen going in Wellington.

Work less visible nationally but very important locally is happening everywhere. St Vincent de Paul staff have continued to work providing food parcels. Catholic Social Services (CSS) teams are keeping in touch with people using Zoom and phone calls, providing support, counselling, information and helping people get food parcels, technology support and help when needed.

Catholic hospital chaplains are continuing to work from home, connecting with patients and hospital staff by phone and other devices. Wellington hospital chaplain Lizzie Wootton says chaplains are learning to adapt to new rhythms and routines, when face-to-face contact is not possible. But she is able to talk to and pray with people in hospital using their own and hospital phones. ‘I try to be present to them, because human presence in any form helps with mental health and healing,’ Lizzie said.

Wellington’s Compassion Soup Kitchen – founded in 1901 by Sister Suzanne Aubert – has doubled its meal production to more than 150 a day since the lockdown started at midnight on March 25. Operating under Level 4 as an essential service for the city’s most vulnerable people, the kitchen has closed its communal dining area, instead distributing meals at
the door. 

An article praising the kitchen’s work was published in The Dominion Post newspaper and on Stuff: https://tinyurl.com/y7tsscab