Melbourne Prays: Taking the mission online

Friday 5 June 2020

Communications Office
As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the world, schools and churches were inevitably affected and began closing their doors. Where possible, communities shifted online, providing online learning modules and the livestreaming of Masses. But what of the community and social aspects of prayer?

Looking for a creative way to bring people together for daily prayer, two priests from the Archdiocese of Melbourne—Fr Nicholas Pearce (Assistant Vocations Director and Parish Priest of Holy Family Mount Waverley) and Fr Marcus Goulding (Assistant Priest at St Anthony’s Parish South Melton)—took to social media to find a way to bring young university students together and provide a way of punctuating their school day with prayer.

MelbournePrays is an online community that brings together young people across the Archdiocese for daily prayer opportunities via YouTube and Facebook. Each day, people are invited to join in prayer with others for their own needs and the needs of the world at this time.

Fr Nicholas Pearce said the MelbournePrays initiative is a reminder that people are not alone. “While Churches have been closed, it has been wonderful to be able to still pray with people,” he said. “It’s also been a timely reminder of how important it is for people to know they are not alone… that although churches have been closed, Parishes are still praying with and for their people.’

Not only has the following of the page grown in recent months but also the ‘behind-the-scenes’ crew of MelbournePrays.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Corpus Christi College (regional seminary) had to reduce its numbers and students were sent to various places across the Archdiocese to continue their formation online. Two seminarians joined Fr Pearce at Mount Waverly and soon joined in the online prayer.
“It is lovely to be able to pray with others during this time of isolation, especially as we are away from our seminary brothers,” said Joseph Schaefer, a second-year student at Corpus Christi College. “It is also exciting to see so many lay people being introduced to the Divine Office during this time, and how they are responding so positivity to this beautiful form of prayer.”

The daily MelbournePrays schedule now includes Morning Prayer (7.30am), the Rosary and Angelus (midday) and a Divine Mercy chaplet (3pm). On Sundays, the team hosts a live podcast called, “Sunday Night Live”, where Fr Pearce is joined by Melbourne local Brendan Elliston. During the one-hour episode, the two catch up on the week’s events and chat about life in lockdown. They are then joined in the second half of the hour by a local guest speaker who offers their insights on a range of topics from vocations, youth ministry, parish life during lockdown and prayer. Guests have included Archbishop Peter A Comensoli, musician Genevieve Bryant and this week Fr Michael Buck, currently studying in Rome, will be making a guest appearance.

More than just a conversation, the podcast offers the chance for Melbourne’s young Catholics to connect online and grow in faith and support for each other—something that would have ordinarily been done in person. Following the live podcast, there is a Zoom catch up which allows those listening live to engage further with the topics discussed and to catch up with others tuning in.

MelbournePrays and, by extension its “Sunday Night Live” podcast, has taken the Church’s mission to nurture and sustain faith and community online. As host, Brendan Elliston says, “Before lockdown, there were plenty of opportunities to catch up: Holy Hour, Theology @ the Pub, and so much more. I’m so glad that through Sunday Night Live we have been able—in our own little way—to keep this conversation going and do something small to contribute to the Catholic Community here in Melbourne.”

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