Whilst COVID-19 prevented the outside celebrations of the Our Lady Queen of Peace (OLQP) Festa for 2020, it enabled a brand new opportunity for the 55th celebration of the event with creativity and innovation – Virtual Festa 2020!
The OLQP Festa Greystanes has been a yearly event in the community for the past 55 years. The Festa, introduced to the community of Greystanes by Maltese immigrants, celebrates Our Lady, Queen of Peace in thanksgiving for her intercession and protection in three significant sieges across Malta’s history. It also celebrates the parish community of Our Lady Queen of Peace and the growth and strength from its humble beginnings to a vibrant, multicultural community known today.
As with many events this year, COVID-19 brought challenges to Festa 2020. What would normally be a Mass with 800-1000 people and outdoor celebrations drawing around 2000 people culminating in a vibrant fireworks display, initially raised the question ‘what are we going to do?’ It was important to the Festa Committee and to the OLQP Community to commemorate the Parish Feast in some way.
Earlier this year Pope Francis encouraged all to respond to this pandemic with a ‘creativity of love’. As a result, we have all been applying creative solutions to how we carry out our lives and the celebration of Festa in 2020 was no exception.
Over the weekend of 26 and 27 September 2020, the OLQP Festa Facebook Page hosted ‘Virtual Festa 2020.’ Families and friends celebrated the spirit of Festa, enhanced by watching and engaging with the videos and posts shared on the Festa Facebook page.
The Virtual Festa included interviews with author Rupert Grech who shared stories on wartime Malta, and Fr Anton Damato, a priest from Malta who was to travel to Australia for Festa this year. Maltese recipes were shared. Prayer intentions were offered. Sponsors were recognised. One could even have nougat and honey cakes delivered!
All Masses over the weekend were Festa Masses. The Sunday 10am Mass, usually the focus of the weekend, was much smaller than Festa Masses from previous years, but reached a larger audience through live streaming made possible by generous volunteers.
The highlights of the Virtual Festa were the origin stories of Festa – a series of five short videos sharing the story of Festa beginning 55 years ago and growing into the community event of Greystanes that is known today. The OLQP Festa Committee was overwhelmed by the number of people who watched these origin videos, and with the feedback received. One lady was brought to tears listening to a story referencing her family and sharing memories she had not heard of before. Others expressed their pride when remembering the early faith community of Greystanes and the joy these stories had awakened in their hearts.
The weekend of the Virtual Festa may be over, but all videos and photos remain available on the OLQP Festa Facebook Page. Everyone is invited to watch, comment and share these posts so that the story of Festa can continue to live in the hearts and minds of a new generation.
Festa is the story of the Maltese migrants in Australia who built a parish community which they enjoy and celebrate the fruits of today.
It is the story of the people of Greystanes who grew up with the OLQP Festa.
The Festa Committee are extremely grateful for the experience of the Virtual Festa 2020 and to have had the opportunity to continue a tradition in a new and exciting way.
Visit the OLQP Festa Greystanes Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/olqp.festa
Lisa Bright is the President of the OLQP Festa Committee and the Project Officer for the Pastoral Planning Office, Diocese of Parramatta.