Social distancing. Self-isolation. Quarantine.
These are all serious measures that we are all called to implement as the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic continues.
But a Western Sydney youth group has taken a giant step in not letting physical distances stop them from journeying together spiritually.
On Sunday 22 March, BASIC GIFT (Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Growing in Faith Together), a Catholic youth group run out of Holy Spirit Parish St Clair, held a youth group meeting that was, for the first time, streamed live on their Instagram account @basicgiftstclair.
“We’ll get through this strange time together and as always, God is with us, so let’s continue to grow in faith together,” an Instagram post on their page read ahead of the live stream.
Patrice Moriarty, Social Justice Coordinator for the Diocese of Parramatta, and a BASIC GIFT youth leader, hosted the live stream with fellow youth leader Chloe Daley, as members of the youth team tuned into the stream with comments, questions and reactions.
“Not only is it [the live stream] a good way to stay in touch with the members of BASIC GIFT, but it also works to evangelise and spread our faith as the use of social media allows people to hear the Gospel message,” Chloe told Catholic Outlook following the live stream.
Patrice explained, “I think it is now more than ever important for the youth to come together and connect.
“We can still stay connected spiritually and emotionally by using the means we have at our disposal to show and share the love that comes from God. Part of youth ministry is always thinking of new and different ways to engage with the youth, and that remains the challenge.”
During the live stream, the two youth leaders tried to keep things positive and joyful, but addressed what Patrice called “the elephant in the room” in COVID-19, and what it would mean for the youth group into the immediate future.
“I went to Mass last night, and it was quite upsetting walking in and seeing the chairs all separate. It was quite hard to see, because Mass is like a home for me and it’s such a community and having to sit apart from everybody, it was quite upsetting,” Chloe told the stream.
“But even though we might be apart physically, doesn’t mean we can’t pray together and keep each other in our prayers. Just because we are apart, that doesn’t mean that we have to be apart spiritually.
“We can take a stand against this together, and one of the biggest ways we know how to do this as Catholics is through prayer,” she said.
Patrice added, “prayer is such a beautiful thing. God’s love isn’t a physical thing, it’s a spiritual thing. God created us, but our essence and souls are spiritual and we can transcend the physical, that’s the amazing thing of faith is that we can transcend any difficulties we are going through.
“Bishop Vincent said last week that ‘faith is made for these moments, faith is made for us to stand up in the difficult times.’ And this is what we are going to do and really try and model here at BASIC GIFT.
“We’re here for you guys, we’re going to pray with you guys, although we’re not physically together, we’re spiritually together. We still love you and God still loves you even though things are changing and very different. The truths of life – of loving God with all your heart and all our soul, and loving your neighbour as yourself – that’s a life purpose that never changes, no matter what the circumstances.”
The youth leaders then led the live stream in prayer, reciting Psalm 91, and a reading from St Augustine, under whose pastoral care the parish is under.
The live stream finished with a rendition of Lord, I Need You, by American Catholic artist Matt Maher.
“It’s in times like these that we really need to lean on God, knowing that He has this all figured out. We really want to stress to our youth that we’re still here for them,” Chloe said.
“I believe that we will partake in more live streams for the youth to join in prayer together but also to maintain a relationship and connection with them.”
The BASIC GIFT youth group are planning to hold similar streams in the place of their regular face-to-face meetings on the second and fourth Sundays of the month.
The group is also planning on holding prayers, meditations, Lectio Divine and praise and worship sessions online.