How do people’s prayer habits change during a pandemic?

The COVID pandemic has affected all areas of life. But still unknown is the degree to which some areas of life has been affected, especially spiritually, given people’s inability to attend Mass, after all places of worship were closed on 23 March.

A new national study from Monash University will look at trends in prayer and worship habits during lockdown. The study will explore how Catholics in Australia have responded to church closures during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study will also look at the spiritual orientation and wellbeing of people during lockdown.

Speaking to Catholic Weekly, study author Phillipa Martyr says, ‘during the church closures, I met Catholics who benefitted from watching live-streamed internet Masses, or televised Masses. But I also met others who found this difficult and spiritually unsatisfying.’

‘So I would really like to know what choices practicing Catholics made about accessing different forms of worship, and look at some of the reasons why.’

The online survey is anonymous and open to all adult Australian Catholics, whether laypeople, priests or religious. It will ask about what types of worship choices individuals made during lockdown, and what they would like to see done in future.

‘The COVID-19 church closures have caused a lot of controversy, here and overseas, and there’s been a lot of debate about legitimate authority and the right to have access to the Sacraments,’ says Martyr.

‘It would be good to know more about this might translate into individual worship choices.’

Referring to the parts of the country where churches have been reopened, Martyr says she would like to ‘find out if Australian Catholics are recovering spiritually from church closures, and if they are coming back to Mass in greater numbers now.’

‘It’s also possible that next time we have a pandemic, we could do things better – help more people to find worship choices that meet their spiritual needs and are safe for everyone.’

Participation in the national survey is voluntary, and it will be open from late August to early October 2020. The survey will take around 10 minutes to complete, and most questions can be answered by choosing from a list of options.

For more information about the project, contact Philippa Martyr at or Josie O’Donohue at