In a year marked by physical isolation, 2020 has also been a time of finding connection in unexpected places.

A few weeks ago, Elgar Desa, a parishioner of St Joao Facundo in the village of Corlim in Goa, India, contacted the Archdiocese of Melbourne to express his gratitude for the online Masses during this time of the pandemic.

‘We began viewing online Masses at home when the first Covid lockdown was imposed all over India in March 2020,’ he says.

Elgar Des and his wife and daughter.

Elgar is one of the thousands who since March of this have regularly visited—virtually—the Cathedral from around the world. The 11am Sunday Mass for instance, which is also televised locally on C31 (channel 44 on digital TV), is often viewed by more than 4,000 by the end of the day. Viewers

‘Things have eased up and Masses are now celebrated in several churches in Goa, with strictly enforced restrictions like wearing masks, sanitising hands, temperature scans, and a reduced number of folks that can attend. However, during the weekdays, online Mass at home is still popular in Goa.’

During the peak of the lockdown period, Elgar says he and his three siblings gather and watch Masses streamed online from various countries.

‘During the lockdowns we became interested in online Masses in Mumbai, Toronto, Chennai, Assam and Australia,’ he says.

‘The universal nature of the Catholic Church was apparent and our simple village Mass had expanded beyond the oceans.’

Elgar shared that this time of the pandemic has encouraged in him a deeper appreciation for the Mass as a celebration of praise, thanksgiving, glory and honour to the Holy Trinity and a remembrance of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus.

After experiencing Mass in churches around the world, Elgar explains that he and his siblings have become fascinated by the various styles of homilies presented, and have often discussed at length how they can help engage "participants" at home.

‘I felt a sense of unity in the knowledge that thousands of Catholics from diverse cultural backgrounds were watching the same Mass at different times all over the globe, and the only exception was that the homily was different in each case.

Our evening discussions dwelt on the Gospel as we assessed the skill with which the preacher was able to present a clear understanding of the Gospel message in the homily.’

Elgar says his participation in the online Masses has been helped by the 'sense of reverence' presented onscreen, 'accompanied by the singing and organ playing, and of course the excellent homilies by Archbishop Peter Comensoli integrating the readings in a nutshell.’

‘A good homily is a source for reflection on what Jesus said in the readings that one can take away even after the Mass is over. In my own experience, a daily reading of the Bible develops very slowly into an intimate loving knowledge of our Lord.