Continued interest in online Masses even though COVID restrictions have eased was one of the catalysts to forming the online parish, according to Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge.
The online parish, which began in line with the new liturgical year, is to be led by Fr Peter Brannelly, who will be a regular on the Archdiocese’s social media platforms engaging viewers across southeast Queensland and beyond.
The Archdiocese has gone a step further than online masses to create an online parish that can be a central meeting point in the same way a physical parish brings together its community. The Archdiocese is not aware of any other formal online parish community in other parts of the world.
“We’ve always thought of a Catholic parish as something that has a geographic base around a church and perhaps a school but the past two years have made us think about life differently,” Archbishop Coleridge said.
“We know that some of our parishioners who began to watch Masses by livestream early last year are still watching and may not be able to make it to a physical parish so we decided that we would come to them by forming a dedicated online parish community with a priest who will engage with them regularly.”
Online traffic to the Archdiocese’s digital platforms has surged since the pandemic began.
Each week, Fr Brannelly, who will also continue in his current role as parish priest of Colundra, will be seen on the Archdiocese’s social media platforms introducing the livestream of a Sunday Mass for parishioners. At other times, he will invite prayer intentions, describe the lives of saints on their feast days and feature in other engagement opportunities with parishioners.
Fr Brannelly said the online parish community enabled people to feel as though they had a regular connection in their faith, just as they would if they were coming to a parish.
“We expect we will engage with people who are still going to their physical parish but who may not be able to make it every weekend.”