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Church services head online amid COVID-19 restrictions

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FAITH: Braz Cardozo attends mass all around the world, including services in Canada and India.

FAITH: Braz Cardozo attends mass all around the world, including services in Canada and India.

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Prayers go digital this Easter.

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AS the coronavirus threat closed at churches across the country, practitioners had faith they wouldn't be without their regular service for long.

Their prayers were answered with technology.

Chaplin Norminda Forteza has embraced Facebook Messenger to start prayer vigils for members of the Australian-Filipino community.

Norminda is a member of the Australian-Filipino Community Services in Victoria, which is part of the Be Connected network, a Federal Government initiative managed by Good Things Foundation across the country.

Through her vigils, she has reached people ranging in age from 65 to 94 years of age. There's even singing.

She said it was a great way not only to observe faith but also helped foster connection in the community.

"We combat social isolation and address the fears of our members while putting out up to date information," Norminda said.

But it's not without its challenges.

"We can only have eight participants at a time, so I need more volunteers to be mentors," she said. "It's a challenge managing the call."

Other challenges include participants not having the necessary technology to connect virtually.

But Norminda said there were also a lot of opportunities online that didn't exist in a traditional service. For instance, it's easier to use music now. And exercise videos and included at the end thanks to YouTube.

Norminda Forteza.

Norminda Forteza.

"I believe it's something we can keep doing."

Indian-born Braz Cardozo, 75, has virtually attended church services across the globe.

At Easter he watched Catholic mass held in Toronto, Canada, via YouTube.

"I've been watching mass from around the world every day for over a year now and now Edna my wife watches too," he said.

"I watch services in Toronto and also in America and Goa - where I am from - and Mumbai also. I go all around. Variety is the spice of life!"

Braz, who is living with Parkinson's disease, started attending church 'virtually' when his symptoms meant it became too difficult to get to his local church.

"I couldn't walk and there are no direct buses and we can't afford a taxi every time," he said.

"So I typed in 'daily mass' into YouTube on my computer and found all these services around the world on the internet. I like the Toronto one because some of the priests are known to us from India and they've moved to Canada, and the choirs also sing so beautifully. The services last for about 30 minutes, which suits me. And we can watch from our own home."

He said while he misses meeting people at church, he enjoys watching from home.

"I prefer my quiet life. It is nice to meet people at church but that's not my purpose."

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