Requiem Mass watched online by family

A requiem Mass for a beloved Ashburton parishioner was joined in prayer by extended family and friends online from their homes, as their loved one was being buried with no family or friends present because of Covid-19 restrictions.

Noreen Tod, 82, who died on April 1 at Ashburton Hospital, was a well-known and much-loved parishioner of St Augustine of Canterbury parish in Mid-Canterbury.

She was well known to many clergy, as she had started cooking for priests when she was 17.

Born in Southland, she went to Napier/Hastings, where she cooked for Marist priests, and after marrying Charlie Tod (now deceased) in 1964, they moved to Ashburton.

Marianne Daly, who works for Christchurch diocese, told NZ Catholic that priests Mrs Tod cooked for over the years included the current Bishop of Hamilton, Bishop Stephen Lowe, Fr Rick Loughnan, Fr Bill Grounds, Msgr James Harrington and Fr Peter Farrant.

A mother of two children, grandmother of eight and great-grandmother of one, “she was always a very active member of the parish”, Mrs Daly said. Mrs Tod was a cousin of Mrs Daly’s husband.

Mrs Tod was buried at 10.30am on April 2 at Ashburton Cemetery, and the requiem Mass was celebrated at the same time by Fr Denis Nolan and Fr Huynh Tran.

The decision to make the Mass viewable online through Facebook came about after Mrs Tod’s daughter Kathleen approached Fr Nolan, her parish priest. Kathleen had been aware of diocesan online Masses and spoke to Fr Nolan about the burial scheduled for the next morning.

“Fr Denis offered to celebrate the requiem Mass and they chose to have the two events taking place at the same time,” Mrs Daly said.

The extended family had already joined in prayer over the Internet as Mrs Tod was dying.

Mrs Daly said that Kathleen told her that the online requiem was a great substitute, given the isolation rules.

“The family did not feel alone. Prayer and messages were coming in to the family. She (Kathleen) received much positive feedback afterwards. The family wished to be praying with the Mass, even though they couldn’t physically be together, they were able to be connected. That was very important to the family,” Mrs Daly said.

When life returns to something closer to normal, and the virus is under control and restrictions are lifted, the family hopes to gather for a Memorial Mass and to continue sharing more in a larger gathering about Mrs Tod’s life, her gifts, and her service.

One of the things that will likely be fondly remembered is her home-grown potatoes, which were a favourite at family reunion in January.

Mrs Daly expects there will be more funeral services conducted with family and friends watching online and praying in their homes.

“The prayer of the Church is integral to our very being, in life and in death. We are finding ways to care for our people and Noreen’s passing gave us a start. Joining in the celebration of the Mass was a source of consolation to the family as our prayers accompanied her journey to her eternal home.” 

Mrs Daly added that A Book of the Names of the Faithful Departed is being created by the Christchurch diocese during the time of isolation. At the end of this crisis, the book is going to be bound and a copy will be given to all parishes, so it can be used in Memorial Masses. During the lockdown, Masses will be celebrated by parish clergy in private for deceased parishioners, even when sharing this online is not possible, Mrs Daly said.

“Our care for the bereaved family and friends will continue.”

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Michael Otto

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