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Pleased to be back in church praying

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Among the first Catholics to visit St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral after it was reopened on May 11 were Sofia Baltazar, 26, and Ram Romina, 27.

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The young Filipino migrants came to Australia two months ago on skilled worker visas. Both are medical scientists who were working in laboratories in the Philippines. A week after they arrived in Australia the coronavirus restrictions kicked in and they have been unable to find work.

“We’ve had lots of rejections,” Ram said.

Sofia and Ram (pictured) didn’t know each other before coming to Adelaide but are now sharing a house at Greenacres.

When they heard churches might be reopening on May 11, they took a gamble and caught the bus into the city and were relieved to find the Cathedral was open for private worship of up to 10 people.

An emotional Ram said she was crying as she kneeled to pray – having waited two months for this moment.

“We are new migrants here, looking for employment, and it’s been hard for us to find jobs since the COVID-19 restrictions came in,” she said.

“And we couldn’t even go to church for comfort.”

She and Sofia got to go to Mass only once in Adelaide before all churches closed, and they had to be content watching Holy Week and Easter services online.

Sofia said back in the Philippines they were regular Mass-goers. Neither of them want to go back to the Philippines, except to visit family, having fallen in love with Adelaide.

“It’s so beautiful”, they said.

Despite having permanent residency, the pair aren’t eligible for welfare benefits until they have been here for a year and are living off their savings.

Ram said they were hoping to find work in a medical laboratory once the COVID-19 restrictions eased.

“We are praying for the epidemic to stop and for everything to get back to normal,” she said.

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