‘These five months have been incredibly difficult, especially for the bereaved’
The path ahead: excitement as relaxing of Covid restrictions are cause for optimism
(Dundalk, Ireland) – It was with a feeling of ‘relief’ that church communities across Ireland learned they will be able to welcome parishioners back to daily and weekly masses from May 10th.
At St. Joseph’s Redemptorist Church that relief was palpable as Rector Fr. Noel Kehoe C.S.s.R, spoke of the ‘incredibly difficult’ few months which we are emerging from.
‘The past five months have been extremely difficult for people. I think especially of those who were bereaved during this time, when public celebration of funerals and wakes were so severely restricted. Other celebrations like baptisms, communions, confirmations, weddings have all been affected. And of course, the prohibition on the celebration of the Eucharist and other sacraments has weighted heavy on people.’
He added: ‘For many, attending mass daily or weekly is still an important opportunity to gather as a community. Of course, all our masses continued to be celebrated here in St Joseph’s and streamed live. This at least allowed families to mark anniversaries and to participate digitally. But it really is not the same.’
‘For the Redemptorist Community too, it has been a difficult time, feeling isolated from the community. Thank God, that is coming to an end.’
The official reopening date is long awaited, he said: ‘The timing of the reopening had been very vague, so we are happy to at least have a date. But there were many smiles when it was announced. Of course, we would like if it were a little less restrictive. St Joseph’s, like many of the churches in the area, are large well ventilated buildings that can safely accommodate many more people. We really hope that this be reviewed very soon.’
‘In one sense, we have been prepared to reopen since we were closed down. During lock down, readers and musicians continued to participate in the streamed masses. The pastoral council continued to meet and the leaders of the various ministries will be contacting people soon regarding new rotas for readers, Eucharistic Ministers and other ministries.’
‘All we need now are the people, and we are excited about seeing so many faces again.’
Amid the preparations to welcome back congregations again, the interior of the church is also undergoing some significant refurbishment, added Fr. Kehoe.
‘Over the past week, the church has been closed to the public to allow for some important renovation work. The parquet floor and the benches, all original and over 100 years old, have been refurbished and restored. So as people come back to church, they will be welcomed to a beautiful refurbished setting. This is part of campaign that includes an electrical upgrade to lighting, fire systems and CCTV. And more importantly, our bell tower needs essential structural works, so unfortunately, those famous bells that can play hymns will remain silent.’
Public masses will begin on 10th May and St. Joseph’s can now begin booking baptisms from Sunday 18th. Weddings, funerals and other celebrations can also be held but within the government restrictions.
Fr. Kehoe added: ‘Our real hope though, is that with a speedier roll out of the vaccination programme, that people will be permitted to return to normal and unrestricted worship, and that we will not have to suffer further extended lockdowns. Although these were necessary, they have been so detrimental to people’s spiritual and psychological wellbeing. But for now, we move forward with hope and are really looking forward to see the people again.’