Pastoral Message of Bishop Francis Duffy, Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois
We are an Easter people: our faith in the risen Lord remains undimmed
One Year On
Over the last year we have witnessed the wonderful courage, sacrifice and kindness of so many people. We have lots of Good Samaritans, ever watchful for those who are in need.
We have also seen suffering in a variety of different ways, front line workers exhausted and those in hospitals and nursing homes without visits. The closure of businesses has led to considerable worry. Many have spoken to me about the sad contexts in which funerals take place. Those who stand in silence as a funeral passes are standing with and alongside the bereaved family, acknowledging the family and community loss. It is a heartfelt stance of solidarity and support.
Young people, school and sacraments
The work school staffs and management has kept learning to the forefront in the most challenging of circumstances. Parents have the demanding work of home schooling in the midst of already busy schedules.
In our parishes there are many who are preparing for the sacraments of First Penance, First Holy Communion and Confirmation. I hope that the celebration of these sacraments, as well as all the postponed Baptisms and Marriages, will be joyful and happy occasions for families, when it is safe for them to take place.
Clergy and parishioners
I think of our priests whose pastoral work has been curtailed by restrictions and cocooning. I thank them for keeping in touch and reaching out in a variety of pastoral ways. I thank you for your generous support of clergy, both moral and material, at this very difficult time.
Over the last year the Church has played its part in this crusade of caution. I thank our clergy and all the committees and volunteers who do so much to keep our churches open and safe. All the planning and sanitising and the stewarding is very much appreciated as it keeps people safer and gives great reassurance.
Liturgy in Church
Although our physical attendance at Mass is curtailed and at times not possible, we have a rich variety of ways to nourish our faith and our daily living. Private prayer, including reading scripture passages or the Mass readings, is very supportive. The ‘domestic Church’ is the family gathering around the kitchen table, in prayer and following Mass online. The ‘domestic Church’ has gained a new importance. The traditional Rosary, and the visits to church, are familiar practices. These are not substitute ways of worship, they are tried and tested routes that nourish our faith in the risen Lord. While streamlined Masses keep us connected to worship in a virtual way, and while the opportunity to do so is very much appreciated, it is not the same as being present in a church. We long to be back in church for Mass and the celebration of the sacraments. We look forward to the temporary measures being eased and lifted and returning to public worship.
We were over half way through our Diocesan Assembly preparations when the first lockdown came. We look forward to resuming, while at the same time taking into account fresh insights into our living, and into how we are as Church. How we will minister as Church is a key consideration for the future. We have embarked on this journey just at a time when the Church in Ireland is moving on a path to discern the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Both our Diocesan Assembly and the national synodal pathway will be a time of journeying together, as believers in the Good News of Jesus Christ. I look forward to resuming our journey.
Easter Joy and Easter Hope
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is our reassurance that he continues to walk alongside us. It holds out the ultimate hope that God loves each of us, no matter what. We are an Easter people; our faith in the risen Lord remains undimmed. It is a faith that tells us, yes these are difficult times, but the Lord walks with us, encouraging us and giving us the wisdom to keep going in a positive and life enhancing way and to be especially supportive and protective of those around us.
We look forward to the day when we can worship freely and meet up again with family, friends and neighbours with joy in our hearts.
I wish you and your family and friends a happy Easter.
+ Francis Duffy
Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois