By Dan Walsh
The Bishop of Ferns, Dr. Denis Brennan has written a Pastoral Letter to the people of the Diocese of Ferns for the month of November in which he asks that the people of the Diocese now double down on their efforts to reduce the instances of Coronavirus and that throughout November (the month of the dead), they be mindful of those who are vulnerable, those who have died, and those who grieve.
“Virtually every aspect of life today has been upset by the Coronavirus – from worship to learning, trade to recreation, travel to planning – all is adversely affected. Coronavirus has seriously stopped us in our tracks, and It has unnerved us greatly,” said Bishop Brennan.
He points out that what “was natural, normal or second nature now comes with a health warning – forbidden, dangerous, restricted or suspended, ”Now is not a time to lose heart, even with no guaranteed or immediate solution. That said, we are not helpless.”
“Let us keep heart by doubling down and wearing the mask, practicing hand hygiene, and keeping the required social distance.
The sheer numbers of good people in our parishes, their desire to reopen our churches in as safe and as reassuring a manner as possible in the weeks leading up to 29th June – their creativity and attention to detail – was truly a marvel, an example worthy of much emulation, and commendation.
Right across our Diocese, church communities – in churches and in chapels by land, by mountain and by sea – accepted wholeheartedly, the challenge to not only reopen, but to do so, with both regard for best practice, and with very obvious joy.
Parish councils and local volunteers engaged in what can only be described as ‘a mighty effort’ of goodness and of generosity’; reopening with a broad smile and with a promise – ‘we’re doing all we can to make this as safe a place as possible, and you are very welcome back!’
“Being the only place in Europe where church closure exists in this instance, is clearly sufficient reason to revisit the matter, to reassess its necessity and to re-examine its appropriateness, and to consider the positive benefits of its being lifted.
As stated recently by the Catholic Bishops after their October meeting: “The communal celebration of Mass and the Sacraments – even with restricted numbers – is at the very heart of what it means for us to be a Christian community. These are not simply ‘gatherings’ of people, but profound expressions of who we are as a Church. For parishes, and individual Catholics, the loss of these spiritual supports can be a source of great anxiety, and fear, and can have a detrimental impact on their overall health and well-being.”
Prayers are offered throughout the month for those who have gone before us, and outreach to those who grieve, is planned, and encouraged. This year, November comes to us in a climate of added grief. We especially remember those who have died because of coronavirus, and we think of their friends and their families.
Bishop Denis Brennan will lead a Service of Remembrance in St. Aidan’s Cathedral, Enniscorthy, at 3pm, on Sunday, November 1st to remember the dead of the Diocese and their grieving friends and families. “I am also inviting each priest of the diocese to do so, in his own church, at this time, and I ask you to take the time (3pm on 1st November) and to join with us online.
In conclusion, Bishop Brennan mentioned “the people of the diocese and indeed all people of kind disposition and of goodwill – I say a word of gratitude – gratitude to those front line workers who have stepped up and remain in service and in leadership; gratitude to practitioners of good example and pioneers of best practices; gratitude to good neighbours and those with a watchful eye for the more vulnerable – and gratitude to those many more long distance runners in our own family and friendship circles, who keep us gently moving forward, towards brighter days, and please God, towards a post Covid world, sooner rather than later.”