As one would expect on the official Irish government website, there is much information on the current COVID-19 pandemic. Last month a new heading appeared: “What You Can Do in May.”
If one clicks on that heading, a list appears.
“Mobile home and caravan parks may open to facilitate owners accessing their stationary mobile homes or caravans: Property viewings by appointment only with licensed Property Service Providers.” And then there is notice that the following is now permitted: “recommencement of in-person religious services.”
And through this bureaucratic language, public worship at Holy Mass is restored to the Irish.
There had been no public worship across the Irish Republic since Dec. 26. Some had defied the ban and been fined for so doing. Generally, however, the ban was simply accepted and endured by Irish Catholics.
On April 30, Prime Minister Micheál Martin announced to the nation that Irish Catholics would be permitted by the state to resume public worship, starting May 10. Further prohibitions due to concerns over COVID-19 are still possible as the country moves forward. For now, at least, the Catholic Church emerges to shine a light of faith amid a global pandemic.
Ordinary Irish Catholics shared with the Register their perspectives on these extraordinary times.
“Personally very difficult and painful, but also a major blessing through the pain” was how Tony Foy put it. Foy was speaking to the Register from his home in Donegal, in the northwest of Ireland. He says he has great sympathy for the Church in Ireland, and although he would describe the recent disruptions of lockdown as “challenging,” he feels they have “left the Church with a new reality,” one shaped by “humility and clarity of mission.”
Furthermore, this “new reality” Foy perceives to be “demographic” — clearly identifying those who want to go to Mass, “who are convicted about their faith,” as he points out “most others have fallen away.”
Foy speaks with some authority on this matter. He is executive director of NET Ministries Ireland, an apostolate that evangelizes young Catholics. In the midst of the pandemic, it had 30 missionaries working in various locations around the country and almost 20 mission support staff helping and praying for them, all with one aim: to bring young people to Christ.
As a result of his work, Foy views the last year in a more positive light than many.
“On a mission level,” he says, “the Lord has blessed us more this year than any other year, in terms of the young people reached and impacted and the vocations that have come through.”
“The people I work and am surrounded with are incredibly positive,” says Foy, adding, “Jesus is more powerful than the challenges we face.”
Surprisingly, Foy suggests Irish priests share his upbeat assessment of the future direction of the Church. He claims that as many as 70% of Irish clerics would share his assessment of the past 12 months and that that will have a positive outcome for the Church in Ireland.
Read more at National Catholic Register