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22 Jan 2022

Diary of a priest: Limerick's Fr Seamus Enright, Redemptorists, describes his Holy Week 

Diary of a priest: Limerick's Fr Seamus Enright, Redemptorists, describes his Holy Week 

THIS was the most unusual Palm Sunday I ever celebrated. It is a strange experience celebrating Mass in an almost empty church and walking alone in the Palm Sunday procession.

We are celebrating as a Redemptorist Community and doing our best to fulfil the various roles in the liturgy ourselves. Not only are we missing the people who come to Mass here but we’re especially missing our very dedicated team of readers, ministers, musicians and sacristans. They are so much part of our life and Mount St Alphonsus isn’t the same without them. I am trying to keep in touch with them by phone.

One of the ironies of the present situation is that we have lost our regular physical congregation and gained a new virtual one. We are experiencing a whole new way of engaging with people and of being a church.

We will have about 80,000 online hits during Holy Week and a significant number of those are staying with us for more than an hour. Emails are arriving from all over the world requesting prayers. The pain of the world – the fear, the anxiety, the grief, the concern for loved ones – is pouring in to Our Lady’s Shrine.

MONDAY

I went to bed early last night and slept very badly. I tossed and turned all night worrying about the community here. Many of us are over 70 and some of us have underlying health conditions. We haven’t seen Fr Eamonn, who is in a nursing home, for some weeks now. I’m surprised at how anxious and fearful I’m feeling.

I didn’t want to get up this morning. I eventually forced myself out of the bed by remembering that there was work to be done and that there are people much worse off than I’ll ever be.

I phoned Pat Talty, the principal of St Clement’s, to arrange to donate the school’s PPE equipment to the HSE. This had been suggested by some of the teachers. I also phoned Niamh Canty, the school pastoral worker, to see how we might support families in need of help at Easter. We decided to give vouchers to some families. One of the frustrations of being over 70 and being cocooned is that I couldn’t go to Dunnes to buy the vouchers. I haven’t been out of the monastery for almost five weeks. Fortunately, we have lots of space in the monastery and a big garden.

TUESDAY

Today was a quiet day. I spoke with Una Burns of Novas by phone. Novas is delivering groceries to 14 people each week and our Perpetual Help Fund is covering the costs of this. The Redemptorists hold this money in trust for the relief of poverty in Limerick city and county. I did some preparation, again by phone, with Eileen Hoffler and Richard Leonard for a meeting of the management committee of the Perpetual Help Fund that we’ve scheduled for Wednesday. Richard chairs the management committee and Eileen is our development officer.

I’m finding being cocooned and in lockdown difficult. I miss the contact with people, going to meetings, being busy. I’ve always had a struggle with the balance between prayer and work. I’ve always erred on the side of work and for as long as I can remember I’ve been confessing this and making very little headway.

I have more time for prayer now and am finding comfort in the rhythm of prayer. We have added some additional services to the programme in the church. The afternoon Way of the Cross and the evening Rosary are proving to be very popular. The Way of the Cross and the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary seem to be resonating with people’s experience.

WEDNESDAY

I’m trying to read more as well as pray more these days. I’ve begun rereading Alessandro Manzoni’s The Betrothed. This is a beautiful love story set in Lombardy in the late 1620s during a time of war and famine. I’ve also begun reading Jonathan Fenby’s Crucible: Thirteen Months That Forged Our World. I’m finding concentration difficult and my mind keeps slipping away: memories of my childhood visits to the library in Pery Square (where my love of reading was nurtured) and of visits to Italy over the years. The sights and stories coming from Italy are heart breaking. I’m haunted by images from refugee camps in Greece, shanty towns in Africa and of millions of Indians trekking back to their native villages. Many risk dying from hunger before the virus kills them.

I was busier in the afternoon. I lit a candle at the Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows in memory of all those who have died from the coronavirus at the request of the prisoners in Limerick Prison. We have a special relationship with Limerick Prison. Fr Michael Kelleher is a chaplain there and we celebrate the novena there each year in June.

The management committee of the Redemptorist Perpetual Help Fund met by teleconferencing. Eileen Hoffler reported that we have already allocated €75,000 in emergency grants to groups running foodbanks and delivering Meals on Wheels, as well as groups working with the homeless, asylum seekers and victims of domestic abuse. We decided to make another €75,000 available after Easter and to keep the situation under review.

THURSDAY/FRIDAY/ SATURDAY

These days were given over to the celebration of the Liturgy of Holy Week. We celebrated as a Redemptorist Community - with our newfound, worldwide congregation – using the available technology to the best of our ability. We continue to miss our regular congregation and our very dedicated partners but the experience of working together as Redemptorists has been an interesting one. People seem to appreciate this.

I found the celebrations of Holy Thursday and Good Friday very moving and could easily connect the sufferings of Jesus with the sufferings of the world. Blaise Pascal’s saying that Jesus will be in agony until the end of the world comes to mind.

Holy Saturday is always such an empty day. It was more so this year as we weren’t busily celebrating the Sacrament of Confession. I spent the day catching up on phone calls and email and some frustrating hours trying to prepare a homily for the Easter Vigil. What does one say on a night like this to a mostly invisible congregation scattered all over the world.?

I found our celebration of the Easter Vigil profoundly moving, especially that moment when I lit the paschal fire in the darkened church. The tears were welling up. The light of Christ has come into the world again. Alleluia!

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