Fr Tom Whelan of Castleconnell parish
FOR THE second Easter in a row there won’t even be a sinner in church congregations across the city and county.
One can either bemoan the fact that Covid has robbed Massgoers the opportunity to attend their local church during the most important celebration in the Catholic calendar, or simply make the best of it.
Fr Tom Whelan, of Castleconnell parish, is firmly of the latter viewpoint. The positively-minded priest told the Leader: “My own thoughts are it is what it is.”
“We are very lucky we have everything online. The whole idea of church is the gathering of the community at its very essence. It is just a new way of gathering, it is a new way of being.
“Everybody is in the same boat, everybody is working online now and maybe it is just the new reality we have to face. The big thing for me is safety of people. This is going to pass by the end of the year or the beginning of next year,” said Fr Whelan.
He said it might feel like a long time but a year and a half or two years out of our lives is “not going to a matter one iota”.
Fr Whelan acknowledges it was a hard time of year after Christmas.
“Lockdown after Christmas was tough. We were all on a high for Christmas and after Christmas you hit a low period. January, February, beginning of March is the toughest time of every year for people. Anybody with any little bit of depression, that is the toughest time of the year for them.
“There is a great big jump once you get over St Patrick’s Day and the clocks going forward will change the mindset. We are going to be looking forward to the summer now but they are always imaginary anyway. Let’s be honest, the greatest part of a summer holiday is the two months looking forward to it,” laughed Fr Whelan.
But before summer comes, it is Easter this week.
Fr Whelan, who along with parish priest Fr Wille Teehan looks after the large parish, said all their Easter celebrations will be available online. The parish invested in the best camera and audio equipment for St Joseph’s Church that money could buy. Everything from the Children’s Stations of the Cross on Good Friday to Mass of the Lord’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday will be streamed online.
“I am actually amazed by how many are watching the Masses online. It is massive. I know a lot of people who find it very comfortable to have a cup of tea and watch the Mass or others go for a walk and have it on their phone,” said Fr Whelan.
The priest, who is from Ennis, accepts it is a big change to the norm but that doesn’t mean it is necessarily a bad thing.
“We have always said change is difficult, no change is different. We mix up the two. Change is different and we don’t like different. It is not difficult necessarily, it may be, maybe not. It is different. We are working in different circumstances but that goes for everyone,” said Fr Whelan.
Interestingly, he has found that some in their late 20s, 30s and 40s have had trouble logging onto the online Masses.
“Some are not as au fait as you think. Those in their 70s and 80s can ask because they aren’t expected to know.
“Kids are brilliant and their grandchildren are already doing it for them. But at 25 or 30 you can’t ask because you are expected to know,” said Fr Whelan.
The other issue of having people watching Masses at home in their front room instead of their front pew is no collection baskets can be handed around.
However, the good people of Ahane, Castleconnell, Lisnagry, and Montpelier haven’t forgotten about their priests.
“All parishes are well down but people are very good to us. People are sending in their weekly collections and some are sending in cheques so that is keeping us going,” said Fr Whelan.
To view his and Fr Teehan’s online Masses, log onto www.castleconnellparish.ie – the only Limerick parish in the Killaloe diocese.