The Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy has confirmed that, subject to COVID-19 guidelines, First Holy Communions and Confirmations across the diocese will be celebrated from July 1 onwards.
While the dates for both will be made on a parish-by-parish level, Bishop Leahy said that all the indications now at a national level indicate that arrangements can be provisionally made for after June when schools have closed.
“First Holy Communions and Confirmations are a special celebration for the child and their families and last year was really challenging as, like so much else in society, normal rules went out the window because of COVID. While a small number of Confirmations had been celebrated prior to the first lockdown it was really August before we were able to start having them.
“We are in a much more positive place generally in terms of the outlook for Ireland now but there is still a lot of uncertainty for this year’s celebrations, not least as we won’t return to anything that resembles normal until the vaccination programme is completed.
“Right now, we are still in Level 5 and must abide by guidelines, so we do not have a clear road ahead. All the indications are that it would be premature to commit to June for these celebrations, so we are really looking at July onwards. While the celebrations will be after the school year ends, there is a significant benefit from that as it will rule out the risk of infection spreading from ceremonies to schools.
“We can’t say now what that’s going to look like. At the moment, Churches are still closed for celebrations, but we hope and pray that this will ease and that people will be able to gather safely again. However, everything will be subject to public health guidelines. It’s right to be positive but there is still going to be uncertainty as we still have to watch out for infection rates,” he said.
Bishop Leahy said that for all the challenges with last year’s First Holy Communions and Confirmations, the celebrations remained very special. “Last year, because of the restrictions, the focus was only on the spiritual celebration and that did not prove to be a bad thing and the feedback from many families was very positive. They missed having godparents and grandparents, in particular, but the focus was concentrated on the actual sacraments and many parents said that they found it very special. It was about the child, the family and their faith. The layers and trappings we put on celebrations sometimes distract from the really special thing that’s at the core of it. We found that with First Holy Communions, Confirmations and even, in many cases, with weddings.”
He added: “Of course, people like to share these great days with others, not least with grandparents, which is particularly special, and we really want to see happen. The stripping back of these celebrations to that core group means that the true meaning and importance of this day does come out.”