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As schools reopen amid COVID-19 outbreak, Bishop Leahy recommends patience as a daily vaccine

By Cian Molloy - 29 August, 2020

“One of the great strengths of our Catholic schools is that they form part of a wider parish and faith community who support one another," says Bishop Fintan Gavin.

Let patience be a daily vaccine to ensure that children’s return to full-time education will be as positive an experience

Bishop Brendan Leahy

as possible, suggests Bishop Brendan Leahy of Limerick in remarks made ahead of the reopening of Ireland’s schools.

The reopening of primary schools this week and secondary schools next week is a key moment in Ireland’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as our schools had been closed in March when the coronavirus arrived in the country.

More than 567,000 children attend primary school in Ireland, with in excess of 512,000 of these attending Catholic schools.

The education of children is a key mission of the Church throughout the world and Bishop Leahy declared that the reopening of schools in Ireland was ‘wonderful’ news.

Teachers and children face additional burdens and inconveniences because of social distancing measures and steps to stop the spread of COVID-19. It is believed that for a hand-washing routine to be effective in a primary school, the children, who are aged between four and 13 years of age, must wash or sanitise their hands eight times a day.

“While there is a natural quiver of nervousness around what lies ahead, we should all strive to create an atmosphere of mutual support,” Bishop Leahy advised. “That will mean an extra supplement of patience, understanding and forbearance. It will be a challenging time, so we need to be patient and we need to encourage.

“Ultimately, we must stick with the guidelines handed down by the HSE.

“It’s inevitable there’s going to be moments of irritation. But we cannot let them take over. The daily vaccine of patience, understanding and a gentle approach will go a long way to ensure the re-opening of schools will be as positive an experience as possible for all.”

In Cork and Ross, Bishop Fintan Gavin sent a message to school principals telling them that teachers, school staff and school communities were ‘very much in my thoughts and prayers’ and he acknowledged that these were challenging times. But recalling 12 March this year, ‘when schools closed suddenly and all our lives changed instantly’, he noted that Catholic schools had been very creative in developing new and creative ways of supporting pupils’ learning, development and faith-formation during the lockdown.

“One of the great strengths of our Catholic schools is that they form part of a wider parish and faith community who support one another,” he told principals. “I want you to know that your work contributes enormously to your local parish community and is deeply appreciated. I hope these coming days go well for you and that you will have every support as you face the inevitable challenges ahead.”

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