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COVID-19 forces Church to defer reception of new members

By Sarah Mac Donald - 14 April, 2020

Catechumens signing their name in the Book of the Elect in St Mary’s Pro Cathedral Dublin with Fr Damian McNeice in March. Pic: John Mc Elroy

The “imposed monasticism” of the COVID-19 pandemic has seen record numbers of people following Mass via church webcams, local radio, as well as RTE Television, but it has also resulted in the traditional reception of new members into the faith to be cancelled.

Aside from the cancellation of church funerals, weddings, First Holy Communions and Confirmations, the coronavirus restrictions have impacted on dioceses’ reception of new adult members of the faith.

St Mary’s Pro Cathedral in Dublin would usually have seen new members initiated at the Easter Vigil on Saturday night.

Twenty Catechumens and two Candidates were presented by their parishes to Archbishop Diarmuid Martin at the Rite of Election ceremony in the Pro Cathedral Dublin in March, where they signed their names in the Book of the Elect.

This year, according to Fr Damian McNeice of the Archdiocese of Dublin’s Liturgy Resource Centre, the ceremony for new adult members was postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis.

For the new Catholics, many of whom are from an international background, it is “difficult” but “understandable in what are extraordinary circumstances,” Fr McNeice told CatholicIreland.net.

They were “so looking forward to being fully initiated into the Roman Catholic church by Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Communion at the Easter Vigil. Their godparents, priests and those who have been accompanying them in their search for God in their parishes were all caught up in their excitement.”

Catechumens and Candidates were presented by their parishes to Archbishop Diarmuid Martin at the Rite of Election ceremony in the Pro Cathedral Dublin in March. Pic John Mc Elroy.

But given the current restrictions on numbers attending and on liturgical gestures due to the pandemic, it was best to postpone their initiation until the whole parish can celebrate with them fully and with joy, he said.

Fr McNeice explained that the Easter Vigil isn’t the only time adult initiations can take place, but it is “the optimal” moment.

He added, “Many parishes are now provisionally looking at Pentecost, the feast of the birth of the Church, as an alternative.”

The Church’s creative adaptation to the challenges presented by the pandemic by streaming services online was very much in evidence over the weekend’s Easter ceremonies.

In Clonmel, Mass was broadcast on Easter Sunday morning from St Patrick’s Cemetery Chapel and over 7,000 people watched it either via Church Services TV or Facebook Live.

Celebrant, Fr Michael Toomey, explained that he presided at Mass in the closed chapel, as he was conscious that many people could not attend their loved ones’ graves in the cemetery due to the restrictions on movement linked to the coronavirus pandemic.

After Mass, Fr Toomey blessed the graves with the Easter water.

St Patrick’s Cemetery Chapel in Clonmel.

While the tiny chapel is in need of repair and rarely used, according to Fr Toomey, “the altar area looked lovely, and a Paschal Candle was lit, signifying the Risen Christ”.

Over 2,000 viewed the Mass live on Facebook, and a further 4,500 watched in the Church Services TV with many people watching in Clonmel, the UK, Spain and Australia.

Over 150 comments were left on the parish Facebook page.

Fr Toomey explained that “many remembered their loved one, saying it was sad they could not get to the cemetery, but they were glad to join the Mass from home”.

One person commented, “Lovely to have this Mass from St Patrick’s Cemetery this Easter Sunday Morning as we remember family, neighbours and friends gone to their rest.”

The Mass can still be viewed on Playback on both www.churchservices.tv/clonmelpeterpaul and on the parish Facebook page – SS Peter and Paul Clonmel.

Live streaming of Masses and Services from churches in Ireland and the UK can be found here: http://churchservices.tv

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