By Sarah Mac Donald - 18 May, 2020
Bishop Brendan Leahy has announced that the Diocese of Limerick will host an online liturgy for Leaving Cert students on the evening of the day their exams were due to start.
Addressing students in his weekly COVID-19 statement at the end of Sunday Mass at St John’s Cathedral, Bishop Leahy invited students and their families to participate in the liturgy of encouragement, which will also be a time of prayer and reflection.
It takes place at 7pm on 3 June.
“It won’t be a graduation ceremony or a Mass,” Dr Leahy explained but would be “a reflective moment to mark the conclusion of second level studies.” He added, “I hope many can join us.”
Representatives of Leaving Cert students, along with Fr Chris O’Donnell and Aoife Walsh, the Diocese of Limerick’s Youth Ministry Co-ordinator, will lead the service which will be relayed via St John’s webcam as well as via Facebook Live.
Referring to the challenges students have had to cope with as a result of the uncertainty around the Leaving Cert, Bishop Leahy thanked schools for stepping into the breach.
“While for the most part the students are glad a decision has been made and that the Leaving Cert has been cancelled, nevertheless there is a fear in some that they are missing out on that rite of passage, and that their hard work has been for nothing, and their sense of achievement in some ways has been robbed of them.”
“I heard one young person say, ‘an announcement was made as if this was nothing and yet it has been everything to us. It’s hard to believe that it’s all over, it’s just fizzled out’. The students had been so focused on study and now there’s just nothing. Indeed, not just nothing, young people are quite uncertain of their future.”
“I am grateful to schools for doing whatever they can to mark in these coming weeks the fact of the conclusion of second level education for many of these young men and women. It is good to do so,” he said.
But the Bishop also urged students to try and understand that this is not the be-all and end-all.
“I would urge young people to understand that regardless of how this plays out, regardless of their feelings about the decision to postpone the Leaving Cert, it is important to realise that the Leaving Cert is not a definitive assessment of what lies ahead for them.
“Some of the most successful people in life did not have a good Leaving Cert outcome. It’s the steps immediately in front of you that matter now, not what happened yesterday.”
He also acknowledged that not having the usual graduation ceremonies and coming together with friends, teachers and family at the end of the year is a sacrifice for these young women and men.
“The annual graduation ceremony is a kind of rite of passage, a time to look back over the years in school, an occasion of memories and prizes, good fun banters and a few tears, presentations and flowers, speeches and farewells. It isn’t easy to miss out on this big moment and the other big moments that would normally follow for people their age in the coming weeks,” he added.
Referring to Monday’s lifting of some of the COVID-19 restrictions, Bishop Leahy said it was “a moment for us to thank God that, so far, we have been saved the surge in COVID-19 cases feared that would have had disastrous implications for our healthcare services”.
He urged people not to let up their guard and to continue to be conscious of the need to keep up public health measures.
“Remembering over 2000 have died of COVID-19 on the island of Ireland, it is right we acknowledge with gratitude the efforts we as a society have been making to date. But we must recognise that a new normal is going to be with us for a good while and we must go the distance.”
He also reminded the faithful that this week marks the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si’.
“At the very beginning of Lent which now seems a long time ago, I wrote my own Pastoral Letter based on Pope Francis’ plea to us to care for our planet, our common home. Little did I imagine how much the Coronavirus would re-enforce this message so powerfully.”
Describing Pope Francis’s encyclical as a “wonderful document”, Dr Leahy said the Pontiff had made some very strong statements in it about the urgent need to care for our common home.
“He points out that everything is interconnected, everything: environment and justice, human dignity and wellbeing, prayer and lifestyle. The Coronavirus has certainly brought home to us that we inhabit a fragile planet, that we are all one family, each of us vulnerable, and needing to work together for the sake of future generations.”
Reminding people that the Pope had asked for ecological conversion in the encyclical and invited them to move towards a new lifestyle that was simpler, less consumerist and more focused on the common good, Bishop Leahy said, “These are themes we’ve been forced to face in recent weeks. I invite you to get to know more about this encyclical on the environment.”
Live streaming of Masses and Services from churches in Ireland and the UK can be found here: http://churchservices.tv