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Priest urges people to try and turn a negative into a positive

By Sarah Mac Donald - 19 March, 2020

Fr Michael Toomey celebrates Mass on 17 March 2020 at SS Peter and Paul’s church in Clonmel in the presence of the Mayor of Clonmel, Cllr Garret Ahearn. Pic: John D. Kelly.

Well known mental health campaigner, Fr Michael Toomey, has appealed to people to try and turn the negative of the Covid-19 crisis into a positive by “truly appreciating those around us”.

In his homily on Tuesday delivered by webcam from SS Peter and Paul’s church in Clonmel, Fr Toomey appealed to the public to think about and respect those still working and serving at this time.

“I’m thinking especially of shop workers, chemists, and of course, our fantastic health service workers! Their dedication will keep us going. Respect them all, and don’t complain if there are no toilet rolls or pasta. It’s not their fault. Some people are panic buying.”

The Mass was attended by the Mayor of Clonmel, Cllr Garret Ahearn, who sat alone in the church. After Mass the Mayor addressed the people of the town via webcam.

Describing recent days as truly different for all of us, Fr Toomey said, “The whole world has changed – and all of our daily lives have changed dramatically in a way none of us could have seen or predicted at Christmas.”

He acknowledged that many plans are “in disarray” including sports clubs and sporting events while pubs, restaurants, gyms and hotels are all closed. Stock markets have crashed, and some airlines are on the brink of closing. Travel is becoming almost impossible or non-existent, he said.

“We seem to be living hour by hour, not day by day, to be informed and instructed on how we should behave. The terms social distancing and self-isolation are new trending words on Twitter.”

“Life is changing drastically for everyone. Young and old, faith and no faith, rich and poor alike,” the Clonmel-based priest said.

He lent his solidarity to the many thousands who have been laid off because of the pandemic, while children are at home and have been advised to avoid non-essential contact with their friends and teammates which is very tough and confusing for them.

Though he was saying Mass in an empty church, thousands were tuned in via webcam. He told them, “You are truly here with me in spirit and I thank you for your support and prayers for me and all my brother priests offering Mass for you all today and in these sad and trying days.”

Referring to the “genuine fear” around the pandemic, Fr Toomey reminded people that, “We are all in this together. We will get through this. Together.”

He stressed, “We all have to work together in looking out for each other. Social media and mobile phones mean we call, text, and FaceTime one another.” Keep in touch with neighbours and friends you haven’t contacted recently, he appealed.

“Make sure we keep each other mentally active! Make this time a way of setting new daily goals. Do something different. Read those books you had put off – even a chapter from the Gospels every day. Watch that series you had been putting off; learn a new skill online; play family board games – and keep talking to each other. Let’s try and turn this negative into a positive which we call all take as a way of really truly appreciating those around us!”

Fr Toomey also appealed to the younger generation to adhere to the directives on large gatherings, telling them, “Your future – your lives depend on it. And the lives of you parents and grandparents. It will be tough – but offer it up! This is the best way we can beat this. Together.”

Describing himself as a priest committed to faith, hope and love, he continued, “Faith, in God who never abandons us. Even and especially now.”

He added, “Hope, that we will get through this, and become more appreciative of what we do have, especially family and friends.”

And love, he said he had seen in gestures such as businesses closing and offering food and toilet rolls to those in need. Strangers offering to do the shopping, checking in on neighbours, and offering to help family, minding children while parents still go to work.

“Many are already looking out for one another” he noted and paid tribute to people’s goodwill.

“There is so much goodness in all of us. This is a time in our history to prove our worth.”

He said he and his brother priests would continue to offer Mass every day and it will be live streamed from SS Peter and Paul’s church in Clonmel. “We will still be there for the sick and those in need. And of course, for anyone, anytime.”

He concluded his homily with the prayer, “May God keep us all safe. May He enlighten us in the good we see and do, and may we be transformed to be more appreciative of all we do have, especially in our family, friends, and communities.”

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

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