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No choirs, reduced sizes and face mask uncertainty: Parishes on 'huge task' of rescheduling first communions

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Mum’s masks: Elaine Honey, a designer whose daughter Rosie’s first communion was among those postponed, is making face masks suitable for the rescheduled ceremonies. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson

Mum’s masks: Elaine Honey, a designer whose daughter Rosie’s first communion was among those postponed, is making face masks suitable for the rescheduled ceremonies. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson

Mum’s masks: Elaine Honey, a designer whose daughter Rosie’s first communion was among those postponed, is making face masks suitable for the rescheduled ceremonies. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson

Priests and parishes are busy with the "huge task" of rescheduling thousands of first communions, with social distancing doubling the number of ceremonies involved.

It remains unclear if children making their first communion will have to wear masks.

But one Dublin priest, who has already set out a schedule for ceremonies for families in his parish, told the Irish Independent that the current guidelines suggest wearing a mask.

"We haven't directly suggested to parents or children that they should wear one. We leave it up to individuals to choose," he said.

Fr Gerry Corcoran is moderator of four parishes in Donaghmede-Clongriffin-Balgriffin. In Holy Trinity parish in Donaghmede, there are 210 children for holy communion and 168 for confirmation from the parish's seven schools.

Fr Corcoran stressed that the ceremonies would be "minimalist", with no choirs, reduced in size and with everyone carefully socially distanced within the church in compliance with Covid-19 restrictions.

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Ms Honey began to make masks for frontline workers and retail staff during lockdown and has donated nearly 2,000. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson

Ms Honey began to make masks for frontline workers and retail staff during lockdown and has donated nearly 2,000. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson

Ms Honey began to make masks for frontline workers and retail staff during lockdown and has donated nearly 2,000. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson

"The ceremonies will take place one class at a time," he said. "Normally we would have done our first communions over four Sunday Masses in May.

"The rescheduled ceremonies won't take place at Sunday Masses, but they will be held at the weekend. We are conscious that parents have been off work and so the last thing they need is to be taking a day off during the week."

Fr Corcoran said he had not heard of any parishes so far that intended to postpone holy communions until 2021.

He added: "I've had lots of parents on to me really delighted that this is going to go ahead. I don't think parents would be particularly happy to see it postponed."

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He added that parishes would have to ensure that protocols around entering and exiting were adhered to and there would be no congregating outside after the ceremony.

"We will ask people not to congregate but to keep walking. That may be difficult especially if parents and children want to see other children and exchange cards," he said.

In the Parish of Saints Peter and Paul in Clonmel, Co Tipperary, Fr Michael Toomey said: "Every parish will do it differently, as they have different challenges around spacing and layout."

He said ceremonies would cater for smaller numbers and so would "be more unique".

Meanwhile, parishes in the diocese of Clogher are making arrangements to celebrate the sacraments from August until October, according to spokesman Gary Carville. "We hope to have dates finalised in the next week or two," he said.

In the event of a small rural church being unable to accommodate numbers, either another church in the parish will be used or the ceremony will be done in smaller groups.

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