13th March, 2020.
I want to assure you that I share your anxiety, bewilderment and sense of isolation at this time. The present situation makes us aware of how conditioned we have become – travel, social gatherings, sporting occasions, visiting of our parishioners in hospitals and nursing homes, celebrating Mass and the sacraments with our people, visiting schools and helping to prepare children for the sacraments.
It comes as a huge shock to the system as we try to come to terms with the present and accept and cooperate with the restrictions. We sympathise with our people who are equally perplexed and concerned. I am very conscious of the children who are disappointed because their confirmation has been postponed. I know that they are deeply saddened by this but I can assure them that a new date will be arranged when this is appropriate.
As priests we are challenged to be ministers of hope. There is a great test facing our people, namely a sense of helplessness, of a world running out of control. What we do as priests and how we respond to the present challenge will help to light a candle of hope in a dark world. I am thinking especially of the importance of keeping our churches open during this time, your reassuring presence when people come to pray, your solidarity with them and your encouragement for them. Every generous or gentle word of encouragement will inspire others in this situation. Likewise our own faith will be sustained and restored by the sheer decency of ordinary people. Crises such as this will evoke the goodness and generosity which is innate in our parishioners.
The present crisis is also an opportunity for a robust view of God, a God who is a vital conversation partner (like Jesus in his dialogue with the Samaritan woman in this Sunday’s gospel) to whom we can speak candidly and with courage as we share our fears.
I take this opportunity to express my appreciation of the faithful ministry you provide for your people, your presence with them and unstinting support for them particularly at this time.
While the present situation continues your ministry will be largely to individuals so you might encourage them to prayer, possibly suggesting the prayer card which was launched only a few weeks ago.
As you are aware, some of our priests are challenged by health issues which at this time complicate matters for them and their families. I ask you to keep them in your thoughts and prayers.
I hope that you will take good care of your own health as you conduct your ministry at this challenging time. If there is any support that I can provide I will be very happy to do so. Should you wish to contact me you will be most welcome to come and visit.
With every good wish.
Archbishop of Tuam