Church of the Most Holy Trinity, Rathdowney
People living in a Laois parish could have to book to go to Mass due to restricted numbers at churches for Covid-19 social distancing measures which may also limit mass going to once a month for parishioners.
Plans for the reopening of churches in the Rathdowny Errill parish near the Tipperary and Kilkenny borders reveal the challenges facing priests and parish councils all over Ireland as some restrictions ease but others remain.
The Parish Pastoral Council has informed parishioners that planing is underway in Rathdowney and Errill to re-open churches for the public celebration of Mass. Preparations started after the Irish Bishops published a Framework Document to guide this process but each parish has to submit a detailed plan to bishops outlining how churches can re-open safely for the public celebration of Mass and other Sacraments.
The pastoral council outlined what will be involved.
"The First thing we had to determine was how many people can be accommodated while observing the two metre social distance. This means that Rathdowney church would only be able to have a maximum of 75 people attend at Mass and in Errill it would be about 30-35.
"How do we determine who comes to mass? Given that our regular mass attendance pre-Covid was 550 approx this would mean that for the foreseeable future our regular attendees would only be able to come to mass every month or five weeks.
"The parish Council has agreed that anyone wishing to come to mass will have to indicate in advance their intention to do so. We will have a group of ushers at each mass who will greet people at the door and bring them to a designated seat in the church.
"The Parish Council also agreed that we will only be opening Rathdowney church initially and Errill will open at a later date. This will give us a chance to see how the new system is working and adjust as necessary. Having both masses in Rathdowney for the immediate future means that those who cannot attend physically will have access to both masses on the webcam.
"This is going to be a very big challenge and we hope that our parishioners will be patient and understanding as we try welcome back congregations to weekend mass in a safe way," said the note issued on Facebook.
The council said the plan would be updated as it is finalised over the next few weeks.
If the plan is approved by the Bishop of Ossory, the parish intends to celebrate the first weekday mass on Tuesday 30th June and the first weekend masses on Saturday 4th July/Sunday 5th July.
Fr Martin Delaney, Parish Priest, invited parishioners to contact him or any member of the Parish Pastoral Council for clarification. He said all helpful suggestions will be very welcome.
No system for booking masses has been set up yet but will be in place when the plan is finalised.