Fr Fergal Cummins pictured painting the church railing in Tullamore
TULLAMORE Catholic curate Fr Fergal Cummins was painting the church railings this week in advance of next Monday's resumption of public Masses.
While numbers will be restricted and churchgoers will have to apply for tickets, Fr Cummins said all priests were looking forward to celebrating Mass in the normal manner.
“Absolutely. There's a big difference between offering Mass in front of three people or 50 people and 150 people,” he said.
While at time of writing there was still a lack of clarity on the numbers permitted inside churches, with Dublin archbishop Diarmuid Martin publicly questioning the Government's limit of 50, the first public Mass in the Church of the Assumption since the lockdown began will be at 7.45am on Monday morning, June 29.
It will be followed by the daily 10am Mass.
As he painted the railing on Harbour Street, Fr Cummins said: “The place has to be looking beautiful. Every bit helps, the house of God should be beautiful, clear and clean.”
He said the Covid-19 crisis had made people consider their lives in a different way.
“I like to be positive about the whole thing. I think Covid will have helped people to treasure what's truly important, what really matters most in life. I think we've all learned that from Covid.”
He had a special word for the bereaved. “Of all people, people who've suffered a loss, who've someone close in their life who has died and they're only allowed 10 or 25 people at Mass, they've suffered the most. When someone dies, you do need a hug, you need that comfort, that consolation from someone that gives you strength and hope. And if you don't get that it's very difficult.”
In a statement in the weekly bulletin last Sunday, June 21, the parish said the churches in Tullamore and Durrow, while open, will have greatly reduced capacity.
If the limit of 50 gathering indoors is relaxed, the Tullamore church will be able to accommodate 160. Capacity in Durrow will be 38.
Parish administrators have decided that the fairest way of allocating places is with tickets for all Masses, including weekday Masses, Sundays, and funerals.
Three entrance doors will be open at the Church of the Assumption, Harbour Street, Store Street and Chapel Street, with the door with ramp access for wheelchairs.
Entrance to the church will be strictly on presentation of a ticket and doors will open 20 minutes before Mass time.
Tickets will not be available at the doors and must be collected from the Parish Centre during the opening times Monday to Friday, 8.30am-5pm and Saturday, 2-4pm.
Hand sanitiser will be availableo entry to the church. People are asked to observe social distancing and the parish is recommending that face coverings be worn.
The seating in church will be in sections for household units and individuals and wheelchair spaces near the altar.
Stewards will be available at the entrance doors and in the church.
The Mass times are -Monday June 29, at 7.45am and 10am, weekend of July 4/5, Vigil Mass on Saturday at 6.30pm and Sunday Masses at 8.30am, 10am, 11.30am and 1pm. In Durrow Mass will be at 11.30am.
The parish added that the Sunday Mass obligation continues to be relaxed and people who are unwell should not come to church. Masses will continue to be available on webcam and parish radio.