Church offering social distancing confessions in an open space

By Mary Dennehy

A TALLAGHT church is reaching out into its parish and offering social distancing confession once a week in an open space.

St Mark’s church in Springfield, which works alongside parishes in Jobstown, Brookfield and Fettercairn, has started offering confessions to its local parishioners once a week.

St Marks Confessions permission granted for this pic compressor

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The parish team decided to look at the possibility of offering confessions at Easter and after finding a safe way, has continued the service due to an interest from parishioners.

Father Pat McKinley told The Echo that they weren’t sure if many would avail of the social distancing confessions however, around 20 people are attending the weekly sessions.

Fr McKinley hears outside confessions alongside Father Bill O’Shaughnessy.

“For us it was about finding a way to go outside”, Fr McKinley said.

“Let people know that we’re still here, still available.

“The doors of the church may be largely closed, but the community of the church, the church of the people of God is still there and available to people.”

According to Fr Mc Kinley, offering confessions are a way for people to connect with their church, with a number of people who would not be regular church-goers also dropping by.

“People are engaging, [confessions] can be seen as a way for people to get something off their chest or let something go”, Fr Mc Kinley said.

While St Mark’s church is open daily for two hours for private prayer, the church is closed for Sunday mass – which is streamed live to parishioners.

While the way in which parish teams communicate with their parishioners has changed in recent weeks, Fr Mc Kinley and his team are still engaging in outreach work.

“As a priest, a lot of our ministerial work is now done over the phone, especially with people who may be vulnerable”, he told The Echo.

“We’re also checking in with people who we know may need extra support and we’re doing a lot with Crosscare Jobstown [a food bank].”

Providing comfort and support to families who have lost a loved one during this difficult time also continues for the parish team.

“There is a whole layer of sadness to funerals now”, Fr Mc Kinley said.

“It’s hard for people not been able to come together.”

 As the parish team, like everyone, works through the current crisis, there is light across communities.

“When all of this started, I put together a list of volunteers who could help others in the community, like dropping off shopping and messages.

“I think I have had to go to this list once.

“People are already looking out for each other, they don’t need their local priest to co-ordinate it.

“There’s lots of people who want to share what they have got and help each other.”

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