‘I can only take it one day at a time’

LISNASKEA Parish Priest Canon Jimmy McPhillips like many clerics across Fermanagh is facing new challenges in providing spiritual and practical guidance and support to his parishioners at a time when Mass has been cancelled.
Speaking to the Herald this week Canon McPhillips said he was still trying to process what has happened and the impact of it.
“A little over a week ago, I was carrying on my ministry as a priest in the usual and normal way. Diary full of appointments with meetings and visits to the sick in hospital, the housebound and the children in school, and of course all the sacramental preparation that goes on at this particular time of year, Baptisms, the weddings and sadly funerals too, all going ahead as per normal alongside the weekend schedule of masses.”
Admitting he was taking time to process what has happened he said, “I can only now take one day at a time, for to do otherwise would be too traumatic.”
Reflecting the sentiments of many at this time he added, “The 24 hour saturation of news, the Twitter and Facebook, they are all doing my head in, and sleep is going a miss at night as a result, so I am now limiting my news time and only searching Twitter and Facebook for good news stories, the green shoots, the glimmer of hope and thankfully I am finding so many great examples of this.”
In spite of this the local priest described praying Mass to an empty church as “demoralising”, but swiftly added that his parish was lucky enough to have livestreaming.
“It still doesn’t make up for having the people there in front of you, praying with you and responding with you, and it’s devastating for our older clergymen in particular.”
In this challenging time when priestly ministry changes by the day Canon McPhillips notes that, “We the clergy find new words and ways of speaking to our people, when we too are lost for words ourselves.”
Canon McPhillips explains meetings taking place with undertakers and sacristans to put in place some plan for a predicted rise in deaths, and for when local clerics have to isolate, or worse still be hospitalised.
“Plans in the absence of the priest are now ready to take effect, if required,” he says.
Hopeful for the future he concludes, “We will get through these times, and like the beautiful spring flowers popping up all around us, we will have better days ahead.
“But I will hope for a better way of life too, and if we can spread and keep alive the virus of love that we are beginning to see all around us, then despite this pandemic, we will have
begun what life should be all about and rid ourselves of all that has blinded us to what God has given us as a gift.”

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