Bishop Alan McGuckian
Parishes have seen a dramatic fall in income as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown, Bishop of Raphoe, Alan McGuckian, revealed this week.
He said some areas have experienced up to 50% drop in weekly donations and along with the continued closure of churches, this presents challenges.
He said he was concerned that the loss of income from collections would have an impact on parishes.
“It is very hard to put a figure on it, and it will differ from parish to parish,” the bishop said.
“I have heard on a given Sunday it could be down very low, somebody said it's well down, over 50%. We can’t tell for sure whether it will be like that at diocesan level. We will only know by looking back over the year. Obviously when income is well down by maybe 30, 40 maybe 50% in some parishes, that is going to have serious repercussions, but it’s too early at this stage for us to be speculating.”
Since lockdown churches have been including appeals though their weekly online newsletters to their congregations to assist with the financial upkeep of their parishes.
A significant majority in the diocese have also had to offer technological assistance to help parishioners livestream Mass in a short timeframe.
Bishop McGuckian said huge gratitude had to go out to all who are going out of their way to contribute.
“The public has helped by turning to personal and online donations,” he said.
Bishop McGuckian continued: “There are always expenses, an institution has expenses, obviously it is a frustration for priests and people that we are not able to gather for Sunday or daily Mass.
“So much has been done by so many volunteers to make sure our churches are safe places and we would be hoping that when we come back it will be seen that Mass is a primary source of wellbeing for so many people - spiritually, mentally and every other way.”
He also admitted the pandemic was taking a toll on his priests too with routines thrown up in the air and contact with parishioners not what it used to be.
“I know some of the priests are concerned for each other. There are particular stresses. When you are so used to being at the heart of a big community daily and weekly basis obviously there will be isolation.
“That is a real loss and has to take its effect. There are so many people experiencing the exact same and I know priests are feeling the same pressures."
“Being close to people is at the heart of the priesthood, administering the sacraments, going around looking after and being there for the sick.
“This encouragement for us not to go into houses means priests are to a great extent inhibited from visiting and supporting the sick and that's a terrible loss."
He admitted he too had felt such a cloud of concern or worry but still managed to run a few kilometres several times a week.
He also pointed out that even though the coronavirus pandemic has seriously affected the celebration of the sacraments and rites and sacramental preparation programmes in the diocese, the people have risen to these challenges as families, schools and local clergy had embraced the new realities of the holding of the sacraments of First Communion and Confirmation in a new way.
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