The last trip I made before Covid was a two-night visit to Munich to visit my niece, her husband and two children. I always enjoy seeing them when they visit Ireland but with so many people to see and so much to do when they are back, it is hard to have much time with them. I’m always happy making the trip over to them, sharing family meals together, taking the kids out for treats, that works well. In February 2020, kissing Aisling goodbye at the airport, and saying “See you soon” actually turned into a separation of over 18 months.
Last week they were home and I headed up North to have a day with them. The reunion was joyful, lots of smiles and laughter, relief in the still not full on bear hugs! I took the two kids out for a hike and ice cream, one had changed school and become a teenager, the other was full of chat about her First Communion which will happen in September, more than a year later than planned. Then we sat in our childhood haunt for the ice creams and treats, all of this was so uplifting, but I felt that to enjoy the moment there wasn’t much talk about how the last 18 months had been for them. It wasn’t until we sat at the dinner table that the conversation turned to how they coped, both adults working from home, the kids doing their school work, all of them ‘stuck’ in the house during the long Covid winter. They developed coping mechanisms, a walk before lunch in the nearby forest, every day, in all weathers, getting some outside time in the day light. There was pain and struggle in that conversation, so much isolation from family and friends and also much that they were grateful for. Then after that part of the conversation, with the reality faced and shared, we began to talk about the future. What are you looking forward too? What will be different in at school and work? How will we all have changed and yet remain pretty much the same.
I mention all of this because I believe in parish life, in our groups and ministries we will need to enjoy getting back together, and then talk through the experience of Covid and then plan for the future. We will be reawakening the life we share in common and taking steps to go forward as a faith community. We will both experience change and meet the familiar. The future depends on a renewal of our energies, our contribution to parish and our capacity to welcome change. It’s not going to be easy, so let’s go forward one step at a time, and don’t forget to stop for ice cream, walks and treats!