In 2019, I marked the Feast of St Thérèse in Greece during a mini sabbatical that separated the end of my time in Rathgar and the beginning of my ministry here in the three parishes entrusted to my care. It has been quite a year! If I had known what lay ahead maybe I would have lingered a bit longer in the cradle of civilisation!

Looking back over the past 12 months there has been so much to be thankful for. The warmth of welcome here was so uplifting and getting to know the parishioners, staff and different groups has been a joy. Progress has been slower than I would have expected, as so much of pastoral life and ministry has been affected by COVID-19. It is very strange not to have completed the sacramental programme for 2020 and even stranger not to have got the ball rolling for 2021.

The months without public Mass ran from St Patrick’s Day to mid-summer and now we are once again relying on the live streaming of liturgies. The many funerals have connected me with stories of outstanding parishioners and introduced me to their families who have managed to mark a life well lived in the absence of the gathering of family and friends. It has been a very hard time to suffer loss and grieve.

During this whole time, I have been supported and guided by the women and men of the Parish Pastoral Council. This time three years ago, they took on a role of collaborative leadership with Fr Tony with great hope and expectation. Their ministry however, evolved in a way akin to ‘holding the parish’, as they accompanied Fr Tony, taking his guidance through his illness, and ultimately walking with the Parish through the sad time of Fr Tony’s passing. The Parish Council also actively engaged in the transition to me as new parish priest. As a group I perceive they are prayerful, insightful, supportive, challenging, and creative and I am very grateful to them. In ordinary times, we would have had our AGM and had the Parish Council update you on their tenure, and we would be beginning the discernment process for a new PPC during the month of October this year. In these strangest of times this is something that we will work on and my hope is that this weekend we can entrust this important task to the intercession of St Thérèse, who continues her work on earth from heaven.

We will need to reflect on how best to mark the month of November, to remember the recently deceased and their families. We look forward to Advent and Christmas and wonder how we will continue the spiritual journey, inviting the light of Christ into our lives and connecting with each other as a pilgrim church. In time, we will hopefully complete the Communions and Confirmations and plan for the next set of candidates and attend to their formation and preparations. There is lot to be done and I am blessed to be surrounded by so many collaborators generous with their time and gifts.

Thank you all.