COVID-19 has taught us that the ‘family is Church’, with the pandemic turning our thoughts more than ever to our loved ones, Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy said today.

Speaking at Corpus Christi Sunday Mass at St. John’s Cathedral in the city - one of many streamed each Sunday live across the diocese throughout COVID-19 - Bishop Leahy also said that while ‘cocooning’ appears to have gone off the radar with the easing of restrictions, it remains very much in our guidelines for protecting those most vulnerable to COVID-19.
 
Bishop Leahy told the online congregation that it has been a difficult time for family but it has also been a time when family drew closer together. But he said that ‘family’ is not a substitute for Church, it is at the centre of Church.


 
Said Bishop Leahy: One of the great lessons that we can take away from this Covid-19 crisis is that the family is a Church.
 
No matter that there is no such thing as a perfect family, family is still a sacred place where love flourishes more than any other. It is also the place where Jesus is present through the love that we have for one another.”
 
He continued: “Now that we are beginning to move into a new normal, including resuming public celebration of the sacraments, it would be a pity if we forgot the message we received during this time. Family is priority.  It is not a “Plan B” Church. We aren’t saying the family is church because the church buildings are closed. The Family is always church. Let’s really try to remember this.”
 
However, Bishop Leahy said it has been a trying time for family.  “During the Covid-19 crisis, it hasn’t been easy for families. But most families made huge efforts to keep things going as best as possible.  There has been very trying separation; older parents from their sons and daughters, from their grandchildren and siblings from each other as well,” he said. 
 
“That’s difficult in the best of times and dreadful in the worst, with this disconnect happening in some cases as last breaths were taken in desperate isolation, save for the caring company of frontline healthcare staff.  These are among the very worst memories that we will bring with us from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
 
Speaking on the easing of restrictions, Bishop Leahy said while moving through the phases is welcome, we need to remember that the advice remains stay at home where possible. “I would also like to offer a word of encouragement to those over 70 or with underlying conditions. This has not been an easy time for them either and I know the language of ‘cocooning’ is offensive to some. With the news of the lifting of restrictions, cocooning seems to have gone off the radar. It is good that there is an easing up of restrictions for them. It is great that up to six people can now visit their houses. And yet, I was surprised when I read the update HSE guidelines of just a few days ago.
 
“The advice is: ‘Stay local and protect yourself from infection by cocooning at home as much as possible’.  Though we might find this hard to take, and though it’s gone off the radar, we need to keep this advice in mind,” he said.
 
Meanwhile, Bishop Leahy today also thanked all the families across the diocese who have registered their child for First Holy Communion, reminding them that their parish will make contact over the coming weeks.  
 
“It will take some time for us to be clear when First Communion events can take place. I can’t see them happening before mid-August/September. And then it’ll be in small groups. But the important thing is that the children are registered and First Holy Communion will take place.”
 
Bishop Leahy said that during the summer, the diocese hopes to send three videos that will help families prepare together for First Holy Communion. The Grow in Love songs and videos are all available free on-line on growinlove.ie. “It only serves to deepen our awareness of just what family means to us,” he said.