Father Con and Covid

One of the reasons why I began blogging again was because I sense that Covid is a moment of challenge for the church beyond anything else in our lifetimes. Perhaps, because of the scale of that challenge, I have written about many things – but very little about Covid.

But listen to this ….

On Tuesday this week a bus went out of control in the village of Monkstown beside the River Lee just outside Cork city. It caught my attention because my father’s family came from Cork and my grandparents retired to Passage West – the next village up the river. So I know it well

The driver of the bus died and so did a pedestrian on the pavement. The pedestrian turned out to be Father Con Cronin – aged 72 – the local parish priest who apparently pushed his secretary out of the way of the bus and sacrificed himself

On Wednesday, Alexa give me RTE Irish Radio news and I listened to the story of Father Con. Sadly in Ireland today, you can’t assume that the local parish priest will be a personable and popular local figure. But Father Con was all that and more

And then they started talking about Covid and how Father Con had held the community together through successive lockdowns.

What he did was to do interviews with members of his congregation and the community and post them on his Facebook page. In Ireland, people are interested in people. So this became a means of holding the community together.

it struck a memory for me. In the really difficult days in Portadown, my Methodist colleague, Jim Rea, and I used to do ‘This is my story, this is my song.’ In the same way, it was a means of holding the community together with human stories when everything else threatened to tear it apart. The secret was that, when people shared their personal stories, it was impossible to tell Protestant from Catholic.

As we begin to emerge from the long Covid nightmare, it’s time to begin to ask where we are now and how we are going to rebuild

People like Father Con simply do what seemed to be an obvious way of holding together his community – not radical but obvious!