Community spirit upholds parish life in lockdownThursday 29th July 2021
Over the past few weeks, we have been sharing some stories of positivity and “Hope in the Future” that have emerged from our parishes during the pandemic.
This week, we are coming to the end of our pandemic stories but we are taking a look at some wonderful news from St Anne’s in Fairfield
A Manchester parish is ringing in a new sense of “Hope in the Future” with the restoration of its church bell.
When the COVID-19 pandemic closed churches across the country last year, parishioners began to experience a new sense of emotional connectivity to their parishes and each other, responding to these unprecedented challenges in remarkable ways.
St Anne’s Church in Fairfield was no exception and began its pandemic story with the restoration of its church bell.
Once restored, parishioners responded with joy and gratitude as they could see and hear the bell ringing once again through their parish lockdown Whatsapp, their Facebook page, and a link on the parish newsletter.
Now, as restrictions begin to lift, the ringing bell is a powerful, emotional, and welcoming sound for parishioners returning to Mass.
Like many parishes across the diocese and beyond, St Anne’s witnessed a remarkable sense of community spirit throughout the lockdown.
While parish priest Father Chris Lough was receiving treatment for illness and unable to be in active ministry, he made himself available to parishioners by phoning the sick or talking to people when asked. Each week, he produced the parish newsletter that directed parishioners to helpful ways to stay engaged with the Church during the lockdown, signposting the way to talks on scripture, Zoom meetings, diocesan news, and a special “Thought for the Day.”
During Fr Chris’s treatment, the parish welcomed Fr Chris’s replacement, Fr Anthony Saffa CSSp, so enthusiastically that Fr Tony became a firm friend of Fr Chris and the parish. Moreover, when he left, he expressed deep gratitude for his welcome and said that his time at St Anne’s was a special time in his life’s journey.
Meanwhile, Fr Chris continued to support and encourage a strong parish team of volunteers who worked together on a rota basis to keep the church and parishioners safe and to provide support. The parish’s welcoming ministry was strengthened through “welcome” notices outside the church and on the noticeboard, and stewards greeted (from a distance!) all who entered the church.
In addition, the sense of community was strengthened further as some members of the parish team developed pastoral responsibilities by setting up a lockdown Whatsapp, doing shopping for elderly parishioners, or phoning, texting, and checking in on people.
Meanwhile, some parishioners put their practical skills to use through maintaining the beautiful church building through painting, improving the sanctuary and the former baptistry, and creating a welcoming new look for those returning to Mass.
Despite the restrictions, the church was able to maintain strong links with the local school through the continuation of the of the sacramental programme. Children took part in their First Reconciliation and First Holy Communion in smaller groups, with just a few children receiving their First Holy Communion at the Saturday Vigil or Sunday Mass each week. Parishioners found this to be a powerful witness to the developing link between school, family, and parish, providing “Hope in the Future” as Fr Chris and catechists continue to nurture these valuable relationships.
A reflection on the Domestic Church was written by Fr Chris during lockdown and can be read here or viewed below.
If you have any stories from the pandemic that you’d like to share, get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org