Lockdown Diary: I've got all the CDs I have ever owned piled on my dining room table and listen to a different selection every day

We ask people how they are faring in the coronavirus crisis. This week, Fr Patrick MacEntee (65), parish priest at St Davog's Church, Dromore, Co Tyrone

Co Monaghan native Fr Patrick MacEntee (65), has been parish priest at St Davog's Church, Dromore, Co Tyrone, for 19 years
Jane Hardy

How has it the pandemic affected you in your ministry?

It's affecting me as it's affecting all other clergy. A large part of our ministry is based on Sunday Mass and weddings, Christenings and funerals. They're not taking place. We're fortunate in that we haven't been badly affected in Fermanagh and Tyrone, with around 55 coronavirus cases so far. But there's hardly a day you don't get a call from a worried bride wanting to reschedule her wedding.

With funerals, some people try to hold something a day or two afterwards but this situation is extraordinarily hard on families. I've been to a couple of funerals attended by just two or three people.

If you put off the [real] funeral it can make grieving tougher. In this country, the wake is very important but people aren't having that now.

We are creating new rituals and neighbours are lining up as the remains leave the house for the graveyard to applaud. In terms of the last rites, I've heard of some hospitals where staff have connected the priest to a patient on the phone.

We are streaming services now as well, and they're popular. We're all in a strange world and doing what we can.

What about personally?

I don't want to overestimate this but I don't mind my own company. But we've all become slightly traumatised and I hope, when the time comes, that we don't see every door handle or handshake as a threat, that we can put things in perspective and not remain over-cautious.

How should the Church be responding, in your view?

We need to help people with the anxiety they're feeling. The Church can offer reassurance and we're keeping our own church open for people to come in individually and pray. In terms of scripture, the psalms are good. There's the De profundis – Out of the depths, O Lord, I cry to thee – and Psalm 23 (The Lord is my Shepherd) is a good all-purpose psalm in most situations.

Are there any positives?

We've been forced into the slow lane and maybe realise what's really important to us. I've noticed people say they value their grandchildren more. Some people have said this is an opportunity to get closer to God, but others are worried that if you can't engage in your church practice for a while, it may lapse when we get through this. I feel this could be problematic, depending on how long lockdown continues.

What keeps you going?

A lot of people say they are enjoying home cooking but I haven't been doing much of that. Music is very important to me. I've got all the CDs I have ever owned piled on my dining room table and listen to a different selection every day. Bach a lot, particularly the St Matthew and St John Passion over Easter, but I like Mozart too and other composers. I enjoy liturgical music, but you'd expect me to say that. I also like film music too, especially anything by John Williams.


Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access