LENT 2021

Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent are approaching. This will provide renewed opportunities for reflection and conversion. Sadly with Covid lockdown, this will have to be family-based and subject to the usual safety restrictions we have in place now.

Trocaire have some great resources in place already. You can download some from their selction here.

Development Education Resources 2021 are available to download here. Resources are available for Early childhood, Primary, Post Primary and Youth. These resources will help you explore the themes of conflict and peace with students and young people through the lens of SDG 16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. Learn about the Sustainable Development goals, South Sudan and Trócaire’s work through interactive lesson plans, photos, videos and our latest Development education board game “Pathways to peace”.   Please feel free to share the resources with anyone else you think might find them useful.  

Also of interest might be our Parish Resources which this year include a Lectio Divina workshop for parishes, stations of the cross and an exploration of the Gospels for children. The Parish Resources can be found in the link below.  https://www.trocaire.org/our-work/working-in-ireland/parishes/



“Here are my hands, hold them. Please don’t leave South Sudan alone. We need your prayers. We need your support. We need your love.” Fr. James Oyet Latansio, South Sudan Council of Churches.

Trócaire’s Lenten campaign for 2021 tells the stories of two families in South Sudan whose lives have been impacted by conflict. Awut and Ajak are shining examples of resilience, friendship and solidarity. This Lent we hear not only about the enormous challenges they have faced, but also about how they support each other through these challenges.  
Due to the ongoing challenges of Covid-19, Trócaire has developed a variety of resources for use in your parish and that will support you in raising awareness about the Lent 2021 campaign: 

1. Resources 
The below resources focus on the stories and voices of families and communities with whom Trócaire works, and looks at how our faith calls us to act for justice. We also hear from one of Trócaire’s partners, the South Sudan Council of Churches, and learn about the role that the Christian churches are playing in working for peace in South Sudan. We encourage you to use these resources during Mass, at your Parish Council meeting, Liturgy Group or with any other active parish group. All resources are available on the Trócaire website. The below are available in English and Irish: 

You will also find the following resources on the website that you can use during mass to inform your congregation about the Lent campaign: 

To provide ongoing support to you throughout Lent, you will also receive a short email from Trócaire on three occasions during Lent, containing prayers and reflections which can be used during Mass. 
3. Box distribution 
You will also have received information recently about your Trócaire boxes. We want to support you as much as possible during the ongoing challenges of Covid-19. We have compiled some simple ideas about ways in which your parishioners could collect their boxes, mindful of safety and well-being being of the utmost importance as well as compliance with current government guidelines. 
4. UK Aid Match
This year, the Lent campaign is part of UK Aid Match, meaning public donations* given between 17 February 2021 and 16 May 2021 will be doubled by the UK government, up to £2m. Furthermore, if a donor signs up for a monthly gift, or increases their monthly gift, before the 16th of May 2021, up to three of their instalments will be matched! We will be able to support thousands of people in South Sudan to grow enough food to feed their families. Don’t’ forget that donations will only be matched up until the 16th May.
5. Lent online workshops 
Finally, we want to make you aware of a series of online workshops that Trócaire will be delivering during Lent. These workshops are open to all, and you can find out more and sign up here.

Some other resources:


Encountering Jesus with St Benedict – On-line Retreat from Glenstal Abbey … a series of Lenten Talks which will be webcast from the Abbey will take place from Glenstal Abbey on Saturdays at 2.00pm, beginning on February 20. Details below

Feast of St Brigid

Some resources you may like to use.

Saint Brigid    February 1 

St Brigid’s Day coincides with the Celtic festival of Imbolc, the first day of Spring.  Though meteorologists always dispute this assertion, there is no denying the lengthening days and the early signs of new life are the harbingers of Spring.  (Dr Ger Conden kindly sent me these short notes)

            Brigid was reputedly born in 450AD, at Faughart, County Louth, the daughter of a petty chieftain called, Dubhthach.  Her mother, Brocca, was said to have been baptised by St Patrick.  She was a generous child, giving away her father’s supply of butter to the poor, much to his annoyance.  But the Lord duly compensated the family by miraculously increasing the milk-yield of their cows.  
            She went on to evangelise (bring the Gospel) to the central plain of Ireland, especially Kildare, which became home to her most important foundation, a “double monastery” made up of both nuns and monks.  She is said to have passed from this life on February 1, 525.  Her fame spread throughout Europe in the 8th and 9th centuries.  There are nineteen ancient English churches named after our secondary patron, including St Bride’s in London. 

Her mantle (cloak) is preserved at Bruges in Belgium.    

A local faith /folk custom:        
Brat Bhríde / Brigid’s mantle:  Leave a piece of cloth on a nearby hedge on the eve (January 31) of St Brigid’s day.  Take it inside the next morning and use the cloth as an aid to prayer whenever there is an illness in your house, 

Faoi choimirce Bhríde go mbeidh tú  
– may you be under Brigid’s protection


The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity takes place from 18 -25 January. The resources for this year have been prepared by the Monastic Community of Grandchamp in Switzerland. The theme that was chosen, “Abide in my love and you shall bear much fruit”, is based on John 15:1-17 and expresses Grandchamp Community’s vocation to prayer, reconciliation and unity in the Church and the human family.  

A link to the booklet for the Week follows below.  It has an opening reflection on the effects of the pandemic and then a daily meditation and prayer (pages 10ff), which can be used privately.  https://ctbi.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/WPCU-2021-English-pamphlet-Final.pdf.pagespeed.ce.SnR5lgw9dp.pdf


The Mark 10 Mission is a new project providing FREE virtual Gospel liturgies for primary schools. The idea had small beginnings, in June I felt the Lord calling me to help children in the school where I teach hear the Gospel during these challenging times. However, since the start of the academic year it seems the Lord has driven things forward incredibly and schools across England and Wales have been using The Mark 10 Mission in their classrooms. We have had brilliant feedback from Headteachers, Priests and Bishops, who have given us great encouragement. We would now love for schools in Ireland to join us too.

The Mark 10 Mission partnered with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal to produce Gospel liturgies to be shared on classroom screens. We knew that whole school worship would be impossible and wanted to create episodes to help teachers easily share the Gospel. As the crisis has intensified, schools have been able to share the weekly episodes with children as part of their home learning.

Each episode includes the Sunday Gospel, a reflection, guided prayer and a live worship song from Fr Gabriel CFR. It would be so appreciated if you could view our latest episode (Series 3 Episode 1) which has been watched in hundreds of schools in the UK this week!





Most schools are in ON-LINE LEARNING MODE presently due to COVID Lockdown. Some teachers may be able to use these attached resources to share with students online or perhaps with those students with special provision attending school at present.

Catholic Schools Week 2021 will be celebrated from Sunday 24 January to Sunday 31 January 2021 on the theme ‘Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith and Resilience’.

As we live through an unprecedented time of challenge and uncertainty, our faith and our resilience can be tested. We can ask questions like ‘Will things ever be the same again?’, ‘When can we get back to normality?’, ‘Where is God in all of this?’ In response to this, we reflect upon how Catholic schools are communities of faith and resilience. In Catholic schools, we are called to support each other and to have faith in the promise of the Good News. Catholic schools are inspired by the belief that God has created each one of us with a capacity to give love and receive love. This love is bound in faith and is more resilient than any virus. While each Catholic school is such a community, every Catholic school fosters the holistic development of its students, promotes their wellbeing and offers them cultivation of a deeper, loving relationship with God. Jesus teaches us to love one another as he has loved us. During Catholic Schools Week we celebrate the gifts and talents we have in following Jesus’ teaching.


This year we celebrate how we are called to be communities of faith and resilience, through our thoughts, words and actions. In doing so, we live out the meaning of the beautiful hymn ‘Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est’ – ‘Where charity and love are, God is there.’

These are the National Resources from the IEC website. Irish language versions can be download there



Susan and I have developed a short Prayer Service for use by our two Dioceses. You may be able to adapt to work with students in a bubble setting if you have students attending school or by an on-line prayer service or assmbly.

Home use is another possibility using your current outreach to students. Perhaps they would have a family celebration using the prayers and their completed artwork. Hang the pieces as a family mobile or use a small tree at home as suggested in the prayer service below.

The following video contains a personal message and blessing from Archbishop Eamon to young people in the Dioceses of Armagh and Dromore.


Thanks to Paula McShane from St Mark’s High School in Warrenpoint for sharing these.

Pope Francis Proclaims ……… a ” Year of St Joseph “

Pope Francis proclaims a ‘Year of St Joseph’ In a new Apostolic Letter entitled Patris corde  (With a Father’s Heart), Pope Francis describes Saint Joseph as a beloved father, a tender and loving father, an obedient father, an accepting father; a father who is creatively courageous, a working father, a father in the shadows. The Letter marks the 150th anniversary of Blessed Pope Pius IX’s declaration of St Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church. To celebrate the anniversary, Pope Francis has proclaimed a special “Year of St Joseph,” beginning on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception 2020 and extending to the same feast in 2021.

Read more

Full Apostolic Letter can be read here.

Advent and Christmas 2020

During the four weeks of Advent, we prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ through prayer and meditation. We recall the First Coming of Jesus as Saviour of the world, and anticipate his promised Second Coming at the end of time. And in the midst of busy Christmas preparations, we look for practical ways to practice the holiness of this season in our everyday lives even with the Covid pandemic about us. .



Homily of Archbishop Eamon Martin for the First Sunday of Advent 2020 

Some resources from Cafod



Other Resources.




Sr Pam Thimmes OSC, Poor Clares, Faughart, will lead an Advent Day of Reflection on Saturday, 19 December from 10 am – 4 pm, hosted by Drumalis via Zoom.

For most of us 2020 has been an unprecedented time – a time of change, loss and grief, confusion, discovery, wonder and uncertainty. In some ways it has been an extended advent (arrival, emergence). Isaiah’s words came to his people in exile.  This day of reflection will allow us to bring these feelings and experiences of exile and newness of life into focus and perceive anew Christ born among us and living among us.  Our souls, like Mary’s have been pierced and transformed. Let us open our hearts to God’s newness born each day among us.  Do we see it and how do we live it? 

The cost for the Day of Reflection is £20 per person or £30 per household.  To book please contact Drumalis tel 028 28272196/ 28276455  (Mon-Fri, 9 am-5 pm).  For more information please see attached poster.

During Advent we have our Week of Witness recalling all who have suffered for their faith.

“Week of Witness” – 25 November –2 December

“Week of Witness” will take place from Wednesday 25 November – Wednesday 2 December 2020. During the week, we will remember all who have given great witness to their faith in the past and those who continue to give witness today and all who will continue to give great witness in the future.

On Wednesday 25th November (Red Wednesday) Archbishop Martin will celebrate a special Liturgy in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh at 7.30pm. People are invited to wear something red as we remember all who have given and all who continue to give great witness to their faith.

A message from the Irish bishops: “Keep Christ at the Centre of Christmas”

With the beginning of Advent last Sunday, preparations have begun in earnest in parishes across the country for the celebration of Christmas – albeit in a very different context this year.  Priests working with Parish Pastoral Councils are making decisions at a local level on how best to celebrate Christmas in a safe manner. We extend our sincere gratitude to parish teams throughout the country – including stewards and cleaners – who generously ensure that our churches are safe environments where people can confidently assemble for worship. Their task, as Christmas approaches, will not be easy, and we appeal to all the faithful to cooperate fully with them.

We strongly encourage the faithful to keep Christ at the centre of Christmas this year.  Clearly it will be impossible for our usual large congregations to assemble for Mass on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.  We wish to remind Catholics that the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days remains suspended during the pandemic.  But Christmas is about more than just one day.  Families are welcome to attend Mass at some point during the twelve days from Christmas Eve to Epiphany. Christmas Masses will also be widely available over webcam and we strongly encourage families to “tune in” from the “domestic churches” of their living rooms and join with those who are gathering in their local churches in welcoming the birth of the Christ-child.

It is possible to experience the spiritual richness of this special season in many ways. Our homes can become “little churches” where we invite the Christ-child in.  The age-old tradition of having a Christmas crib in the home and gathering there as a family to pray or to sing a carol will be especially meaningful this year. We also invite families or “household bubbles” to pay a visit to their local church at some time during the twelve days to offer a Christmas prayer at the crib and pray together for their families and for those particularly impacted by the pandemic.

The hope of Advent and the joy of Christmas inspire us to reach out to those in greatest need at this time. Keep Christ at the centre this Christmas by bringing the hope and joy of his birth to people who are sick, isolated, lonely or poor.  A simple act of kindness can make such a difference.  Charities such as the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, Crosscare, Trócaire and World Missions Ireland will welcome much needed contributions as they have been unable to raise funds in the normal way during the pandemic.

We are particularly conscious of those whose livelihoods have been seriously threatened by the pandemic.  We keep in mind those for whom Christmas time may bring feelings of sadness – people coping with bereavement, families that cannot be together, those in care homes who can only have limited visits from their loved ones.  Christmas can be difficult for Irish emigrants and migrants living in Ireland, who are unable to travel home.  We pray that the time will come very soon when sorrow will ease and loving connections can be fully restored.

Traditionally many people turn at this time of the year to ask for God’s forgiveness and for healing of spirit.  Although it may not be possible for all who wish to go to Confession to safely avail of the sacrament, we encourage the faithful to confidently place their trust in God’s mercy through an Act of Perfect Contrition. 

As we continue our journey through the season of Advent, waiting in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour, we are acutely aware of the yearning in our country and in our world for hope and consolation. In some ways the Covid-19 restrictions open up greater opportunities for prayer and for reflection, for family time and space to enter into the true meaning of Christmas


The impossibility of organising a diocesan retreat due to present restrictions was discussed at a recent meeting of the Council of Priests. Fr Brendan Freeman, the Superior of the Cistercian Abbey at Melifont, and member of the Council, volunteered to prepare a series of reflections on prayer which we recorded recently and begin circulating to you today.  These were prepared for Clergy but I think many Teachers might like to listen and view.

Part 1 INTRODUCTION TO PRAYER Fr Brendan Freeman.

Part Two Prayer Some Practicalities. Fr Brendan

Prayer of Abandonment

I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures –
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father. Charles de Foucauld




If you want to watch full version in one session follow this link


A School Prayer for All Souls Day @ 3pm on Nov 2nd. Could be prayed on School Address system or in Class bubbles.

I have edited together a Prayer service for Schools to pray on the public address systems or perhaps in Class bubbles. I have edited two or three services we used in the past and included an edited version of the Prayer of Pope Francis to Our Lady during the Pandemic. I hope as many of you as possible will use it around 3 pm so that we all are united in prayer on the Feast of the Holy Souls. Take care and please remain safe. Bless you and your great work. Feel free to tailor this to your own situation. Blessings Declan

Archbishop Eamon speaks to 3rd Level Students.

Homily for Mass for the Dedication of Studies at the Catholic Chaplaincy, Queen’s University Belfast


A stand-out memory for me of life in university is that first day in College – with all its nervousness and anticipation; wandering and getting lost among historic buildings, libraries and lecture halls; student cards, clubs and societies; new faces the promise of making new friends.

I’m very conscious that this year’s Dedication of Studies Mass is taking place in a very different context: with social distancing, sanitising and face covering; webinars and blended learning; studying and socialising from a laptop in Halls or at home.

I know that university communities are sharing in the anxiety, disruption and uncertainty that has marked these months of pandemic.  A first year psychology student told me recently that this is not what she or her friends were expecting from College. “It doesn’t feel real”, she said.  And it’s upsetting for her that young people are being stigmatised for the spread of Covid19.  At times the irresponsibility of a few has perhaps tarnished the image of all.  But my experience of young people since the beginning of the pandemic has been of your generosity and self-sacrifice, your volunteering to help the elderly and isolated, your stepping up to serve in the retail and hospitality sector – not to mention the many students of medicine, pharmacy and nursing who have supported our health workers and carers on the so-called ‘front line’.

Many of you have shown great resilience and are making personal sacrifices to keep safe your parents,  grandparents, and other vulnerable family members. These are stressful times for us all, and I am aware of the support and encouragement that you are quietly giving to each other, especially to friends and others who are fragile and struggling to cope, either mentally, physically or spiritually.

This time two years ago I was in Rome with Pope Francis for the Synod on Young People. I remember coming home from the Synod with a strong sense that the primary vocation and mission of young believers in Christ is to reach out to other young people and invite them to share in the joy and hope that comes from friendship with Jesus.  Pope Francis put it beautifully when he wrote after the Synod:

“The Lord is calling (you) to enkindle stars in the night of other young people” (CV33). As “members of the Church”, he added, you “must dare to be different, to point to ideals other than those of this world, testifying to the beauty of generosity, service, purity, perseverance, forgiveness, … prayer, the pursuit of justice and the common good, love for the poor, and social friendship”.

Yesterday in Assisi, the beatification took place of a young Italian schoolboy, Carlo Acutis, who did just that.  He dared to be different.  Carlo had a strong sense that every young person should use their unique gifts to change the world for the better.  Although his own life was cut short by leukaemia at the tender age of sixteen, he was already well known as someone who loved God deeply, who cared about the poor and who used his talent with computers to help build up faith.  Carlo once remarked that young people easily fall into the trap of consumerism and, although they may want to be different, they end up just like everyone else. “We are all born as an original” he once said, “but many people end up dying as photocopies”.

Perhaps that is one of the dangers of youth nowadays – to find yourself slavishly conforming to the banal uniformity of fashions and expectations that others have decided for you.  An alternative is to realise that you have a unique calling from God, a personal invitation to follow Him.  God will provide all the graces, gifts and skills that you need to say ‘Yes’  to His invitation and help you discern what particular service he is asking of you in the world.  Saint Paul certainly took up the challenge.  He wrote to the Philippians: “I am ready for anything anywhere … There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength”.

It is sad, however, that so many people turn down God’s invitation in their lives – perhaps being too distracted or too self-absorbed – to hear the gentle voice of the Good Shepherd who walks beside them.

In the Parable of the Wedding Feast, the king is furious that those invited to come to the banquet and celebrate with him, were totally disinterested and even treated his invitation with disdain.  It reminds me of something else Pope Francis wrote to the young people of the world after the 2018 Synod:

“Dear young people, make the most of these years of your youth. Don’t observe life from a balcony. Don’t confuse happiness with an armchair, or live your life behind a screen. Whatever you do, do not become the sorry sight of an abandoned vehicle! Don’t be parked cars, but dream freely and make good decisions. Take risks, even if it means making mistakes. Don’t go through life anaesthetised … Please, don’t take early retirement” (CV143).

This evening’s Mass is for the Dedication of Studies.  It is worthwhile asking: for what, or to whom, do we tend to dedicate our studies?  Of course there are many worthy causes, for example, to achieve our full potential, to make the most of our chances in life, or, to earn the best possible qualifications for future advancement.  Some will commit long hours of research this year in the hope of adding to the body of knowledge in a particular field, or achieving an international breakthrough in science, medicine or technology. Others will dedicate their efforts in recognition of teachers, parents or sponsors whose sacrifices made it possible for them to reach university.

In this Mass, we dedicate the coming year of study in thanksgiving to God, being mindful that all our gifts spring from God, and that these gifts are given not just to improve our own chances but for the betterment of others, the improvement of the world and for the building of God’s kingdom.

The peculiar ending to the Parable of the Wedding Feast speaks of someone turning up to the banquet unprepared, without a wedding garment, as if they had taken the invitation totally for granted.  Down the centuries scripture scholars have pondered what this ‘being without a wedding garment’ might signify.  Saint Gregory the Great suggested that, even though the guest had faith enough to get himself in to the wedding feast, he lacked the essential wedding garment of love or charity.  In other words, he kept his faith to himself.  He was not prepared to ‘give it away’ in love and charity for others.

It is a privilege to have the opportunity of education at Third Level.  It is a special invitation to use wisely our God-given gifts.  God expects much of those to whom He has given much. Your challenge is to use your talents generously – to change this world for the better; to be ever mindful of our neighbours throughout the world who are poor; to show compassion towards the vulnerable; to remain alert to the marginalised or forgotten.

I ask the Lord to bless each one of you – students and staff – who make up the community of Queen’s University Belfast; that the Good Shepherd will guide you along the right path this year, especially those who feel lost in the darkness and uncertainty of these Covid19 times.  Stay safe.  Pray safe.  Be leaders in taking care of yourselves, your families and of each other.  Amen.


To Whom shall we go ? Gospel of St John

“To Whom Shall We Go?” Seeking Jesus in The Gospel of John

Four-Part Course with Sr Pam Thimmes OSC Hosted by Drumalis Retreat & Conference Centre over 8 Zoom Sessions in 2020 and 2021


028 28272196 Mon – Fri 9 am – 5 pm

About the course:

The Gospel of John goes its own way in its portrayal of Jesus’ origins, ministry and engagement in life in the world. One scholar has referred to it as the ‘maverick’ Gospel, others note the role irony plays in Jesus’ interactions with various individuals and still others note the prominence women play in the Gospel. Our study will look closely at the community from which this gospel comes, the images and symbols they employ to understand Jesus as the Word made flesh, what that means for developing Christianity and for our faith lives today, what discipleship means and costs, and how the Johannine Jesus, from the cross, gives us to each other. Come and see!

About the Facilitator: Sr Pam is a Poor Clare sister living at the Poor Clare Monastery in Faughart, Co Louth. She teaches Scripture in each of the Drumalis Adult Faith Development programmes and in the Permanent Diaconate programmes for several dioceses. Sr Pam is also an experienced and popular spiritual director and retreat leader, as well as a working photographer.

The cost of this course is £120 per person.


Part I Sat, 24 Oct & Sat, 31 Oct 2020 (by Zoom) – 10:00 am – 12:30 pm

Part II Sat, 21 Nov & Sat, 28 Nov 2020 (by Zoom) – 10:00 am – 12:30 pm

Part III Sat, 23 & Sat, 30 January 2021 (by Zoom) – 10:00 am – 12:30 pm

Part IV Sat, 20 & Sat, 27 March 2021 (by Zoom) – 10:00 am – 12:30 pm