Bishop Denis Nulty has invited parishes in the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin to write to him with ideas about how to encourage people to come back to regular worship.
Speaking at Mass in St Conleth’s Parish in Newbridge, the Bishop said he was concerned that there are people who haven’t returned to Sunday worship, not because of a fear around the pandemic but because Mass has simply slipped off their radar.
“When a prudent decision was made at the beginning of this pandemic to remove the Sunday obligation, it gave permission in some ways for these people to stop attending and other attractions such as hill walking, golf, cycling, or simply staying in bed longer, has become the order of their Sunday morning,” he said.
The Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin admitted that it did not stem from anger, or walking away, rather it was “just slipping out of the habit” and it would be hard to reintroduce the practice.
He said the solution, in his opinion, was not to reintroduce the sense of obligation.
“We must teach people why Sunday is so special that they will want to go to Mass rather than feel compelled to attend Mass. People need to be reminded that a Sunday without giving God time is a Sunday less well spent.”
He said it was up to parish councils, liturgy teams, priests and faith-filled parishioners who have returned to reflect on how Mass might be gently reintroduced into the lives of these “good people – our brothers, our sisters, our sons, our daughters, our grandchildren, our friends.”
During the depths of the pandemic when there was no public worship, there had been much talk about Eucharistic starvation, “as if the Eucharist was a prize to be possessed rather than a missionary mandate to go out from Mass and heal the sick, bandage the wounded, welcome the stranger”.
He reminded the congregation that they have been meeting the Lord in their “little domestic churches”
“We come to church on Sunday in that knowledge that we can meet Him at home, but in church we meet with and are supported by a faith-filled people. In receiving the Eucharist, we become His body – we become what we receive. When there are some people missing, that body is incomplete.”
Separately, the Government is expected this week to give the green light for First Communions and Confirmations to restart in September.