EASTER SENDS A MESSAGE OF HOPE Fr Mike Murphy is pictured during his time as joint manager of the Mayo ladies senior football team. Pic: Sportsfile
EVERY priest has got their own distinctive style but very few can celebrate Mass, spread the Gospel, or talk to their parishioners quite like Fr Michael Murphy.
The 59 year-old is a natural communicator and getting his message across seems to come easy to him; whether that’s from the pulpit or via his Facebook videos and live streams.
The Parish Priest of Roundfort, Robeen and Carras would be the first to admit though that the last year has been anything but easy. Masses have moved online, funerals and weddings are currently restricted to a handful of people, and the churches are as empty as they are silent.
This week would traditionally have been one of the highlights of the year for Fr Murphy and his parishioners. Between Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, the church would have been a hive of activity for young and old.
But for the second year in a row, all has changed, changed utterly.
So Fr Murphy, a Galway city native who spent 15 years in Castlebar before setting up home in Roundfort in 2009, intends to make the best of a difficult situation.
“The most thing I’ll miss is meeting the children and the young people,” he told The Mayo News. “But I’ll be having separate masses and ceremonies for the children and the adults on Holy Thursday and Easter Sunday, and I’m also getting the children to write out the Stations of the Cross, they’re emailing them on to me, I’ll be reading them out.
“Because I think it’s very important to keep the children involved in the Mass and the celebrations any way we can.
“Traditionally, the church would be full for Easter vigil and on Easter Sunday,” he added.
“It’s so different now, everything will be done on Facebook. One of the good things though is that people leave their messages and let you know they’re watching, how much they enjoy it, and how much it means to them. That makes it all worthwhile.”
Fr Murphy has never spent more time at his computer, trying to stay connected with everyone in his sprawling parish. “It stretches from Ballyglass in Milltown to Ballyglass in Claremorris,” he explained. “I broadcast Sunday Mass and weekday Mass on Facebook live, and I also do a ‘night prayer’ five nights a week that goes out at 10pm.
“People really seem to love the prayer at night, they tell me they find it a great comfort. And a lot of them say it helps them to sleep as well!” he smiled.
That’s one thing he says he ‘can’t understand’ — that big churches are still off-limits to small groups of worshippers. He can see (and hear) first-hand that parishioners don’t understand it either.
“I really don’t see any reason why people couldn’t go to daily Mass in the church,” he said.
“If you take Roundfort church, you’re talking about 15 to 20 people at daily mass in a big building. It doesn’t make any sense to me.
“It was a little bit of social contact for people that they don’t have now. I remember one woman saying to me, ‘This was my only chance every day to say ‘hello’ to people’.
“And that’s been taken away from people now, yet they can see when they go to the supermarket that there are dozens of people in every aisle and that seems to be fine.
“I really don’t understand it. When we were allowed 50 people in the church it was brilliantly done. There were people ushering, people cleaning seats, and there was absolutely no problem.
“I just wonder if the politicians and the Government are in touch with the ordinary person. I can see where NPHET are coming from, of course, but some things just don’t make sense to ordinary people.”
But back to Easter and his plans for next weekend. Many of Fr Murphy’s ‘flock’ — from Newbrook to Ardkill, and everywhere in between — will be tuned in next Sunday.
You wonder what his message will be to the people of the parish this year?
“I think the Easter message says it all: death is not the end, there’s something more to life. It’s a very hopeful message, a message of hope. Hang in there, things will change,” he said.
“And look out for each other, that’s very important.
“I think we are so lucky in the west of Ireland, neighbours have been amazing. Absolutely amazing. I know in this parish, neighbours have helped neighbours right from the start of this pandemic. And it’s been great to see.”