A WARM WELCOME: Fr Kieran O’Brien from St Mary’s Cathedral will be on hand to welcome parishioners back to Mass next week. Photo: Michelle Crean

By Michelle Crean

Mass returns next week but it’ll be a different experience to what it was pre-lockdown with a smaller barely there congregation, hand sanitisers and face visors for the priests.

In Killarney, St Mary’s Cathedral has the capacity for 1,400 parishioners. However, current Government guidelines are set to just 50 people indoors which includes the Priest, Sacristans, Eucharistic Ministers and ushers – but as the cathedral is so large, Parish Administrator Fr Kieran O’Brien says they can easily accommodate 200 people while staying within the two metre distance rule.

“We know people are longing to come back,” Fr Kieran told the Killarney Advertiser this week. “We’ll be at the door to welcome you in. There is capacity for 200 with social distancing taken into account that we’ve calculated.”

The plans and preparations are well underway but it’ll be a gradual process, he added.

Before entering parishioners are asked to hand sanitise and respect social distancing as ushers guide them to their seats. During Mass Fr Kieran will sanitise his hands and wear a facial visor before giving out communion and is respectfully asking people to take the communion in their hand.

After each Mass the church will be sanitised and cleaned by a team of volunteers.

Also this weekend, the cathedral will be ‘fogged’ clean which will last for three days, ahead of its official reopening for Masses.

Although in recent weeks people have been allowed in for personal prayer from 11am to 5.45pm, he said that it’s been a difficult few months saying Mass in an empty church alone.

“It has been difficult certainly – this pandemic has affected everyone. But people were tuning in on the Internet and their radios and people sent us messages of appreciation.”

And he added, that in future baptisms will more than likely be one service for four separate families with a maximum of 15 family members each.