When the lockdown began, and Father Patsy had to leave the presbytery in order to shield, you might have been forgiven for thinking that Holy Family Church stopped……….but you would be wrong!

 This is what happened at Holy Family Southport during the Coronavirus Crisis of 2020. Many people were involved in these events but no one individual is named because everyone worked as a single team.

We set up a Keeping In Touch Team which met every week online to try to reach as many parishioners as possible using the contacts in the Parish Directory and word of mouth recommendations. Parishioners received regular emails, phone calls, letters or cards showing the stained glass windows of the Church or Saint Dymphna- the patron saint of those who are anxious. We managed to stay in contact with 233 people in this way.

Father Patsy continued to remember our intentions in his private daily Mass but, in the absence of public Masses, we held On-line Zoom Services every week – prayer taken from the Divine Office at 6pm each Saturday and Liturgy of the Word at 10.15am each Sunday.

These services were led by two parishioners who broadcast from within Holy Family itself and every week Father Patsy recorded his homily. Throughout Easter we celebrated the Triduum and, during Thursdays and Sundays in May, we said the Rosary. In this way, our virtual community could all still see our church and hear the sound of prayer and Fr Patsy’s voice within its walls. As these were truly Interactive Services, parishioners of all ages volunteered to read the weekly readings, take part in the bidding prayers and research music sources.

We were able to see each other on screen, to sing and pray together and in this way to keep our spiritual family strong. There was even time to socialise and catch up with each other before and after each service. Over the course of the closure of the churches, 104 people accessed these services.

A new Parish Website was built and continues to grow, signposting people to practical help and providing links to online Masses, prayer resources, other parishes and the schools. The website is a reflection of the spirit of Holy Family. The Bulletin continued to be produced every week. It was published on the website and paper copies were posted out to anyone who requested it. The Look Sheets used by Children’s Liturgy were available to be downloaded by families. We arranged with the Catholic Pictorial to receive some hard copies of the paper to post out to parishioners who were not able to access it online. A Well-Being Advice Section written by a parishioner was added to the website to help people stay mentally and physically well.

Links were set up between the websites of Holy Family Church and Holy Family School. Our Twitter account was updated regularly.

Every child who was due to celebrate their First Holy Communion received a personal message and a prayer card. We also sent Messages Of Fellowship to every church of every denomination, including the Mosque, within our parish boundary and we offered help if any was needed. We contacted every Nursing, Residential and Learning Disabled Home within our Parish, as well as Southport Hospital and Queenscourt Hospice, to let the staff, residents and families know that we were thinking of them and praying for them. A Circle of Prayer was established to include each of these establishments.

Help was given in other areas too. As an alternative to the physical food bank, food vouchers were collected and distributed to families and an e-voucher system established to enable those in need to access Southport Food Banks. The SVP also offered us a referral link system. We continued to provide school uniform for those who needed it.

As well as all of these initiatives, the day to day running of the Parish had to continue.

The office was manned three times a week and a special message recorded for the telephone answering machine when there was no-one in the office. Bills continued to be paid because parishioners posted offerings through the door, set up direct debits or made text donations.

The gardening was done; including the trimming of the hedges and the removal of 15 builders’ bags of garden waste. The presbytery was cleaned, the altar cloths were starched and the Book of Remembrance was brought up to date. The fire alarms were tested, the taps were run regularly, the central heating and gas provision was overhauled, the window sills were repaired and the general maintenance continued. New internet cables had to be put under the floorboards to allow the Zoom services to run smoothly. Safeguarding training went ahead, the Synod 2020’s additional theme was successfully undertaken and a survey from York St John University was completed.

It wasn’t all work and no play though. The Beavers, Cubs and Scouts continued their meetings online. We ran online Parish Quiz nights and a virtual Arts and Crafts exhibition on our website. We had a Recycled Christmas Card project and the money raised from that was sent to Queenscourt Hospice along with a donation from the Ladies’ Choir. We were also able to provide Queenscourt with cards to be sent out to families of patients. Easter Eggs donated to the Parish were distributed to children at the school. Birthdays and Wedding Anniversaries were celebrated in the website’s Good News Section. English lessons began for a family from overseas. A Knitting Group was established and the many knitted squares produced were sewn together to make at least 20 blankets to be given to charity.

This is how Holy Family Church coped with the complications of the 2020 lockdown. Everyone had their own difficulties to overcome at this time and some people’s challenges were greater than others.

As you read this and reflect on the days that we have come through please remember that during this time just as you prayed for others, so others prayed for you. Throughout all of this we were Church, we are Church and we will continue to be Church.

A living, breathing, evolving Church with the Holy Family at its heart.