Although the Scottish Government has reduced the isolation period for those with symptoms from ten days to seven, for the many parishes served by one priest a single case can be entirely shut down an area for that period.
One of the Christmas services cancelled was at Our Lady & St Joseph in Orkney. Fr Colin Davies, who also serves St Anne’s in Thurso and St Joachim’s in Wick, had Covid symptoms which caused all services to be cancelled.
Although his Covid test came back negative, Fr Davies said ‘I had to practice what I preach and stay at home.’
“If I had passed symptoms on to other people that would have ruined their Christ- mases as well,” he said. “It wasn’t nice. This is my fifteenth year since ordination and that’s the first Christmas that I hadn’t celebrated Christmas since ordination. It left a very empty feeling for me.
“I came down on Christmas Eve; it was too late to organise someone coming up. I felt as if I had let my congregation and my friends down.
“No one complained. Everyone said: ‘Father, take care of yourself, because if you don’t, you won’t be here to take care of us.’.”
Fr Ryan Black, curate at St Mirin’s Cathedral in Paisley, was struck with Covid symptoms over Christmas.
He said: “It was a very difficult time. It was only my second Christmas as a priest. Celebrating Mass on Christmas day without any people was rough.
“The most difficult thing for me was, being ordained last August, last Christmas was my first. Only celebrating Mass for a maxi-mum of 50 people at a time without singing, I was looking forward to a very normal Christmas but didn’t even manage that!
“Parishes are part of the family, and not being able to celebrate Christmas day with them was difficult.
“Thankfully, Msgr Joe Burke was able to look after the Christmas morning Mass so at least the Cathedral was provided for over Christmas. Bishop Keenan looked after our Masses on New Years Day and the Epiphany, which was helpful.”
The parish of Corpus Christi, Calderbank has experienced a large Covid. Though Fr Vin-cent Lockhart, parish priest at Corpus Christi, did not himself get Covid, the outbreak was large enough to bring Masses to a halt.
“The Vigil Mass for New Year, the New Year’s Day Mass, and also the Sunday Mass we couldn’t have because we didn’t have the stewards, people to clean the church after Mass because of the Covid regulations, we couldn’t have readers.
“It wasn’t logistically possible to have Mass.
“Loads of people weren’t able to come for Christmas because they were isolating because it’s a small village, everybody knows everybody. It’s very sociable.
“One of the things I’ve found is that because it’s a time of difficulty and trial, it brings out the best in people. They make known their support. In a sense it does create a bond which is stronger.”