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'Dedicated ticket lines' for best seat at Christmas mass

GAA club steps in to help with drive-thru event

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Louth priest Fr Paul Byrne

Louth priest Fr Paul Byrne

Louth priest Fr Paul Byrne

Dedicated booking phone lines, tickets, raffles and online masses are all part of preparations to deliver Christmas services this year.

A massive volunteer effort is under way across the country's parishes to ensure that bookings run smoothly and Christmas masses are stewarded safely and in compliance with Government guidelines.

Churches can only admit 50 people to public masses, or extra groupings of 50, if the church is large enough to accommodate self-contained 'pods' with separate entrances and exits.

Masses can only last an hour from the first entrance to the last exit, and social distancing and sanitising rules apply.

Last week, Knock Shrine introduced a booking system for those wishing to attend one of five masses on Christmas Eve and three masses on Christmas Day.

According to the rector, Fr Richard Gibbons, despite putting on extra masses all places are already booked up for every service.

The basilica, which ordinarily accommodates 3,700 people seated, is currently permitted just 200 people in four pods of 50. But thanks to the extra masses, nearly 1,600 people will be able to attend public worship in Knock over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

"There has to be an hour between each mass for cleaning. We have a base of volunteers of about 30 to 40 people," Fr Gibbons told the Herald

At the Cathedral of the Assumption in Carlow, the parish has opted to ticket all Christmas masses this year.

Fr Thomas O'Byrne, administrator of the cathedral, said that normally five masses, two on Christmas Eve and three on Christmas morning, would be celebrated.

This year, the cathedral will celebrate five masses on Christmas Eve, (4pm, 6pm, 8pm, 10pm and midnight) and three on Christmas Day.

All masses can also be viewed on the parish webcam.

The capacity of the cathedral is 600 but the maximum number it can seat presently is 130.

"We opened a dedicated ticket line on Tuesday morning last. Reviewing the bookings we have received, there is a good mix of families, couples, and many individuals."

Council

St Mary's in Westport is the second largest parish in the West of Ireland after Knock.

The parish council decided against using a ticketing system for Christmas masses and opted, instead, for a 'first come, first served' system.

Parish priest Fr Charlie McDonnell rejected suggestions that this could result in large crowds forming outside the church on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

"We know exactly how many we are letting in. If more than 50 people turn up, everyone else goes home," he said.

Meanwhile, a GAA club has offered its local parish priest the use of its carpark so up to 900 Mass-goers can enjoy Christmas Eve ceremonies.

The kind gesture by St Fechin's GAA club in Termonfeckin, Co Louth, has relieved the stress on Fr Paul Byrne to accommodate as many parishioners as possible.

The club's offer to use the 180 spaces in the car park for the 6pm Christmas Eve Mass, which will be transmitted from the clubhouse directly into car radios, has proved to be a godsend.

"It really is the icing on the Christmas cake," laughed Fr Byrne. "We are putting up a huge screen and we have an FM transmitter so we are hoping we can broadcast directly into car radios so they don't have to open their windows."


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