THERE was a great feeling of hope as young people in the Lisnaskea area received their Sacrament of Confirmation at Aghalurcher Parish last Saturday, April 24, marking the first Confirmation ceremony to take place in the district as coronavirus restrictions begin to ease.

With the blessing of Bishop Larry Duffy, the Bishop of Clogher, the Confirmations were led by Parish Priest, Father Jimmy McPhillips.

Speaking to The Impartial Reporter, Fr. Jimmy spoke about the delight of the young people and their families that the Confirmation could take place as they had been waiting for "quite a while".

He said: "We had an initial date back in April planned, but with Covid restrictions we had to postpone that, so we went ahead on Saturday there with the blessing of the Bishop, and 68 of the young people were Confirmed.

"It gave great hope to people, and is another example of green shoots as we move along and try to live with this virus."

Due to ongoing Covid restrictions, the ceremony took a slightly different format than usual.

Fr. Jimmy explained: "We had two sessions, because of the risk assessment. We had half in the morning, and half in the afternoon.

"Just parents, siblings and one sponsor [in each family cell] were allowed into the church," he said, noting how each family had their own seat.

"Because of the restrictions from Bishop Larry, we had to keep it as short as possible.

"[The ceremony] is generally about an hour and a half but we had it down to 50 minutes this time, just to get people in and out safely, and not to have them in the church that long in each other's company.

"It definitely was a limited version of the normal liturgy.

"We've got a parish Covid committee, and they risk-assess every activity, so it was all safely done," he added.

Calling it a "great honour and privilege" to lead the Confirmation, Fr. Jimmy explained that it's generally the Bishop who administers Confirmation in every parish.

"Again, because he can't move out of his area in Monaghan, he delegated all the parish priests and administrators to confer the sacrament.

"I would've been Confirmed, as most people would have been, by the Bishop, so personally it was a great honour and great privilege to be able to do that," he added.

Looking forward, as restrictions continue to ease, Fr. Jimmy noted how the parish has planned to have First Holy Communion ceremonies for all three local schools in mid-May.

"We'll have three sessions again for the three schools, and that will be the sacraments complete for this year," he told this newspaper.