One of the things that doesn’t seem to have diminished during lockdown is administration. Priesthood, as with most other professions, especially for those in leadership roles, can get overloaded with paperwork, and January is a prime example of that, for the simple reason that at the beginning of a new year, a leader’s stewardship of the year gone by, has to be accounted for in a whole variety of areas. One of the tasks in the past few days was to complete a statistical return for the Archdiocese, providing information with regard to how many Baptisms; how many Confirmations; how many First Communions; how many Marriages; how many Adult Initiations; and how many Deaths, were recorded in the parish in 2020. This entailed going through the various registers that are kept for each of those occurrences. The year gone by, of course, has been a year like no other, and so all of those numbers were significantly down from previous years, and in some cases wiped out completely, with the exception of deaths, which had significantly risen. A new question had been added to the form, asking how many deaths, so far as we knew, were from Covid-19.
Keeping registers is an important responsibility, especially as the information contained will be requested and required from time to time. This is especially true of the Baptism register as people will always need to provide details of their Baptism when they are preparing for First Communion; Confirmation; Marriage; and Holy Orders. Baptism details are often requested, too, when children are applying for admission into Catholic schools, or even when people are trying to trace their family tree. Nowadays, of course, data protection rules require a number of checks before such information would be provided. Also, when a request is made for information from a register of any kind from years back, I am always hoping that the priest who filled in the register had legible handwriting which, believe me, is not always the case.
There are also what we refer to as Sacristy registers, or Mass registers. Every Mass requested has to be recorded and accounted for when it has been celebrated. Here in St. Mungo’s, we are also committed to celebrating Mass once a week for the Holy Souls, and once a week for those enrolled in our Passionist Mass Guild, and so, at the beginning of the year, I had to prepare a diary, so that each of those could be signed for when celebrated as well. I had to do the same for the Masses that a parish priest is required to say every Sunday for the people of the parish, and also for the Masses that, as Rector of the Passionist Community, I have to say on major feast days for the members of my community in Bishopbriggs, and also each month for living and deceased Passionists; and living and deceased parents and benefactors of the Passionists. Sometime during the year, the Passionist Provincial will formally visit each community and inspect all these Mass registers to ensure we are fulfilling our obligations.
A few years ago, while I was still parish priest in Mount Argus, a lady in her senior years came from Australia to live in Dublin for a time. While she was there, she asked to participate in the RCIA programme with the intention of becoming a Catholic. Her late husband had been a Catholic, and her grown-up children were Catholic, and she had felt drawn to the faith as well. The necessary permissions were obtained and she was received into the church at the Easter Vigil. Shortly afterwards I was approached by this lady, and the Dublin man who had been her sponsor, asking if I would marry them. Again, after all the permissions were obtained, I celebrated the Sacrament of Marriage with them in a very simple ceremony. Not long afterwards they left for Australia and settled there. All of this was recorded in registers and, as a result, this set off a chain of events whereby the groom in question, who had been adopted as a child, was traced by a sister that he never knew he had, and they were able to be brought together with great joy for all concerned, thanks to registers.
As ever, protect yourselves, your loved ones, and others - and protect Christ in your lives.