Dublin's Catholic Archbishop has agreed to postpone First Holy Communions in the diocese for another month but, having cancelled their ceremony four times already, the parents of Trinity Lee (10) from Lucan, Co Dublin, decided "we had enough" and organised their own service.
Gavin and Michelle Lee said many parents share their frustration at the restrictions, believing the Government is "leaving kids until last" in terms of easing the rules of gatherings.
“Trinity was supposed to make it in May last year. It’s been cancelled four times and her grandad passed away with Covid in January.
"He would have been here to see her make her Communion but that didn't happen which is very sad," Mr Lee told The Irish Times.
“I went to a local church and had a chat with a priest and said I was looking to get a Communion for my daughter and he said, ‘No problem’. It’s only a Mass, she had her first Confession last year.
“The priest asked how many would be coming and I said between five and six; my wife, my son, Trinity and two grandparents.
“He doesn’t acknowledge the complete blessing, it is a Mass but she received Holy Communion for the first time. I believe a lot of parents and children have done it within the last four or five weeks within the same church.”
The Government’s current Covid-19 guidelines advise that religious ceremonies such as First Holy Communions and Confirmations “should not take place at this time”.
The Government said on Friday it “hopes to see those restrictions lifted in September” subject to the public health situation at the time.
A number of Catholic bishops have already given the go-ahead for Communions and Confirmations to take place in their dioceses later this month in defiance of the guidelines. Archbishop of Dublin Dermot Farrell reiterated his advice to Dublin parishes on Saturday evening to wait until September before restarting such sacramental services.
Speaking at Vigil Mass at St Mary’s Pro Cathedral in Dublin, he said: “I can understand, however, the frustration and the resentment of those who feel that the public guidelines are unfair and discriminatory.”
Mr Lee said they had originally booked a private room at the Trinity Capital Hotel for about 25 people for May 2020 but instead had dinner there with Trinity's grandparents to mark the occasion.
“We were delighted to get it done,” Mr Lee added. “We were never going to have a huge party, probably 20 would have turned up. For me, that’s not a big number, it would have been just close family and friends.
‘Lack of respect’
“Myself and my family have respected the Covid-19 guidelines throughout the whole pandemic. I understand some parties can get out of control but we’re not all children. All of our family members are vaccinated. It’s a lack of respect from the Government for the kids themselves, leaving them until last . . . We have no regrets with what we did.”
Ms Lee said while her daughter was sad she couldn’t celebrate the day with her friends, she was outgrowing the Communion dress they had bought and had already outgrown two pairs of shoes.
“They’ve gone ahead with all these other functions and it just seems like they’ve put the church on the long finger here. All these kids have a right to have their day. There’s such a backlog that needs to be addressed,” she said.
“They have to trust parents that they’re not going to go crazy with parties, which we didn’t.”
Mr Lee said learning of the outdoor function for about 50 people hosted by former minister Katherine Zappone in Dublin's Merrion Hotel and attended by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, was "just another slap in the face to the Joe Bloggs of Ireland".
“We basically had enough,” Mr Lee said. “It’s a case of the unknowns with the Government, they’ve left Communions and Confirmations until last.
“Nothing is confirmed, it’s still very murky water. If the numbers do increase they [Communions and Confirmations] mightn’t go ahead.”