Fr John Kenny has found a new fun way of “being church” during the coronavirus pandemic.
After saying Mass the parish priest of Partry, Co Mayo, heads off for his elevenses that he broadcasts live on Facebook.
All dressed up as Downton Abbey's Mr Carson, and with a cardboard cut-out of Mrs Doyle in tow he spends about a half an hour being silly.
“At 10 o'clock I have my regular Mass time and people can tune in for that. But then, I reach out to people who are not as religiously engaged through Facebook,” said Fr Kenny.
The priest, who grew up on a small farm in Tooreen, Co Mayo, has always sought to find new ways of trying to meet people “where they were at”.
So it is no surprise that he is now using social media to reach out to people who cannot come to the church because of the public health emergency.
Now in his mid-50s, Fr Kenny admits to being a bit of a “Fr Trendy” when he was ordained a priest just over 30 years ago.
“When I first started out I was trendy and all that; going to discos and the night club in Castlebar back in the 1980s,” he said.
“My philosophy, if you like, would involve trying to meet people so far I could where they're at, as opposed to where I'm at.
“So if people can't come to church and liturgies, I made the extra effort to meet people out and about, whether that's the side of a football pitch or a dance hall; not so much nightclubs now.”
Fr Kenny's elevenses on Facebook are about fun, faith, reflection, and food.
“Some people just observe it as fun but for those who wait around it's a bit of faith reflection,” he said.
Fr Kenny intended having his elevenses on Facebook just for Holy Week when it was based on the beloved Fr Ted sitcom.
Fr Kenny said there were only the two of them because the rest of the people who live at Downtown Abbey had gone off to their country residence.
He wanted to provide a bit of light relief for people who were finding the going tough at this time.
“I am not trying to belittle the seriousness of the situation; we are all going through but there are enough people dealing with the serious side and I want to be a little bit different.”
On one foggy day in his role as Mr Carson Fr Kenny used the weather as a backdrop to speak about how everyone was feeling a bit lost because of Covid-19 had arrived in Ireland.
There's fun at the start; the message is in the middle and there is a bit of fun again at the end. The core message is very tightly packed but I think it is what everyone wants to hear.
Fr Kenny feels that at this time people feel very cut off from their churches and he wants them to give them an excuse to visit his Facebook page.
“They have an excuse to look at it with their children because it is all very childlike.
“I did take up some bleach and say that the house has to use it regularly but don't let presidents of the US use it, but that was a message for the adults.”