Columban Fathers closes grounds to protect elderly priest community

The home of the Missionary Columban Fathers in Ireland has closed its scenic grounds to the public in order to protect its vulnerable and elderly Priest population during the Covid-19 outbreak.
Columban Fathers closes grounds to protect elderly priest community

The home of the Missionary Columban Fathers in Ireland has closed its scenic grounds to the public in order to protect its vulnerable and elderly Priest population during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Dalgan Park, outside Navan, Co. Meath is a hugely popular spot and the grounds are walked by thousands of visitors each year.

However this week, the grounds were closed by the Columban's Regional Director in Ireland, Fr Ray Husband because of the lack of social distancing being observed by the crowds who packed the site.

"We were trying to keep the grounds open for people but last week I got completely stressed out because of the crowds. There were cars parked everywhere and no-one was observing social distancing. It was out of control and dangerous.

"We understand the need for families, especially with young children to get out and run around but we had to close it for the health of both the public and for ourselves.

"We have 48 retired priests in Dalgan Park and their average age is 80. There are a further 24 Priests in the adjoining nursing home, many of whom are in their 90s. So they are all at risk and very vulnerable.

"Covid-19 is a big word and we have put all the measures in place here of social distancing in the chapel and the dining room.

"The nursing home is in complete lockdown. No family or friends or residents are allowed to visit and all the exits are closed.

"As well as our brilliant staff, we have four Priests, including myself who are only allowed in to service the spiritual and pschological needs of these priests.

"These Priests worked as Missionaries in places like Pakistan, Korea, Japan, Fiji and the Philippines.

"We've all seen extreme poverty and worked through earthquakes and outbreaks of disease such as Cholera and Typhoid but we've never experienced anything like this.

"There are still 80 Irish Columban Priests abroad in countries like China, the Philippines, Peru, Chile, Pakistan and Myanmar. Many of the countries are now in lockdown but all Priests are fine.

"There is very little we can do here but pray for everyone and that is something we are good at!

"Each night we have a Holy Hour and pray for our frontline workers in healthcare and retail as well as staff, family and friends."

Columban's Regional Director in Ireland,  Fr Ray Husband
Columban's Regional Director in Ireland, Fr Ray Husband

It's our way of contributing and we will welcome the public back to share in the beauty of our grounds at Dalgan when all this is over," he said

The Columban Fathers moved its headquarters from Galway to Meath in 1927 and built a college at Dalgan in 1938

Today it is a missionary centre and home of the 'Far East' magazine. It is also a retirement home for its members.

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