Capuchins open church to diners as demand for food parcels soars 25%

Maybe it’s the bread of heaven, maybe it’s just a sandwich . Either way, the sound coming from the pews in St Mary’s of the Angels in central Dublin belongs to a different type of lunchbreak.
Capuchins open church to diners as demand for food parcels soars 25%
People who received takeaway lunch from the Capuchin Day Centre observing social distancing in the pews at the St Mary of the Angels Church, Dublin. Picture: Collins

Maybe it’s the bread of heaven, maybe it’s just a sandwich . Either way, the sound coming from the pews in St Mary’s of the Angels in central Dublin belongs to a different type of lunchbreak.

The Covid-19 pandemic has meant churches around the country are empty, with even funerals attended by the celebrants alone, but at the Capuchin Friary on Church St, the doors have been thrown open for people availing of much-needed food parcels.

The Capuchin Day Centre, run by Br Kevin Crowley, has had to close its usual in-house food services, so takeaway dinners are now the order of the day.

According to the manager of the day centre, Alan Bailey, there has already been a near-25% increase in the number of people seeking food parcels.

As to where recipients can take their meals, that’s where Br Terence Harrington comes in.

He has allowed the church around the corner from the day centre to open for lunch, while ensuring it is scrupulously cleaned and fumigated, monitored by staff, and with social spacing in place.

Diners in the Capuchin Day Centre observing social distancing in the pews at the St Mary of the Angels Church, Dublin.  	Picture: Collins
Diners in the Capuchin Day Centre observing social distancing in the pews at the St Mary of the Angels Church, Dublin. Picture: Collins

“We had to close the day centre owned by Br Kevin on the advice of the HSE and obviously the homeless have to be fed, so we decided to give a takeaway to them,” he said.

“They can have breakfast and dinner and then they are invited to go around to the church and there they can eat their meal.

“All the regulations are put into practice, it’s sanitised, continuously cleaned during day and you have to keep the space [between people].”

Br Harrington, originally from Castletownbere, Co Cork, is himself one of the cocooned and let it slip that he’s Padraig’s uncle. Is he handy with a golf club? “It’s all Gaelic football where I come from,” he says.

According to Alan Bailey, while the day centre began issuing around 650 dinner packages a day at the start of the outbreak, in recent weeks that number has grown to 870.

Two diners in the Capuchin Day Centre observing social distancing at the St Mary of the Angels Church, Dublin.
Two diners in the Capuchin Day Centre observing social distancing at the St Mary of the Angels Church, Dublin.

“What we find is that a lot of people don’t know where we are, we are getting a lot of calls asking ‘what do we have to do to get a dinner?’,” he said.

“Our feedback is that it is a lot are people who have never used our services before.”

The queues outside the day centre, once a stark illustration of the economic crash, are not a feature, with marks on the footpath meaning an orderly procession for anyone collecting their food parcel.

A man at the Capuchin day Centre in the pews at the St Mary of the Angels Church, Dublin
A man at the Capuchin day Centre in the pews at the St Mary of the Angels Church, Dublin

According to Mr Bailey, the public’s generosity means supply is keeping track with demand in these uncertain times: “We will keep going as long as we have to.”

And as for the ecclesiastical canteen, he said: “It really is bringing the church to the people. It’s not something we ever had before.”

The latest restrictions in operation since Friday, March 27 mandate that everyone should stay at home, only leaving to:

  • Shop for essential food and household goods;
  • Attend medical appointments, collect medicine or other health products;
  • Care for children, older people or other vulnerable people - this excludes social family visits;
  • Exercise outdoors - within 2kms of your home and only with members of your own household, keeping 2 metres distance between you and other people
  • Travel to work if you provide an essential service - be sure to practice social distancing

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