Homily Notes of Most Rev. Dermot Farrell Archbishop of Dublin
Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, Sean McDermott Street, Monday 1st March 2021
The parish of Our Lady of Lourdes knows more than most the importance of the Family Support Network. Since the 1980s, the families of this parish have lived with the burden of drug addiction. They understand that the problems caused by addiction to illegal drugs are not limited to the drug user. The burden falls on the wider family.
Never was this burden greater than in these unparalleled times. While Covid-19 has changed the way we live, socialise, and move around our community, it is not a barrier to the scourge of drug addiction. The families of Our Lady of Lourdes parish, and indeed many of our parishes, have lived with this heavy burden, and have grown together in building an unshakeable community spirit. Many mothers and fathers have had to walk the lonely road of being profoundly affected by a loved one’s addiction. Communities have shed tears together watching a mother bury her son, a father saying goodbye to his little girl, a teenager losing their only friend to the same drugs that has ruined their lives and wondering, “will I be the next victim?” Today we think of those whose lives have been snatched away by those who prey on their vulnerability. We give hope to the orphans of drugs, the grieving parents and all those carrying the burden.
This past year has seen a record number of drug seizures despite the coronavirus (Lally, 2020). During the pandemic life for those in addiction has been extremely difficult when services across the country have been restricted at this time. Social isolation and increased hardship from job losses is having a negative impact on the mental health of many addicts. For those in addiction it is just another hurdle placed in front of them, but for families it can feel like a never-ending road of suffering.
While services are restricted, never were supports in our communities, like the Family Support Network, more needed. Families living with the weight of a loved one in addiction also need support and connection. Violence has become routine and local communities are numbed. We cannot allow the destruction of lives to become normal. The intimidation of families caused by drug-related debt must end; people being intimidated and threatened is part of the daily life in many communities.
I would encourage all families to reach out to the Family Support Network who have experience in supporting families who find themselves in this situation. This virtual gathering represents hope for all those struggling with the drug problematic. It gives the opportunity to connect with each other at a time when we are encouraged to keep our distance. We can use it as a reminder to reach out in a safe way, to talk to someone or offer support. During the pandemic those in addiction are at increased risk of illness from COVID-19, and also at increased risk of overdose if contracting the coronavirus (Drugs.ie, 2020).
The women and men who suffer most from the illegal use of drugs are those who come socially deprived communities. We cannot think of the solution to the problematic of drugs only in terms of the traffickers of death who produce, distribute, or sell addictive substances, but I believe we need a more strategic approach to the problem which must view it as a social issue, a human problem. As communities mourn their dead, heal those scarred by drugs and hold drug barons and their acolytes accountable, a more coordinated holistic examination of our dysfunctions—spiritual, emotional, social, mental health and stigmatisation—an educational approach and an early intervention policy is still desperately needed.
I would like to thank Sadie Grace for using her remarkable talents and skills to help guide the service, and the support she and her team of staff and volunteers have given. I would like to wish you well for the future. I am sure you will be sadly missed, but you are leaving behind a great team to continue the invaluable and necessary work.
I also take this opportunity to remember the Venerable Matt Talbot whose remains are interred here in Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Sean McDermott Street. Lord, in your servant, Matt Talbot you have given us a wonderful example of triumph over addiction. We ask that all our families feel your love and support in their time of need. Help bring peace to those who have lost loved ones at a time when we have not been able to grieve, when we struggled to say goodbye, could not shake hands or hug our loved ones, could not share stories or celebrate their lives.