VERY Reverend Canon Gerard Tartaglia has reached out to the young people in his local Whitecrook congregations to tell them they are “loved and still a part of the church community”.

He issued the message as the Catholic Church revealed it will likely be 2021 before parishes reopen.

Fr Tartaglia, parish priest at St Margaret’s and Our Holy Redeemer churches, told the Post the churches have been sending care packages to young people who are feeling isolated and are struggling with their mental health during lockdown. Special efforts have also been made to stay connection to the elderly and vulnerable.

Fr Tartaglia, who is also director of the Youth Office in the Archdiocese of Glasgow, said: “Unfortunately, it seems we will be in this lockdown for several months yet and we will continue to connect in meaningful ways and remind people that they are loved and still able to connect with God and feel involved in the parish.”

St Margaret’s Church normally holds a Friday night youth club that’s been running for decades.

Since lockdown, the Youth Ministry has been hosting online video conferencing sessions and continued its popular Harry Potter club in a virtual forum.

Fr Tartaglia said he has been made aware by local Catholic schools that many children find it difficult to engage with online platforms and some will not have access to smart devices.

With these obstacles in mind, they have been distributing care packages to youngsters who have been isolating.

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These packages include books, arts and crafts, treats and a letter from the parish. The letter, Fr. Tartaglia hopes, will let them know they are loved.

He said: “A lot of youngsters’ mental health will have been impacted by lockdown, without the ability to socialise and potentially without any of the gadgets we would normally use to keep in touch.

“Some children struggle in school to engage on Google classrooms and the sorts, so they might not feel confident using Zoom and other kids don’t like being on screen so these are barriers the youth group worked hard to overcome.

“The care packages are an alternative, we want the youngsters to know they are not abandoned, forgotten or isolated. They are loved, connected and still a part of the church community.

“I hope the packages delivered to the kids helped them both mentally and spiritually.”

As the Catholic Church revealed last week that they do not expect church services and additional social and spiritual events to return to normality until next year, Ft Tartaglia has been working to ensure the sick and housebound remain a key part of their community.

He said: “This is a hard and testing time for the church as we have tried to adapt and help our elderly and vulnerable to adapt too.

“We upload videos of the mass to our Facebook page for St Margaret’s and the engagement has been promising, with elderly people now able to log on and watch as well as families and housebound people.

“Where members of the clergy would usually visit the sick and elderly, we have been phoning instead, and if anyone needs support financially or socially we have been referring them to Centre81 which is our local hub.

“I know a number of other parishes have been active on Facebook and the likes.

“We hope this has allowed people to continue to connect spiritually and socially and although in isolation, hopefully they will feel loved and not alone.”