Last week the number of Masses in the parish was reduced as Monsignor Goold and I attended a Diocesan Conference for priests and deacons. About 50 of us gathered in a hotel in Killarney from noon on Tuesday to noon on Wednesday. Topics on Tuesday included a reflection on the past 18 months and how it had affected us personally as well as how it affected our parishes. We also had input in a workshop on working with young people, a meeting with sculptor with Ken Thompson, who told us his life story and reflected on art and religion, and a session with Fr Eamon Fitzgibbon from Limerick diocese on the Synodal Process which Pope Francis has invited the church to undertake over the next number of years. (We will hear more about this over the next few years.) Tuesday concluded with a concelebrated Mass followed by a conference dinner and informal discussions later in the evening. On Wednesday we heard from Gerard Howlin, journalist and former political advisor. Gerard reflected on how the identification between the Catholic Church and the state has now ended, and how important it is that the church maintain the sense of mystery to offer to the world. For our final session the priests and deacons gathered in small group sessions and were asked to feedback their reactions to the gathering and to where we are now. The overwhelming response, in spite of our personal weaknesses and vulnerabilities and the difficulties and challenges we have faced and will face, was that of hope. Asked to define hope in one word, Gerard Howlin simply replied ‘God.’ I am grateful to Fr Hehir for looking after the parish duties for us during those days.