LIMERICK’S annual Solemn Novena is arguably “Ireland’s biggest festival of faith”, says Redemptorist rector Fr Adrian Egan.
The religious event, held in honour of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, runs over nine days, attracting thousands of people at a time to the Redemptorist Church on Mount Saint Alphonsus.
Fr Egan equates it to “own Lourdes, our own place of pilgrimage”.
“I would argue that it is Ireland’s biggest festival of faith,” said the Rector.
“If you consider - if there was any other event, a concert for example, that was bringing 1000 ten times a day to a venue for nine days, it would make headlines.
“It is huge. There is a lot of organisation and planning, even just the practicalities of filling and emptying the car park every hour and a half.
“It is like a well oiled machine now, we have huge numbers of volunteers and a lot of people give huge time and commitment. Lay people take holidays to come and help out,” he added.
Preachers from all over Ireland and one from the Carribean island of Dominica, Fr Peter Hill, are taking part in the community prayer event.
A key aspect of it is that it is held in a spirit of openness, welcoming those no matter how strong or weak their faith.
“It is something that people set their mind to every year,” said Fr Egan.
“They feel this is a way of keeping connected, of keeping grounded with the meaning of their lives and keeping in touch with something greater than themselves.
“There is a great strong community sense at the novena as well. You don’t find that very often with the quick pace of life today.
“We say that very clearly, we make no judgement, no matter who anybody is, where they are coming from, how long it has been since they saw the inside of a church, they are more than welcome.
“That is a strong part, that sense that everybody is welcome.”
Last Sunday over 1000 babies received a blessing at the Children’s Novena, while 800 primary school children attended a service earlier this week.
The Novena runs until Saturday, with confessions and counselling available every day. A mass for the sick and infirm takes place this Saturday at 11.30am. See www.novena.ie.