Colm Barrett, Kyran Madden and Cian Donnelly from St Clement's school at the launch of the Novena Picture: Oisin McHugh/FusionShooters
‘WHEN Jesus said ‘Go out on the highways’ he meant the roads, and today that means digital highways.’
That’s the modern interpretation of Jesus’s message by Fr Seamus Enright, rector of the Redemptorists at Mount St Alphonsus in Limerick city, as he prepares to welcome crowds of up to 10,000 a day to the church.
Pilgrimages by the faithful to Knock and Lourdes are regularly exalted, but Fr Enright is continuing to spread the word and advertise their presence – increasingly on social media forums such as Facebook and Twitter – about their own ‘festival of faith’, which begins on Friday week, June 17.
A landmark event in the local religious calendar, the novena, running until Saturday, June 25, draws crowds from across Limerick and the Mid-West to the Redemptorist church at Mount St Alphonsus, regarded as perhaps ‘the most beautiful church in the city’.
Over the coming three years, over €500,000 will be invested in the church, while one of its shrines is currently undergoing an upgrade thanks to a generous donor.
Restoration has now begun on the Sacred Heart shrine, which was built 140 years ago this November, by Randal Hodkinson ecclesiastical decorators, who have an archive of how the church looked at every stage of its development.
Some €250,000 is needed to repair the external fabric of the church, and the church organ, which is in major disrepair, requires some €300,000 in investment.
The Redemptorists will continue to celebrate 150 years of devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help at this year’s novenas in Esker, county Galway, Clonard Monastery in Belfast and Mount St Alphonsus in Limerick.
“The combined novenas are one of the most significant and well-attended religious events in the country with a combined footfall of about 250,000 people,” highlighed Fr Enright.
The Pilgrim Icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help – having visited all 26 Catholic Cathedrals – will return to Limerick for the last three days of this year’s novena.
While the Icon’s official tour of the country has now concluded, it was also taken to Limerick Prison, and it will be brought to Mountjoy on August 21, and to Castlerea Prison at a later date.
“Even though pilgrimage is officially finished, we couldn't say no to go to a prison, because no matter they [the prisoners] have done they still come within our ambit,” he added.
The novena this year will focus on the Icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and the theme of the preaching will be Mary, Icon of God’s Mercy.
Each day the church will focus on an aspect of the Icon. Examples of the daily themes are Mercy is the Language of God, With the Lord there is Mercy and Redemption (the motto of the Redemptorists), Mercy for those who are Hurting and Mercy on the Margins.
There will be a Holy Door of Mercy in Mount St Alphonsus for the nine days of the Novena.
Traditionally pilgrims had to go to Rome to celebrate a Holy Year – symbolised by walking through the Holy Door – but Pope Francis has decided that people can celebrate the Holy Year in their local Cathedrals or other churches designated by the local bishop.
Among the preachers at this year's novena will be Fr Derek Ryan, who is returning from the Redemptorists' new mission in a very remote part of northern Mozambique, where he has been for two years, as well as lay missioners Sarah Kenwright and Niamh O'Neill, and Fr Derek Ryan.
As usual the first Novema time is at 7am, followed by 8am, 10am, 11.30am, 1.10pm, 4.30pm, 6pm, 7.30pm, 9pm, and 10.30pm.
Fr Enright said that Bishop Brendan Leahy has kindly agreed that they can have a Holy Door in Mount St Alphonsus during the Novena.
“There are no unforgivable sins because, as God sees it, there are no unlovable people,” said Fr Enright.
Among the regular Novena events will be:
The Blessing of Babies and Young Children on Sunday, June 19, 4.30pm
The Novena Celebration for First Communion Classes on Monday, June 20, 11.30 am; The celebration for the Sick and Infirm on Saturday, June 25, 11.30am
Priests will be available to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation every day except Sunday, June 19.
There will be a free, drop-in Counselling Service in a caravan outside the church from Monday, June 20 to Friday, June 25 from 10.45am to 1.15pm and from 5pm to 9pm. The Novena will be broadcast on www.novena.ie