Driving the novena bus! Fr Seamus Enright, Sgt Kevin Balfe, bus driver Eamonn O' Sullivan, and Teresa Delaney, at the launch of Novena 2017 Picture: Michael Cowhey
THIS YEAR’s Novena celebrations in Limerick city centre will form part of major preparations for a triennial Catholic Church event in Dublin, which it is hoped Pope Francis will visit.
From June 16 to June 24, up to 100,000 people from across the Mid-West will visit the Redemptorist Church for the annual week-long religious festival.
The June festival of faith — the largest religious celebration in the Mid-West — has been described as the “Munster final of religion” in Limerick, and will look at marriage and the role of family life in modern society, explained Redemptorist rector, Fr Seamus Enright.
Speaking ahead of their digital promotion campaign this weekend, Fr Enright said that the focus will be on family life, as a way of preparing for the World Meeting of Families event in the capital city, in August 2018. It is hoped that there will be a papal visit at the event.
This three-day occasion, which takes place once every three years, aims to promote the pastoral care of families, and has been hosted so far in Italy, Spain, Brazil, the Phillipines, and Mexico.
Commenting on this year’s theme, Fr Enright said this week: “I think family life has changed hugely. I think, pastorally, it is more challenging because we have to deal with families that can come in all shapes and sizes.
“There were always challenges in family life. But in my youth, there was a more single model of family. There was always variety, but there is a lot more variety now.”
The Mount St Alphonsus priest added: “The definition of family isn’t as simple as it was in the past. As well as married couples, there are couples who are living together, lone parents, couples who are divorced and remarried, same sex couples, single people living on their own, and so on. And this variety of family combinations brings a lot of challenges.”
In recent years, the Redemptorists have made a conscious effort to attract the younger generations to celebrate the novena. He said that, in the two weeks leading up to the novena, fellow Redemptorists and lay people have preached at more than 40 churches in 27 parishes across the city and county, in order to promote the novena.
This is on top of the novena’s biggest marketing campaign to date, where they have a billboard-sized advert on a double-decker bus passing through the city. This Friday, the annual Kilmallock Solemn Novena to Our Lady of Help will commence in Kilmallock Church at 10pm. This community-driven celebration will finish the day after the city centre event starts, on June 17.
Fr Gerard O’Leary said that there will be a variety of themes discussed by a number of speakers.
He said that it is a great time for the people in Kilmallock to reunite and come together. “Especially now with the exams on, as it coincides with them [students] starting. And you would find people coming for their grandchildren and their children. It is a totally different identity to the novena in Mount St Alphonsus, as this is a more community affair.”