By Sean Ryan - 11 June, 2017
One of the biggest novenas to take place in Munster will this year focus on the family, it has been announced. Over 100,000 are expected to attend the Limerick Novena, which will run this year from 16 to 24 June at St Alphonsus’ Redemptorist Church on the South Circular Road in the city.
Speaking about the novena to the Limerick Leader newspaper, Redemptorist Fr Seamus Enright said that the focus of this year’s novena will be on family life, as a way of preparing for the World Meeting of Families event in Dublin in August 2018, when Pope Francis is expected to visit Ireland.
Fr Enright said, “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.”
He continued: “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.”
With falling numbers attending the Limerick Novena, it was decided in 2014 to embark on a new marketing campaign focusing on digital media. And it’s working. When the novena commenced in 1973, more than 30,000 attended each day, and marquees had to be erected near the church to hold worshippers. After years of falling numbers, attendances at the ten daily sessions are now on the increase.
This year’s marketing campaign sees a billboard advertising campaign on a double decker bus passing through the city. In the lead-up to the novena, Redemptorists and lay people have preached at more than 40 churches in 27 parishes across the city and county in order to promote it.
The theme of this year’s novena is ‘Home isn’t a Place, It’s You and Me’. The preachers are Laurence Gallagher C.Ss.R, Ciarán O’Callaghan C.Ss.R, Brendan O’Rourke C.Ss.R and Tadgh Herbert C.Ss.R. There are ten sessions each day, at 7 am, 8 am, 10 am, 11.30 am, 1.10 pm, 4.30 pm, 6 pm, 7.30 pm, 9 pm and 10.30 pm.
There will be the traditional novena highlights – the special session for the sick and elderly on Saturday 24 June, the blessing of babies and children on the afternoon of Sunday 18 June, and a celebration for First Communion classes on Monday 19 June, at 11.30 am.
The 10.30 pm session each evening will have a more reflective atmosphere through the use of Taizé music and candlelight, and is especially popular with younger people.
According to Fr Enright, a key ingredient of the novena is the opportunity to write out prayers of petition and thanksgiving. “A novena session is never just a collection of individuals at prayer,” he says. “It is a community at prayer, the church in prayer. In a real sense, it is we the people. Everyone is welcome and everyone is included.”
On Saturday 24 June, to allow for the Mass for the Elderly, Sick and Infirm, there will be no 10 am or 1.10 pm novena; instead there will be a 9.30 am and 1.30 pm novena.
The novena will be live streamed on www.novena.ie. See also Facebook @redemptoristslimerick or Twitter @RedsLimerick.