By Ann Marie Foley - 26 February, 2015
YouTube singing priest sensation, Fr Ray Kelly and the renowned composer and singer, Fr Liam Lawton, will be among the guests participating at the Portlaoise Solemn Novena to Our Lady of Perpetual Help this year.
Bishop Denis Nulty of Kildare & Leighlin will celebrate the concluding Mass of the nine day novena.
Other speakers will relate their experiences dealing with addiction and battling with cancer.
There will be four Masses every day for nine days in the parish church and a school novena Mass at noon.
The Sacrament of Penance will be available on one particular day when priests will make themselves available from 6am to 12 midnight.
“The Novena is a traditional catholic format for praying. It lends itself very well into the season of Lent where we would notice a massive increase of people involved in certain practices to [help] grow [their] faith and renew their own faith commitment,” Fr Paddy Byrne told Catholicireland.net.
“We are also focusing on the Lent penance exercises. We are very conscious of what the Holy Father is asking us to do in terms of providing opportunities for people to avail of this very important sacrament. We have invited priests to come on Friday 6 March,” he said.
This year’s novena is special because it coincides with the 50th anniversary of the parish church of Sts Peter and Paul, which according to Fr Byrne, is “iconic in the life of the people of Portlaoise”.
It can facilitate large numbers for parish worship and there ‘a great sense of ownership’ by the people of Portlaoise.
On Monday 2 March, the Novena Mass at midnight will be a celebration for couples who were married in the church over the last 50 years and all are welcome.
Also this year the parish will see a change to the popular novena, with nine consecutive days this year instead of the nine weeks of previous years.
John Bruton, former Taoiseach is a speaker as is Brenda Drumm, who is well known for her work with in Catholic Communications, but who will speak about her own personal battle against cancer. Robert Parker will speak about his experience of recovery from addiction.
“He is giving a great testimony of hope,” said Fr Paddy Byrne. “It is important to have speakers who will not just talk the talk but walk the walk as well.”
TV and radio personality, Hector O’hEochagain returns this year and local rapper Wally O’Loughlin will also put in an appearance.
The parish has issued the invitation to for people to come and “give thanks for a faith community that is dynamic, alive and very active”.
At the time of going to print and several days before the Novena began, some 5,000 petitions for prayers had already been handed in.
The Novena runs from Saturday 28 February to Sunday 8 March.