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All set for Family Picnic Day at Punchestown

By Susan Gately - 25 August, 2017

The Kildare and Leighlin Family Picnic Day on Sunday is going to be wonderful, says Bishop Denis Nulty, and “hail, rain, snow or sunshine, it is on,” he told catholicireland.net.

“I want people to come and enjoy themselves and engage with people. It’s about meeting families and supporting family life in all its aspects.” The Bishop and a committee of 12 who have been working hard preparing the picnic hope around 5,000 people will be there. “But even a couple of thousand would be super,” he said.

According to Bishop Nulty, there is a huge interest in the event which, although billed as ‘simple’, will in fact be a showcase for the Catholic Church in the diocese.

Its centrepiece will be the official opening at 3.00pm at the inner racecourse enclosure of Punchestown Racecourse, where Bishop Nulty and some families will lead prayers. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, President of the World Meeting of Families, will also be present. The opening will last about 30 minutes.

A large lorry at the racecourse enclosure will act as the stage for the afternoon event, with lots of acts running from 1.00pm till 6.00pm, including Irish soprano Celine Byrne, Country singer Derek Ryan, the diocesan choir, traditional and pipe bands, dance troupes, Liam Lawton and others – all from the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin, which covers most of Co. Carlow and parts of Kildare, Offaly, Laois, Kilkenny, Wexford and Wicklow. Pat Costello from KFM, which will be broadcasting live from the event, will act as MC for the variety show.

“Children won’t see any horse in the enclosure,” said Bishop Nulty, but there will be enough going on to keep them well entertained. Attractions at the picnic include stilt walkers, balloon artists, face painting, a pet corner, a display of UN vehicles from the defence forces and pony rides. Everything is free.”

The event is planned as part of the programme of preparation for the World Meeting of Families 2018 – an instance of “being family”.

The World Meeting of Families, the Defence Forces and Trócaire will have stands at the event. Another stand will be dedicated to the recently beatified Blessed John Sullivan SJ, where it will be possible for people to be blessed by Blessed John Sullivan’s cross. Blessed John Sullivan worked and lived at Clongowes Wood College, Kildare for many years.

“My hope is that family speaks to family,” the Bishop told catholicireland.net. “At the present time there are fewer people going to church. I’d like this to be an opportunity for families to meet families from other parishes who are involved in the Church. We are all part of the one diocese.”

Bishop Denis Nulty

The weather in the lead-up to the event has been very poor, but Bishop Nulty’s enthusiasm is not dimmed by the prospect of a miserable day on Sunday. “We do have a Plan B – where everything will be arranged indoors, but it’s better if it’s outside.”

He speaks about family groups laying out their rugs on the racecourse and having a picnic, but in fact the defence forces will be providing tables and chairs. “It’s all a bit of fun,” he said. “I’ll be walking around judging the competition for the best picnic display.” He also plans to do the two kilometre perimeter walk twice during the afternoon.

Families are encouraged to bring their own picnics, and a little extra food for sharing. “I recall as a child going on picnics to Bettystown. I don’t think it happens much now. Too much time is spent on smartphones … But I want this to be a real family day.”

The event has been widely advertised in the parishes of the diocese, so most of the attendees are expected to be churchgoing, but Bishop Nulty was keen to stress that the event was open to all. “Everyone is welcome.”

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