By Susan Gately - 23 February, 2019
Over three and a half thousand people are expected to attend the 2019 Divine Mercy Conference this weekend at the RDS.
Conference chairman Don Devaney said the event was an opportunity for Catholics to come together and to support and validate each other. “One woman said to me, ‘It’s a spiritual fill-up – you’ve got Adoration, Confession, Mass, speakers’.”
The event kicked off on Friday night with a special evening devoted to young people. It included a talk by guest speaker Fr Hayden Williams, a healing service, Adoration, Confession and music.
“It is important to do outreach to young people because not only are they the future of the Church, they are also the present. We want to encourage and give them leadership opportunities,” Mr Devaney told CatholicIreland.net.
This is the third year the conference has dedicated an evening to young people, and the numbers are growing each year. Last year around 200 young adults attended the Friday evening session.
The purpose of the Divine Mercy Conference, according to Mr Devaney, is to tell Ireland about the mercy of God, incarnating the message given to Sister Faustina. Now in its 28th year, he believes its enduring popularity is because it addresses a need in people – to recognise that “God’s mercy is loving kindness”.
“People are wounded, are hurting. They come to Divine Mercy to receive God’s healing,” he said. “For a lot of people, the biggest issue is forgiving themselves.”
For him, one of the most powerful sights of the weekend is the Saturday afternoon reconciliation service. “To see 3,500 people going to confession is a sight to behold. You can see the difference between before the ceremony starts and when it finishes – it is like a weight is lifted off the whole auditorium.”
Buses come from all major Irish cities to the conference. Through the live stream on the conference website, its outreach is extending worldwide. “When we started live streaming we began getting emails from Africa, the Philippines and India saying they were gathering in church halls and community centres to follow the conference. It’s been an amazing success worldwide.”
Among those set to address the conference today are Fr Hayden Williams, OFM, and Fr Eunan McDonnell, provincial of the Salesian Order in Ireland and Malta, who took over the running of St Catherine’s House in Maynooth following the death of the much-loved Salesian priest Fr Michael Ross, SDB.
Fr Williams, a Capuchin, established the Franciscan Apostles of Jesus and Mary in 2010, a fraternity of young men who live on providence and are dedicated to Jesus and the new evangelisation in the power of the Holy Spirit. Alongside this fraternity, the Franciscan Disciples have been born.
A surprise addition to the conference programme is Fr Pat Collins C.M., who will speak at 12.40 on Sunday. Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin will be the chief celebrant at the Mass this afternoon at 5pm. The chief celebrant at tomorrow’s 3.25pm Mass will be Papal Nuncio to Ireland, Archbishop Thaddeus Jude Okolo.
This year’s conference theme is “Let us not be put to the test.” This is Pope Francis’s new translation of the line “Lead us not into temptation” from the Our Father.
“In 2014, we went through a period of starting again and getting back to the important stuff, so we said let’s start with Our Father, taking a line year by year and that is what we have done,” explained Mr Devaney.
Next year’s theme will be the final line of the Our Father: “Deliver us from evil.”