Clonard Monastery to stage 'Novena on the streets'
THE Clonard Novena is to take to the streets of west Belfast next week.
The "Novena on the streets" will see pilgrims gather at 7pm each night for prayer and the offering of petitions around an icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.
It will begin on Sunday at Poleglass roundabout and also visit the Andersonstown Road, Oakman Street and Bombay Street before finishing on Wednesday evening with prayer vigils in New Barnsley and Albert Street.
Fr Noel Kehoe, rector of Clonard Monastery, told The Irish News the initiative was an extension of its hugely popular week-long novena in June, which attracts thousands of people to west Belfast.
"Pope Francis has talked about the need for the church to be on the streets, and we want to bring this out onto the streets," he said.
"There are a lot of challenges facing families; there has been a lot of drugs and anti-social behaviour affecting different parts of our community.
"We have tried to take in the broad west Belfast area, and it was about looking at strategic meeting points for people.
"There are different things associated with them and different tragedies that happened there."
The priest said the tour of west Belfast is part of a national pilgrimage of an icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help which was blessed by the Pope and is currently touring Ireland.
The jubilee pilgrimage, which has seen the icon travel around the island aboard what Fr Kehoe called the 'Mary mobile', is marking 150 years of Redemptorist devotion.
A procession will also be held along the Falls Road on Saturday May 14 following 10am Mass in St Peter's Cathedral, with pilgrims bringing the icon to Clonard.
Fr Kehoe said: "There are two things going on, which are inter-related. This initiative is coming out of Clonard. We commissioned five project icons this year.
"People could come in and take the icon to their homes and then return it. It quickly became huge and has been booked up until next year."
Clonard Monastery will celebrate a family fun day following the arrival of the icon on May 14, when it will also travel to Stormont as part of a "prayer for the new Assembly".
After a visit to several nursing homes in west Belfast, it will return to Clonard for an all-night vigil through to Sunday.
The icon will go to the Adoration Convent on the Falls Road before leaving Belfast for the final time after 12.30pm Mass at Clonard.
Fr Kehoe said that the scale of the response to the icon had been huge.
"We have tapped in here to a real need in people's lives for a spiritual dimension.
"We have been shocked at the response, which has baffled even Redemptorists. Places have come to a standstill down south with people young and old coming out."