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Tens of thousands of visitors to Clonard enjoyed a `most reflective Novena'

The last day of the Clonard Novena Picture Mal McCann.
Marie Louise McConville

THE more than 100,000 visitors who attended this year's Clonard Novena experienced a "real sense of us holding each other in prayerful solidarity".

As the popular nine-day festival of faith - held in honour of Our Lady of Perpetual Help - drew to a close yesterday, organisers said it had been "the most reflective" to date.

The daily sessions drew visitors from all over Ireland and this year, history was made as a woman took to the altar as a resident preacher for the first time.

From Newfoundland in Canada, Anne Walsh, who has more than 30 years' experience with the Redemptorist Lay Community, has worked as a catechist and director of adult faith formation at parish, school board and diocesan levels.

She was one of four resident preachers, alongside Fr Michael Kelleher, Fr Brendan Kelly and Fr Michael Brehl, the Superior General of the Redemptorists worldwide, who spoke during sessions.

Fr Noel Kehoe, church rector, said there had been a "hugely positive" response to Anne's preaching and her "warm and kind presence".

He said those attending this year's Novena went on a "very powerful journey" and were "guided through that by four preachers who really inspired people and comforted and brought healing to people but also really challenged us".

"It was a wonderful Novena," said Fr Kehoe

"Our numbers held, if not went up slightly. Another highlight was the inter-church day. Preachers that came were very well received, their message was very well received and all of them went away feeling in awe of the faith of the people."

Fr Kehoe thanked everyone who had played a part in making the Novena happen this year, including the more than 300 volunteers.

"As we prayed together and as we listened to petitions and thanksgivings, there was a real sense of us holding each other in prayerful solidarity and everybody felt that we were all in this together.

"It really has been the most reflective Novena. It just went like clockwork. It was Clonard at its best".

Next year's Novena will take place from June 13 to June 21.

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