Hundreds attended the first day of the annual Clonard Novena in west Belfast with thousands expected over the next nine days.
Held in honour of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, the Novena consists of six sessions each day between Wednesday and June 22.
Solemn Novena in honour of our Mother of Perpetual Help— Clonard Monastery (@ClonardMBelfast) June 13, 2023
You are very welcome to join us each day for this Novena beginning tomorrow 14th. You can access us on https://t.co/zEOpQcNplC and go to the webcam. The details are on the website. God bless you.
The special nine days of prayers and petitions bring together the faithful from far and wide.
“Every year we come up from Lurgan, and then we walk from the train station to the monastery. We wouldn’t miss it. There’s a lovely atmosphere and the choir is beautiful. It’s lovely to be a part of something big and you feel really good after," said one attendee.
On one of the hottest days of the year, with temperatures of around 24 degrees, many gathered outside the monastery, sitting in the sunshine whilst listening to the third session of the day through outdoor speakers.
“It’s very lucky that we are starting off the novena with such warm weather,” said Fr Brendan Kelly, who was appointed Rector in May.
Experiencing his first novena since he took on the role, he said: “It is a huge event with a large team behind the scenes. It is a very important event in the local community where everyone can come together to celebrate their faith in a safe space.”
Although some of those attending the event were still wearing masks, this was the first year that the Novena was covid restriction free.
“For those who annually attend the Novena to celebrate their faith by coming together, it will mean a lot to them that it is back to what it was like pre-covid.” Said Fr Kelly.
With the theme of this year's Novena, ‘Towards a New Vision of Church’, girls from St Dominic’s Grammar School welcomed people on their way in.
“It’s good to see the teenagers and those in their 20’s coming to this, it gives you a bit of hope.” Said parishioner Nula O’Connor, who was accompanied by her dog Buster.
Buster has become a Novena regular over the years.
“We come every year and Buster has his own seat and he knows it. If anyone’s ever sitting in it he’ll sit and wait for them to get up.”
“He is very well behaved but he’s not fussed on the singing. I tried to take him into the monastery once and he started growling when the choir started.”
This Saturday, there will be a Special Blessing of the Sick taking place at all masses this Saturday and an evening a youth session with Mass is to be held at 8pm on Sunday.
Inter-Church Day will take place on Monday June 19.