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Novena set to attract thousands to Knock ahead of Pope’s visit


Michael Commins

THE 41st celebration of the annual Knock Novena gets underway next Tuesday, August 14. This year’s nine day celebration of prayer provides a special time of preparation for the visit of Pope Francis to the Shrine on Sunday, August 26, as part of the World Meeting of Families in Ireland.
The theme for this year’s Novena is ‘Faith and Family’ and will draw from the key topics and themes related to Family from the teaching of Pope Francis in The Joy of Love (Amoris Laetitia).
“The daily celebrations, sermons and processions are a very important part of the Novena tradition, however in recent years we have noticed a greater desire from pilgrims for discussion, reflection and the chance to engage on contemporary Church issues,” says Fr Richard Gibbons, PP.
“The daily workshops, which are held throughout the Novena, give them the opportunity to do that. We also have a Bookshop here in the Shrine which is a wonderful resource for those that want to deepen aspects of their faith or to simply learn more about different ways of praying and other spiritual elements.
“This year’s Novena will end on high as we await the visit of His Holiness and look forward to what will be a splendid and historic day for the Shrine and the village,” says Fr Richard.
Jim Deeds, writer and broadcaster, is the speaker on the first day of the Novena on Tuesday, August 14. Jim works in pastoral ministry in the Diocese of Down and Connor with people, groups and parish communities.
August 15 is traditionally one of the biggest days of the year at Knock Shrine. The speaker will be Most Rev Michael Neary, Archbishop of Tuam.
Olive Shaughnessy, blogger and author from Loughrea, will address the workshops at 12 noon and 6pm.
Fr Stephen Farragher, Parish Priest of Ballyhaunis, will speak at both ceremonies on Thursday, August 16.  A native of The Neale, he was appointed to the teaching staff at St Jarlath’s Colllege Tuam following ordination. He served for two years as Pastoral and Youth Director at Knock Shrine. In 2011 he was appointed PP of Ballyhaunis.
Kathleen Duffy, Retreat Director and Coordinator of Children’s Liturgies, will speak at the workshops on Thursday. For the past 11 years Kathleen has been involved in the planning of the weekly Children’s Masses in St Patrick’s Church, Ballina.
The speaker at the ceremonies on Friday, August 17 is Patricia Coyle, Director Jesuit Communications Ireland. She is originally from Derry but has spent a large part of her life in Dublin where she studied Philosophy and English in UCD. She was a lecturer in philosophy before joining the BBC in Belfast in 1988, when she started a new career in journalism.
Most Rev Alan McGuckian, Bishop of Raphoe, will address the congregations on Saturday, August 18. He is a native of Cloughmills, Co Antrim.
The Rev Kevin Doran, Bishop of Elphin, a native of Dun Laoghaire, is the speaker at the 3pm ceremony on Sunday, August 19. He has spent most of his working life as a priest in Dublin and Wicklow before being appointed Bishop of Elphin in July 2014.
Fr Michael Conway, Lecturer in Theology, St Patrick’s College Maynooth, will speak at the 8.30pm ceremony.
Cardinal Christoph Schönborn OP, Dr Theol, Archbishop of Vienna, will address the Knock Novena crowds at both sessions on August 20. He has been Archbishop of Vienna since 1995 and was created a cardinal in 1998. He is also the author of several Catholic publications.
The speaker at the 3pm ceremony on August 21 is Dr Andrew Meszaros, St Patrick’s College, Maynooth. Dr Andrew is a lecturer in Systematic Theology at St Patrick’s College Maynooth. He holds degrees from Boston College, the University of Oxford and the Catholic University of Louvain. He is married with three children.
The speaker at the 8.30pm on August 21 is Fr Richard Gibbons, Rector, Knock Shrine. He has been Parish Priest and Rector at Our Lady’s Shrine, Knock since 2012.
Since his appointment Fr Richard has been instrumental in the development of Knock Shrine and has led two major renewal initiatives, Witness to Hope and Together in Faith. He looks forward to welcoming Pope Francis to Knock Shrine during his visit to Ireland for the World Meeting of Families.
Nicola Mitchell, Director of Youth Ministry, Knock Shrine, is the guest speaker at both ceremonies on the concluding ceremonies on Wednesday, August 22. Nicola has been Director of Youth Ministry at Knock Shrine for the past 10 years.