THE biggest single annual event in Mayo, the National Novena at Knock Shrine, gets under way today (Tuesday). In excess of 120,000 people are expected to visit the village over the next nine days. Special traffic management arrangements will be put in place while the regular back-up of medical and emergency services will be in place throughout the event.
This year’s Novena is the first time that newly appointed PP, Fr Richard Gibbons, will take charge of the proceedings, ably supported by Pat Lavelle and his team at Knock Shrine. The late Msgr Joe Quinn presided over the Novena for the past decade. His sudden death some months ago came as a major shock to all associated with Knock Shrine. This year will also see newly-appointed curate, Fr Patrick Burke (from Barnaderg, Tuam) play a major role.
The theme of the Novena is ‘Eucharist and Life’. Fr Pat Farragher, Castlebar is the guest speaker at the opening ceremony at 3pm today and again at the evening session at 8.30pm. Fr Benny McHale, Athenry, will address the large congregations on Wednesday, August 15, always one of the biggest days of the year at the Shrine.
The others speakers are Baroness Nuala O’Loan (Antrim) (Thursday 16), Fr Michael Drumm, Maynooth (Friday 17), Bishop Philip Boyce, Raphoe, Donegal (Saturday 18), Bishop Christopher Jones of Elphin (Sunday 19), Justin Kilcullen, Director of Trocaire (Monday 20) and Fr Richard Gibbons, PP, Knock (Tuesday 21).
The new Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown, born and raised in the USA, and who is already endearing himself in a special way to the faithful in his short time here, will speak on the subject, The Future of the Church in Ireland, at the closing ceremonies on next Wednesday, August 22.
Some well-known singers will feature at the Novena this year, starting off with James Kilbane from Achill at the 3pm ceremony today (Tuesday). John McNicholl will perform during the 8.30pm ceremony on Thursday night (16) and Annette Griffin will be the featured soloist (along with the Ballymoe Choir) on Sunday (19) at 8.30pm. Michael English, the high profile Kildare singer, will perform at the 3pm afternoon ceremony on Monday 21. A number of choirs will also feature during the Novena including the Sligo Cathedral Choir on Sunday 19 at 3pm, the Kiltimagh Choir on Monday 20 at 3pm and the Castlebar Choir later that night at 8.30pm. The Knock Parish Choir will perform on Tuesday night, 21, at the 8.30pm ceremony. The musical director at Knock Shrine is Una Nolan and the assistant musical director is Frankie Forde-Waldron.
Parking restrictions will be in place, including the new boulders which have been put in place along the hillside road on the main street.
Knock FM returns to the airwaves today (Tuesday) at 2pm and will broadcast all the ceremonies over the next nine days on 101.9FM. The station can be picked up within a good few miles radius of Knock village.
Station director Seán Egan says they will also host a number of music shows as well as local heritage programmes and interviews with people from the area and guests visiting Knock.