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Since 1732, the Redemptorists — a congregation of missionary priests and brothers — have followed in Jesus’ footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned.
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Friday

Irish Impressions: The novena begins

Redemptorists around the world are preparing for the celebration of the Feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help on June 27. Thousands of people around the world attend novena services during the nine days leading up to the feast. These grace-filled days bring many blessings with them.

One of the largest and most well-attended of these services is held at Mount St. Alphonsus in Limerick, Ireland. Fr. Daniel Francis, director of the Redemptorist Office for Mission Advancement, has been invited as one of the guest preachers at this year’s novena in Limerick.

He’ll be sharing his "Irish Impressions" with us throughout the next week.

The novena begins today, June 18. Yesterday was filled with final preparations. Here are Father Daniel’s first "Impressions":

Limerick is the fourth largest city in Ireland and sits on the River Shannon. The airport I flew into is named after this beautiful river, the longest in Ireland and the natural division between the western and eastern parts of the country.
 
I was greeted by Father Seamus Devitt because the rector (and the confrere who invited me), Father Adrian Egan, was on the local radio promoting the Novena. Some of the 25-plus men stationed here have been preaching at many of the churches in the county these past weeks promoting it as well.

Preparations

There was a team meeting Thursday night for the preachers and others who are responsible for the 10 daily sessions, held at 7 a.m., 8, 10, 11:30, 1:10 p.m., 4:30, 6, 7:30, 9 and 10:30. 
I will preach the "evening sessions" on Friday, June 18, Tuesday, June 22 and Saturday, June 26. I will preach the "morning sessions" on Sunday, June 20 and Thursday, June 24. The novena services are also broadcast online at Mount St. Alphonsus’ Web site

When I’m not preaching, I have time slots for hearing confessions in both the church (boxes, they call them) and one of three "caravans" (those trailers you see outside construction sites). 
In addition to the Redemptorist preachers, two women will be preaching: Henrietta O’Meara, who is in charge of the youth ministry for Redemptorists of Ireland, and Rev. Jane Gilbraith, curate (pastoral associate) of the Church of Ireland’s Cathedral in Limerick. 

Thursday night, they threw a pizza party (Domino’s!) for all involved in planning the novena, and many of the guys are watching "football," or what we Americans call soccer.  

‘Hundreds of people’ 

There were amazing crowds at the first session of the first day (Friday, June 18) of this novena.  I was neither preaching nor presiding, but was rather gawking at the hundreds of people who attended the 7 a.m. Mass.  Confessions are heard before and after each Mass during the novena, and nearly all day long in trailers parked outside.  There are also lay people who provide counseling and spiritual direction for those who want or need it. 

My first preaching assignment was not at Mount St. Alphonsus (I’m on tonight), but rather at a neighboring parish, St. Mary’s, which is also holding a novena in honor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. It’s one of three area parishes doing the same. A shrine to the icon was beautifully adorned in front of altar. 

The diocesan priest, the first "canon" I ever met, has the Redemptorists preach at both morning and evening Masses.  Confessions followed Mass and then he made coffee and served cake for me. 

Now off for a run before the service tonight!

More "Irish Impressions":

Knowing they’re "not alone" (6/19/10)