A very different way of celebrating this year’s annual Clonard Solemn Novena will begin from next Friday – virtually.
Up to 15,000 worshippers attend Clonard’s historic monastery for nine days each June, however, due to the Covid-19 crisis, the event, held in honour of Our Lady of Perpetual Help will this year be streamed live with four sessions each day.
With many parishioners needing the familiarity and comfort of the annual event, Rector of Clonard Fr Peter Burns told the Andersonstown News that one of the options amidst the Coronavirus could have been to “simply do nothing”.
“We decided we weren’t going to do nothing,” he said. “When we announced that we were going to have the Novena online it was amazing how much of a reaction there was and how much interest there is around it.
“It will be different for us, and it will be different for whoever joins in. We will do what we normally do in terms of music and singing.”
“There will be a Mass at every session and we will have the petitions, the thanksgivings as usual. They are incredibly important. The Church has been opened for several hours each day and people are coming in to write their thanksgivings, we will have those and we’ll have whatever comes in online,” said Fr Burns.
When asked if parishioners can come to the church to listen outside or celebrate the Mass in the gardens, Fr Burns said that “we are not at that point yet” that all sessions will be online and due to Covid-19 restrictions still in place there will not be the physical presence of people as has been in previous years.
Fr Burns said that with a week to go he is unsure as to how many people will access the online sessions.
“Ever since the church was closed and we weren’t able to have people in the church for Mass, our numbers online on a Thursday, which is the ordinary Novena day in Clonard and on a Sunday are at 3,500 people.
“That’s 3,500 people, coming online, staying for an hour for the Mass.
“We get the statistics everyday so there is a big number of people already accessing that.”
While this year’s event “won’t be the same obviously”, Fr Burns said that the preaching will be “particularly important”.
“The theme this year is ‘Hope in a time of crisis’ and we want people to get comfort, strength and support from that message.”
He continued: “Vocalist Karl McGuckin who performs big pre-Christmas concerts in Clonard recorded a video in the church and sang the hymn Be Thou My Vision along with some beautiful shots of inside the church.
“Since it went up it’s had nearly 60,000 views between Clonard and Karl’s Facebook page. It was done as a way to promote the Novena. People love to listen to his singing and it’s also a chance to see the interior of the church, it’s really beautiful as we prepare to celebrate the Novena next Friday.”
Clonard Solemn Novena will be streamed live and begin on Friday June 19 until Saturday June 27. Novena Mass times are as follows: 7am, 9.30am, 6.15pm and 8pm.
You can see more about Clonard Monastery on their website.