A GROUP which helps those suffering with suicidal thoughts and addictions, using faith as a form of help, has returned after a 19-month absence.

The Divine Mercy Group returned on October 1 at Sacred Heart church in Glenview Street.

Founded in 2015, the group had met every Friday afternoon at 3pm until the Covid-19 pandemic forced their meetings online. The group was set up by Thomas Stewart with a friend, who 22 years ago lost his brother who took his own life through suicide.

One of the great successes of the Divine Mercy group has been the regular Cursillo residential weekends in Benburb. The Cursillo runs from a Thursday evening to a Sunday afternoon with participants able to meet people and explore their faith further in a serene and spiritual environment.

Group member Stephen McCloskey was part of the original three members at the start in May 2015.

“At that first meeting there was only three of us, but it was very special and we knew the Good Lord would bring more people along. We had the group mentioned in the parish bulletin and this resulted in more people coming. 

“After a few months the prayer group had grown to about 25 people. The group was then advertised in the local newspaper, the North Belfast News and this again helped draw more people to the gatherings taking place at 3pm on Friday afternoons. 

“As the group got to know one another this gave birth to the first printing of 2,000 leaflets being distributed by members who would deliver them in the local area to help spread the news of the gatherings. Being from all different backgrounds the group were able to reach out to people, especially many who had been away from the Church for many years.

“Many of the group are also involved in the Cursillo Group and help organise three day retreats that offer life changing experiences through the Grace of God, sponsoring young men and women from the local area to attend these events. 

“Just before the lockdown of March 2020 there was between 50-80 people attending the weekly Friday afternoon prayer meetings from all areas of Belfast and even beyond. 

“After the devotions the group gather for tea and coffee to socialise and get to know one another which is an important part of the ministry. 

“Many people have experienced God’s amazing grace and help and have had their lives changed through contact with The Divine Mercy Prayer Group work.

“The most important part of the group is Confession, the Sacrament of Reconciliation. 

“People come to the prayer meeting with a lot on their minds and after having confession, they experience God’s amazing grace.

“No matter what is going on in your life, if you are struggling with anything, God hears our prayers and he will send us grace and many blessings.”

The group are joined each week by Joe Baxter, Deacon of Sacred Heart Parish, who realises the importance of getting back together in person once again.

“It is much more than a prayer group. The people that come have many issues such as addictions,” he said.

“They get great comfort from the prayers and everyone is welcome. Nobody is judged.

“During Covid, Fr Frank Trias from Holy Cross Parish in Ardoyne was able to run it online every Friday but it just wasn’t the same as meeting up. I hope the group can continue to grow in numbers. Everyone is welcome here. It is about bringing people together to chat and share their experiences.”

The Divine Mercy Prayer Group would like to thank new parish priest, Fr Jim Madden and Deacon Joe Baxter.

They have a first class relic of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska of the Divine Mercy, which after the prayer meeting anyone wishing a blessing with the relic is welcome.

Fr Frank Trias, is available for Confession most Fridays at the prayer meeting. Anyone who is sick and looking a blessing with the relic of Saint Faustina, contact, Thomas Stewart on 07999981771.

The Divine Mercy group meets every Friday at 3pm at Sacred Heart Church in Glenview Street. All are welcome to attend.