ONLINE statistics are showing a very “significant uptake” for this year’s ‘virtual’ annual Clonard Solemn Novena as the event enters its fifth day.
Up to 15,000 worshippers attend Clonard’s historic monastery for nine days each June, however, due to the Covid-19 crisis, the Novena, which began on Friday, is being streamed live with four sessions each day. You can see the livestream here.
Lads, do yourself a favour and tune into @ClonardMBelfast at 09.30 am and listen to Fr. Ciaran O'Callaghan's sermon. Even if you are not religious listen to it. I found myself applauding him. He addresses the virus of sectarianism, the courage needed to face it down.— Gearóid Robinson (@gerrobo) June 23, 2020
Clonard Rector Fr Peter Burns spoke of how it is estimated that around 13,000 people are watching the sessions. “We get the stats from the day before, which give us, for example, the number of hits on the website, on the webcam. The Novena started last Friday, we got the stats on the Saturday and there was something like 58,000 hits.
“For us the most significant category refers to people who come online and stay online for between five minutes and an hour, people who are coming on for a Mass or for a Novena session.
"For the 58,000 hits, when refined in the category of between five minutes and an hour it was something around 17,000 people. People will come online during the first day of the Novena for all kinds of reasons, sometimes out of curiosity. The stats went down from 17,000 to 15,000 to 13,000, which didn’t surprise us in the least."
But Fr Burns says the online stats can't tell him whether people are watching alone or with family members or friends.
"Even with those figures we have no way of knowing how many people that is representing, it might be an elderly person coming online who lives alone, it might be a couple or might be a family. That 17,000 or 15,000 might represent 20,000, 25,000 or even 30,000 we don’t know how many couples or families are watching,” he said.
He continued: “All we know and all we care about, since the lockdown, the maximum we would have for the weekly Thursday Novena and Sunday Mass is around 3,500 and that is way beyond what we would get into the church.
“To go from 3,500 to 17, 15, 13,000 is a very significant increase and we’re very happy about it. When you consider when the normal Solemn Novena is on, there are ten sessions everyday, say we got 1,000 people for every one of those sessions, that would be 10,000 people on a day."
“We’ve never been into the numbers game, because it doesn’t really concern us greatly,” explained Fr Burns, “and yet at the same time we think that the stats are showing there is a very significant uptake for the online Novena.”
Fr Burns told the Andersonstown News that the Petitions and Thanksgivings which are read out at each session and play such a “central part of the Novena”, the volume coming in online is “just extraordinary”. “There are hundreds and hundreds of Petitions and Thanksgivings coming in everyday on that part of the website and this is all so very reassuring for us.”
Clonard Solemn Novena concludes on Saturday June 29.