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How Divine Mercy is local turning lives around

RENEWING ACQUAINTANCES: Friends from the United States – back for another visit – with members of the Divine Mercy group centre at Sacred Heart church RENEWING ACQUAINTANCES: Friends from the United States – back for another visit – with members of the Divine Mercy group centre at Sacred Heart church
By Conor McParland

FOUNDED in 2015, the Divine Mercy group continues to go from strength to strength.
Four years on, the group attracts weekly attendances of up to 70 people every Friday afternoon at Sacred Heart church in Glenview Street.
The worship group helps those suffering with suicidal thoughts and addictions, using faith as a form of help.
Thomas Stewart, who helped set up the group, explained more about the work the group does.
“I set up the group with a friend, who 22 years ago lost his brother who took his own life through suicide,” he said.
“It was a total shock to his family and he felt he needed to do something to help others with similar problems.
“We started the Divine Mercy group up in 2015 and it was just three of us. It is a time to reflect on life, listen to beautiful songs, and a prayer session is also available afterwards for those who wish to get involved in that.
“I think with the issues of addictions with drugs and alcohol becoming more of an issue in North Belfast, the Divine Mercy group offers something different to anyone who is seeking help.
“Whatever is going on in your own life or your family’s life, if your son or daughter is suicidal or has addiction problems, I would encourage you to come along to the Divine Mercy group.
“There is help available, which is why people come back. It’s an outlet for people also and a comfort zone for them. The Divine Mercy gives these people hope.
“There are young lads coming here who are broken in their lives. The reason we can draw them in is because we are all from different backgrounds and we are able to reach out to them.”
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.
Hugh Byrne, another key figure in the Divine Mercy group, said the Cursillo is a life-changing experience for those involved.
“After three days, they are different people. It is truly a life-changing experience and I have seen that with people over the years.”
Hugh is also responsible for talking to anyone who comes to the Divine Mercy group in order to offer help and advice.
“I sit and have a chat with the lads every week,” he added.
“If I get them to listen, that is the start. If we help turn one person’s life around, that is better than none.
“I ask them how far they are in their addiction whether it would be alcohol or drugs.
“Some people have fallen away but there have been a lot of successes. Relationships and marriages have been fixed and people have turned their lives around.
“We also have good links with rehabilitation services and other helplines to point people towards further help.”
At last Friday’s meeting, the group were joined by some American visitors who returned to Belfast a year on from experiencing the Divine Mercy group for the first time.
Thomas says the success of the group has been extremely encouraging and a sign that they are on the right path.
“It was great to see the visitors from the USA who were here last year and wanted to come back over again,” continued.
“They are going back to spread the word about the work the group does.
“The group can only get better. We started with just three people so we have come a long away in quite a short time.
“People are coming back so we must be doing something right.
“We have the prayers and so on and then we come out and sit and have tea, coffee and biscuits. It is great to see everyone bonding and talking to each other.
“People don’t realise how powerful the Divine Mercy is. It doesn’t matter what is going on in your life. Ask for help and reach out to the Divine Mercy.”

The Divine Mercy group meets every Friday at 3pm at Sacred Heart church in Glenview Street and all are welcome to come along.

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