Thousands of pilgrims will flock to West Belfast next week for the start of the annual Clonard Solemn Novena.

This year’s event will run from Wednesday 17 to Thursday 25 June and is the first with new rector Fr Noel Kehoe at the helm of the monastery.

Up to 15,000 people are expected to attend each day and Fr Kehoe said he is looking forward to welcoming those from all walks of life to Clonard.

“It is my first novena in Clonard and I am very much looking forward to it,” he said.

“This will be my first as rector but I was here last year to preach at it. So many people have put so much effort onto organising it every year and it really is like stepping into a well-oiled machine.

“It is great to see how it all comes together and will be great to see how it all goes next week. I am looking forward to meeting all the people who will come along.”

Fr Kehoe said a number of speakers will be taking to the pulpit this year to celebrate with worshippers.

“We have Fr Dan Baragry who is the provincial head of the Redemptorists in Ireland, Fr Michael Cusack from Dundalk, Fr Laurence Gallagher from Limerick and we also have Fr Peter Hill who is a Redemptorsist in Dominica in the Caribbean.

“I am looking forward to welcoming them all to Clonard this year.”

Fr Kehoe has also asked those who will be attending the Novena to be respectful of local residents when parking in the area.

“We appreciate the patience of everyone who live in the locality and I would ask all those coming along to be mindful of where they park and if they can to try and share cars.”

The Clonard Solemn Novena will begin on Wednesday with services at 6.45am, 8.15am. 9.30am, 11am, 2pm, 3.30pm, 6.15pm, 8pm, 9.30pm and the 11pm candlelit service.

The anointing of the sick takes place on Saturday at the 11am, 2pm and 5pm services and the blessing of the babies and children is on Sunday at 3.30pm (without Mass).

A Novena session with sign language will take place each day at 3.30pm.