HUGE crowds gathered in St Peter and Paul’s church in Portlaoise last weekend for the harvest masses. This is the first event of its kind held in Portlaoise and was a great success with people bringing harvest produce to the church to be blessed.
The event was organised by Fr Paddy Byrne and a committee of local people who helped put together the decorations. “This is an idea that is familiar to all Christian religions - giving thanks for the abundance of the harvest. I have just arrived to Portlaoise parish recently and I have always promoted this idea in any parish I’ve been in”.
As well as St Peter and Pauls church, the harvest masses were also held in the three other parish churches - The Heath, Ratheniska and Knockmay. Fr Byrne told the Leinster Express that one big positive in Portlaoise parish is the huge amount of people who attend masses on a regular basis. “We got some people involved and people worked away and decorated the church”. People coming along to the masses also brought their own parts of the harvest for thanksgiving. Items which people brought included fruit, vegetables, dairy products, turf and flowers, which brought the church to life with an explosion of autumnal colours. Blessed water was also given out, along with salt which people could take home to their land and gardens to bless them.
“The harvest mass is a simple thing and yet it affects people. In comparison with other cultures, we still have a lot to be grateful for. As well as the harvest, there were links to the environment and links to justice”, added Fr Byrne. “It was a very positive outcome and people responded very well to the masses. There was a massive turnout to the mass in Portlaoise on Saturday evening with well over 1,500 attending and bringing something along”. After mass, people went into the parish centre, where homemade fruit cakes were shared among the large crowd. Mayor of Portlaoise Kathleen O’ Brien was delighted with the turnout. “It was very well attended and the display looked very impressive. Hopefully it will take place every year,” she said.