Nine high profile Irish people will be visiting Portlaoise Parish church over Lent to share their stories of faith with the community.
The weekly talks are part of a major event in Portlaoise parish this year, a Solomn Novena to our Lady of Perpetual Help, taking place in SS Peter & Paul’s Church.
The nine weeks of prayer will begin on Ash Wednesday February 13 at 7,30pm with a talk bythe often outspoken broadcaster Hector O’hEochagáin, followed by Mass, benediction and Novena prayers.
In the weeks to follow, well known speakers who have come through difficult life obstacles will speak to parishionoers every Wednesday.
Folk singer Frances Black who will speak of her recovery from alcoholism on February 20. while a week later a big crowd is likely for a talk on success through discipline by the legendary Kilkenny hurling manager Brian Cody.
On March 6, Member of the European Parliament Brian Crowley who became wheelchair bound as a young man, will share his story about life after personal disaster.
A week later on March 13 the speaker is sure to be know to many in Portlaoise. The retired Mountjoy Governer John Lonergan will speak on the topic; “I was in prison and you visited me”.
Mary Kennedy of RTE’s Nationwide is sure to be a popular attraction when she shares her story of faith on March 20.
Fr Liam Lawton is no stranger to Portlaoise and on March 27, the composer, author and singer will speak on forgiveness and reconciliation.
One of the highlights is sure to be Joanne O’Riordain. The Young Person of the Year who spoke to the United Nations in New York last year will speak on April 3. The teenager will speak on the topic: No limbs no limits.
The final guest speaker is champion flat jockey Johnny Murtagh who overcome personal problems to become one of the best jockeys in the world.. He will speak on April 10 about embracing hope.
The focus of the Novena is not however the speakers, it is the power of prayer, says the new Portlaoise curate Fr Paddy Byrne.
“These people are high profile, and they will make a fantastic contribution, but the event is one of prayer, a sense of gathering, we will be reflecting in a simple way on ‘where does the Good News affect me, in my life’”, he said.
Broadcaster Hector’s new programme on RTE, Hector Goes, began yesterday January 7 with a focus on religion, with contributions from Fr Paddy himself.
He says organising the Novena and getting such an impressive array of speakers was a team effort, led by PP Monsignor John Byrne.
“This is the first Solomn Novena celebrated in Portlaoise parish in recent times, and we all have a great sense of enthusiasm looking forward to it. The content will reflect the reality people are finding themselves in, it will not just be holy, it will be wholesome and I promise, it will be life-changing,” he said.
They are sending out a welcome to the community to come and gather together each week up to Easter. The public are encouraged to write out their personal petitions on sheets provided in the church, and these will be prayed for throughout the nine weeks.
Fr Paddy expects a big turn out.
“We are expecting huge crowds, if it is anything like our Christmas services, we had 2,000 people at times in the church. It will be a fantastic event, so get there early and everyone will get a very warm welcome,” he said.
The Parish says an important element of the Novena will be praying for personal petitions.. These will be remembered right through the nine weeks.
The parish says that petitions will beavailable shortly for people to recored their personal requests to the blessed sacrament.
The weekly Novenas take place on Wednesdays from 7.30pm.