Great affirmation of faith as estimated 30,000 welcome Relics of St. Anthony to St. John’s Cathedral
Limerick became a crossroads for a vast faithful yesterday as they flocked in endless droves throughout the day to St. John’s Cathedral to venerate the relics of the world’s most popular saint, St. Anthony of Padua.
An estimated 30,000 people visited the Cathedral from 9am yesterday morning through to 10.30pm last night, many queuing in rain outside the Church for long periods to get their chance to venerate the sacred relics.
The relics were welcomed to St. John’s as part of a six-location visit to Ireland to mark the 750th Anniversary of their discovery by St. Bonaventure.
The Cathedral was packed to capacity for both Masses – at 10am and 7pm – while there was a constant flow of people, frequently out onto Cathedral Place, throughout the day as they queued, often in rain, for their chance to venerate the relics of the much loved saint. Large numbers of volunteers also gave their time throughout the day and night to keep the celebration running smoothly.
Reflecting on what he described as a ‘humbling affirmation of faith’, Bishop of Limerick Dr Brendan Leahy, who concelebrated the 7pm Mass, said that the numbers that turned up at St. John’s was way beyond what was expected.
“When we accepted the kind invitation from the Franciscans to welcome the relics to Limerick, we knew instantly the privilege this would be for the faithful. What we didn’t expect, however, was that they would turn out in the numbers they did. It was way beyond our expectations and a great lift for all involved in the Church. It was an edifying, humbling and comforting reminder to us that people’s faith is still so precious and strong.
“It was so heartening to see not alone the huge numbers but the great mix of generations as well. We had the very old down to the very young, in some cases infants just a few weeks old. We also had very big numbers of schoolchildren, particular in the evening after school finished, and then a very large mix of young people for our 7pm Mass. We had people not just from the Limerick Diocese but from Clare, Kerry, Tipperary, Cork and Kilkenny.
“So many people reach out at a spiritual level to St. Anthony on a daily basis and this was their opportunity to have a tangible moment with the Saint. They came here to worship, to make petitions and, for many also, to simply say thanks. It really was such a wonderful day of celebration and created such a great buzz in the City itself.”
Bishop Leahy also expressed his appreciation to the Franciscan’s for the privilege. “Limerick is just one of six locations across the island that the relics will visit on this tour. We were delighted and very grateful when they offered us this opportunity as when the Franciscan’s closed here in Limerick, the weekly Tuesday novena was moved to St. John’s, as was the statue of St. Anthony. And we also have the annual Novena here as well.
“The fact also that we had the relics here of one of the very first followers of St. Francis at the beginning of the current pontificate is also not lost on us given, of course, that the Pope chose the name of Francis.
“We must also thank everyone who made this event happen, the Franciscans, of course, the team at St. John’s, and the volunteers who helped out on the day and helped make this a really special moment for everyone who turned up. We also thank the media for helping us publicise this event as without this many, many people would missed this very special opportunity to celebrate this great moment in Limerick,” said Bishop Leahy.
The relics were accompanied by Fr Mario Conte, OFM Conv, Editor of the Messenger of St Anthony magazine (international edition). Addressing the faithful, Fr Conte said that while St. Anthony is widely revered as the Saint who helps find lost things or people, we can also come to St. Anthony asking God’s help when we lose work, lose hope, lose direction or any aspect of our life that needs replenishing.
Coverage from Limerick Leader and Live 95FM