Dioceses of Ireland unite in Knock to pray for vocations to the priesthood

16 Aug 2023

The National Novena to Our Lady of Knock runs until 22 August.  This annual prayer gathering at the national Marian Shrine offers an opportunity to all to step away from everyday life and immerse in prayer in the beautiful, peaceful grounds of Knock, Co Mayo.  For this year’s nine-day Novena, the Council for Vocations of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference has prepared a special initiative to be unveiled on tomorrow, Thursday, 17 August, the Feast of Our Lady of Knock.

Tomorrow a special prayer ceremony will take place to mark both the current Year for Vocation to the Diocesan Priesthood, as well as the centrality of the Marian Shrine as a holy place of pilgrimage and prayer for generations of Catholics in Ireland and from abroad.  This ceremony will involve representatives of each of the twenty-six dioceses on the island coming together with pieces of a cross, each with a separate diocesan name, to build a dedicated Cross for Vocations.  Pilgrims attending will then witness Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan blessing the new Cross and leading prayers for an increase in vocations to the diocesan priesthood.  The structure for the new cross has been designed by deacon Brendan Gallagher from Co Waterford.

Ahead of the ceremony Bishop Cullinan said, “there are people praying consistently for priestly vocations all around the country. This event on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Knock honours this fervent and sincere desire.  Pope Francis has encouraged us to renew our prayer and trust that God will inspire this way of life in the hearts young men throughout Ireland.  The Lord commands us to ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to work for the harvest. This Thursday people from every corner of Ireland, from every diocese, will gather at our national Shrine to join in prayer to God for an increase in vocations to diocesan priesthood, to highlight the need for priests and to encourage men to generously consider this particular calling in life.  I am very much looking forward to joining with all the delegates who have been commissioned in each diocese to carry the prayers of the priests and people with them to Knock and to pray together for many new vocations to the priesthood.”

This year’s Knock Novena involves daily guest speakers offering insights on a variety of topics, from personal faith stories to responding to a changing world.  The theme for the 2023 Novena is ‘Caring for Creation.’


Notes for Editors

  • Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan is chair of the Council for Vocations of the Bishops’ Conference.  The theme for the Year for Vocation to the Diocesan Priesthood is, “Take the Risk for Christ” (‘You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you’ John 15:16 ).  The Year for Vocation involves various awareness raising initiatives around Ireland and will conclude on Good Shepherd Sunday 2024.  For information about vocations, please contact [email protected]  
  • Annual Knock Novena: The National Public Novena to Our Lady takes place annually, over nine days, at Knock Shrine, Archdiocese of Tuam, Co Mayo.  The novena coincides with the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Apparition of Our Lady, Saint Joseph and Saint John the Evangelist in Knock in August 1879.  The novena offers pilgrims time and space to reflect, pray and an opportunity to reconnect with their faith in the unique and sacred space of Knock Shrine.  Two liturgical sessions are held daily, at 3.00pm and 8.00pm, commencing with concelebrated Mass in the Basilica followed by a procession to the Apparition Gable.  A procession of the Blessed Sacrament is held in the afternoon, and a beautiful candlelight procession takes place at night.  Prayer leaflets are available in the Shrine Offices and all are welcome!
  • The Story of Knock: At about eight o’clock on the evening of Thursday 21 August 1879, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph and Saint John the Evangelist appeared at the south gable of the Church at Knock, Co Mayo.  Beside them, and a little to the right, was an altar with a cross and the figure of a lamb, around which angels hovered.  Fifteen official witnesses – young and old – experienced this silent and miraculous apparition for two hours in pouring rain and recited the Rosary.  In 1879 and in 1936 two Commissions of Inquiry accepted their testimony as trustworthy and satisfactory.  Knock is an internationally recognised Marian Shrine and has been visited by Saint Pope John Paul II during his 1979 apostolic pilgrimage, and in 2018 by Pope Francis as part of the celebrations for the IX World Meeting of Families in Ireland.  On 19 March 2021, Pope Francis officially recognised Knock as an International Marian and Eucharistic Shrine through the Pontifical Council for New Evangelisation.  Archbishop Francis Duffy, Archbishop of Tuam, is the custodian of the Marian Shrine and Father Richard Gibbons is parish priest of Knock and rector of the shrine.  See knockshrine.ie to view the Novena 2023 Brochure.
  • All are invited to pray the following prayer to encourage vocations (source: the National Vocations Office of the Bishops’ Conference): 

Heavenly Father, we ask you to send labourers into your
harvest and to bless all who strive to listen to your voice.
Inspire, in the hearts of men and women,
vocations to the priesthood, diaconate and
consecrated life.
Bless our families with a spirit of generosity,
so that those whom you call have the courage
to give themselves to your Church in faith.
Send workers into Your great harvest
so that the Gospel is preached,
the poor are served with love,
the suffering are comforted,
and Your people are strengthened by the sacraments.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord.