For those who no longer believe religion is the opiate of the masses, an argument to the contrary could be made in one Co Louth parish.
Not only are they turning up in droves to the Redemptorists’ novena in Dundalk, they’re also uploading photos of their devotion onto the Redemptorists’ Facebook page, starting a whole new ‘novena selfie’ craze.
As if that isn’t groundbreaking enough, a quick browse of said Facebook page shows that not only is Jesus in the House, but so too is Mickey Mouse and any number of familiar children’s characters. This is a novena with a difference, perhaps explaining why 10,000 people are attending daily, filling the Redemptorist Church at each of the nine daily novenas toSt Gerard.
The brains behind it is Fr Michael Cusack, a devotee of social media.
At Fr Cusack’s encouragement, churchgoers are uploading their “novena selfies”.
The same man is no stranger to the internet — last month he uploaded his comical ice bucket challenge, where he disrobed from his priestly garb to reveal Bermuda shorts.
Fr Michael gave the go-ahead for the selfies and said the idea came from Matthew Cregan, 27, a former technical director at the Gaiety Theatre who is now a student for the priesthood with the Redemptorists in Dundalk.
Matthew admitted: “I am addicted to Facebook,” and explained that “one of the themes for the novena this year is ‘The Church and the Streets’, and what better way to spread the gospel to the streets than through social media”.
He said the novena selfie has proven a success. “We are getting hundreds of notifications every hour with people sending more and more in,” said Matthew. “People are getting them at the shrines in the Church with the priests.”
Jennifer McEvoy-Caffrey took her selfie with her son Fionn, 13, and daughter Anaish, 11, as they went into the novena. She said: “It helps the Church appeal to younger people and my kids thought it was a great idea and they are growing up in this era.”
Fr Michael said Pope Francis did a selfie early in his ministry and he has a huge following on Twitter.
The novena ends on Thursday.
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