By Trevor Quinn
The Knock Novena is to east Mayo what Race Week is to Galway.
The religious event is worth four times as much as an ordinary summer week, according to Knock House Hotel general manager Declan Heneghan.
It is estimated that up to 150,000 people — many of them from overseas — will descend on the small village to celebrate the annual event. This is the first Novena to be held since 2019 after the planned events for 2020 and 2021 were cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Heneghan said the Novena, which began on Sunday and will run until next Monday, is marked out every year by staff as being one of the peak weeks for the area.
“The demand is there from very early in the year and I suppose from speaking to people who were making their bookings [they’re] really looking forward to coming back and some of them haven’t been for three years for obvious reasons and they’re people who would have come every year.
“Some are coming for a couple of nights and others are coming for longer and they’re really excited about coming back.
“It’s a real bounce for the hotel in business terms as it’s really busy, it’s really important. Quite apart from people staying in the hotel as guests, there’ll be a big overspill from people who will come in for food as well.”
Knock House Hotel will have 200 people staying every night and double that number dining in the hotel each day.
The popularity of Knock Shrine shows no signs of waning, despite a significant shift in Irish religious practices.
Annually, the shrine welcomes more than one million visitors with the numbers of pilgrims coming from abroad steadily increasing.
Meanwhile, local Cllr John Caulfield said the Knock Novena will offer a major economic boost to businesses right across east Mayo.
“It’s a huge benefit to everyone in the area, it’s the highlight of the season and after not being able to hold it for the past two years everyone is looking forward to it. It’s not just the outsiders who come to this, a lot of local people make the daily trip to Knock for the Novena as part of the religious year and there are always engaging and interesting speakers and I have no doubt this year will be exceptional.
“A month’s business in one week is the kind of thing that happens during the Knock Novena and hopefully the B&Bs and other providers will do well and there will be full accommodation [bookings] for the week.”
The theme for this year is ‘A Journey in Hope’ and in excess of 8,000 pilgrims are expected to attend each day at the Shrine. Daily ceremonies will take place at Knock Basilica beginning with concelebrated Mass at 3pm and 8pm, followed by contributions from guest speakers. There will also be the special candlelight procession, a traditional feature of the Novena at Knock, which takes place following the 8.00pm ceremony (weather permitting).