Knock reports marked increase in pilgrims as bumper novena closes

Knock reports marked increase in pilgrims as bumper novena closes Some of the young volunteers who are on-hand to welcome pilgrims and visitors to Knock this summer are (left to right) Maria Convery, Annie-May McHugh, Cathal Reynolds, Phyrne Glenn and Mairead Martin. All are members of the Volunteers At Knock Shrine (VAKS) group. Photo: Jana Jurakova

Ireland’s national Eucharistic and Marian Shrine has reported an increase in pilgrims and visitors this summer, after a sluggish post-pandemic restart last year and two years when on-off Covid-19 restrictions devastated numbers.

Tens of thousands of pilgrims flocked to Knock in Co. Mayo over the past two weeks for the traditional novena, with rector Fr Richard Gibbons describing numbers this year as “excellent”.

A popular feature of the novena was the family fun day which saw hundreds of families descend on the shrine to participate in activities as well as the traditional pilgrim programme.

Fr Gibbons said that he was gratified that there has been a “marked increase” in people attending Knock this year since the season began in the spring.

He told The Irish Catholic: “The novena has gone very, very well, the attendance has been excellent and there was a wonderful atmosphere.

“The numbers from the season as a whole have been excellent, that is what we expected and anticipated and that’s really since last March or so,” he said.

He also said that a feature of the pilgrims this year is the number of people who discovered liturgies at Knock online during the pandemic, and now wanted to come for themselves.

In his time at the shrine, Fr Gibbons also said Knock was becoming increasingly popular with the ‘new Irish’.

“There would be a lot of Filipino groups and Indian groups that are coming in more numbers because there are more coming to the country, so that has added to it too. We’re definitely seeing an increase in migrant communities.

The Knock novena ran from August 14-22, and Fr Gibbons said that while final numbers have not yet been collated, the rector and staff say numbers at the novena “are up from last year”. 

“There is a marked difference between this year and last year, because last year the season didn’t really take off until the middle of July – we were still a little but hesitant about coming out [post-Covid]. But this year definitely we saw a marked increase in numbers and that was throughout the season so we’re very, very happy with that,” Fr Gibbons said. 

He added that they are also “getting a bounce from people that would have joined us online during Covid” and are now visiting the country and Knock.

“There were people from all over Ireland and beyond, I met a Canadian woman who tuned in to Knock during Covid, she came over from Toronto specifically for the novena and she was very, very happy. I met several people over from Britain. So many people connected online during Covid, that they felt that they wanted to be here for this special time, because it is the busiest time and the most important time in the season, the novena itself, and they wanted to be here,” he said.  

“We had a lot of follow on from the people who joined online who wouldn’t have joined us before or wouldn’t have been here before, and they have come. It was wonderful to see and it was great to meet them.

“There was a great buzz around, a happy atmosphere and feeling and that’s what we try to generate here all the time so we in turn were very, very happy,” he added.