There was the ringing of bells, the swirling of incense, and women in ornate headgear in a flag bedecked St Nicholas Church in Carrick-on-Suir last week as worshippers celebrated friends from afar and welcomed the harbinger of next June’s Eucharistic Congress.
The Mass of the Nations is celebrated annually in the Church of St. Nicholas, Carrick-on-Suir, on the Vigil of the Feast of the Epiphany, January 5, when the visit of the Three Wise Men from afar to the manger in Bethlehem is remembered
This year there was an extra dimension to the Mass as the International Eucharistic Congress Bell was welcomed to the parish.
The evening’s liturgy was organised by the youth section of the Parish Liturgy Committee and their young friends.
The concelebrants, shimmering in cloth of gold vestments, were St Nicholas parish priest Fr Edmund Cullinan, Diocesan Eucharistic Congress Co-ordinator Fr Paul Waldron and the Diocesan Polish Chaplin Fr Emil Adler.
The bell and the four accompanying icons were received at the door of the church and carried in procession to the sanctuary, to the sound of a solo version of the Congress Anthem, sung by Helen Hahessy, and accompanied by the concelebrants, the town’s mayor, Mr. Patsy Fitzgerald, and the national flag.
The icons were presented and their significance explained at the four appropriate stages of the Mass, the Gathering, the Liturgy of the Word, the Liturgy of the Eucharist, and the Dismissal.
The First and Second Readings were in Polish and English; the Gospel reading was accompanied by a procession of ‘three wise men’, bearing gifts to the crib. Prayers of the Faithful were recited in English, Swahili, Igbo, Shona and Dutch and some readers wore national dress.
After the translation of each prayer, the congregation were called to prayer by representatives of various sections of the community ringing the Congress Bell. The Eucharistic Prayer was recited in English, Irish and Polish.
The young people spread through the congregation, offered the handshake of peace to all before communion.
Following the ceremony, the congregation gathered for tea, coffee and chat.
It was a memorable, uplifting and prayerful occasion.
To use a modern, not particularly liturgical term: the bell caused quite a ‘buzz’, to the surprise of a least one doubting Thomas. At the end of Mass, the bell was eagerly rung – and photographed – and the icons were closely scrutinized.
Following the Mass the bell was brought by boat down the River Suir to Portlaw.
Next day at work one of the young participants in the liturgy could casually retort to the boast of a member of Carrick-on-Suir River Rescue team, who transported the Bell by river to Portlaw that morning.
“What are you talking about? Sure I helped to carry it up to the altar in St. Nicholas’s last night.” And he was proud to be able to say so. Two days before he hadn’t heard of the bell or Eucharistic Congress.
Thanks to all those who made the evening such a success: the concelebrants, the young people, the choir, the non-national readers, the bell ringers, everyone.