The bell, which will be used in pastoral preparations for the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin in June 2012, was rung at the joint Catholic and Church of Ireland Archdiocese of Dublin stand at the National Ploughing Championship.  The priests, religious and others on the stand welcomed people to bell ringing, prayer, art, puppets, workshops and a simple moment of reflection during this action packed crowed event.


At another stand Sr Eileen Linehan and colleagues were flying the flag for Vocations Ireland.  She was very happy to welcome young and old.  Youngsters asked questions such as: “What do you have to do to be a nun?”  They asked the Franciscan monk who was on the stand wearing in his robes: “Are you a real monk?” 


Older people were happy just to see a religious presence in the midst of hundreds of commercial stands.  “They think it is a good witness to be here and to offer an alternative to the commercial aspects,” said Eileen Linehan.  Over the three days there was only one negative comment from the thousands of people passing by she told ciNews. 


“You are very vulnerable these days as a religious, you do not know how people are going to take you, but it has been very positive here.”


On the stand were leaflets from religious orders throughout Ireland, and a quiet room where people could pray or sit a while.  Prayer intentions could be left for the Poor Clare’s and Carmelites. 


George Hook spent 20 minutes on the stand and spoke warmly about Vocations Ireland on his evening show broadcast from the site.  Sr Eileen was also speaking on KLR (Kildare Local Radio).


The Ploughing Championships in Cardenton, Athy, Co Kildare on September 21 – 23had an estimated180, 000 visitors and 1,100 stands with everything from tractors to cattle feed.  Among those stands were several Catholic, Christian and charitable  groups including one from the Archdiocese of Dublin, the Legion of Mary, Sisters of St Joseph of Cluny, Sacred Heart Missionaries, and Irish Catholic newspaper. 


On the education front was the Cistercian College. 


The Irish Missionary Union, Irish Aid, and Trócaire were among aid agencies present and a large banner sought 300 combines to gather in one field to raise money for charity.


The presence of the local diocese at the event has been the norm over the last few years.  The Dublin Archdiocese offered the opportunity for people to leave their prayer intentions on a prayer wall. 


New this year was demonstration of religious icon making and painting of religious inspired art. 


Volunteer bell-ringers (campanologists) from Christ Church Cathedral also led workshops on bell ringing.  There was a prayer service every hour.


by Ann Marie Foley


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