The latest effort to answer Pope Francis’ call for the Church to “seek people out”, has been hailed a success following a huge crowd at the Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin’s ‘Picnic in Punchestown’.
In what is believed to be the first Irish diocesan picnic, over 4,000 people attended Punchestown racecourse on Sunday, including a few hundred from the refugee orientation centre and two direct provision centres in the diocese, for an afternoon of music, dance and children’s entertainment.
Organised in preparation for next year’s World Meeting of Families, Bishop Denis Nulty said Pope Francis was an inspiration, in terms of “trying your best to reach out in a different way”.
“When we in Church say ‘what are we going to do’, we say ‘we’ll have a Mass’ for something. I said let’s do something slightly different.
“Let’s have liturgy at the centre of it, but let’s also have fun and other aspects that life has,” he told The Irish Catholic.
The family picnic follows a number of other recent imaginative reach-out initiatives offered by Irish parishes, such as Confessions in shopping centres and a ‘drive-thru’ Ash Wednesday service.
“All of those things are so important,” said Bishop Nulty.
“We have got to reach out. We have got to be present in the field, in the parks, where people gather. The Church can be the one who embraces people in that environment and that is so important.”
Bishop Nulty said he was “thrilled” with the turn out on the day and the positive feedback he received from parishioners.
“It was a splendid initiative and I am so happy the diocese was very much behind it,” he said, adding, “I could not have got a better group to make this such a success”.