The remarkable devotion in Dundalk to St Gerard Majella, patron of expectant mothers and protector of the family, does back to the 1930s.
This was largely due to the Redemptorist Fr John Murray who introduced the annual novena.
In July 1939 the beautiful shrine to St Gerard in St Joseph’s church was built with funds raised by the people of Dundalk.
It was dedicated by the then Superior General of the Redemptorists Fr Patrick Murray.
From this time on, the novena expanded into what is now one of the largest of its kind in the country.
The Dundalk solemn novena to St Gerard begins each year on 8 October and ends on 16 October, St Gerard’s feast day.
There are ten sessions each day at which people give thanks, make petitions, and for many who may not attend Sunday worship, it is their annual contact with their Church.
People can receive a blessing with the relic of the saint which is kept in St Joseph’s. Gerard Majella was born in 1726 in the small southern Italian town of Muro near Naples.
It is a hillside village where people still speak their own Italian dialect and are seldom visited by outsiders.
Pathways leading from the village down through the mountain sides which give the visitor an indication of just how difficult it was to travel through Italy St Gerard’s time, especially during the winter snows.
In the village there is a small two-room house reputed to be the birthplace of Gerard. It was here he learned his father’s tailor trade, before he eventually - after first being rejected - joined the Redemptorists.
He was known for his care of the poor and distressed and his work varied from cleaning and cooking to giving spiritual advice, inspired people.
At the age of 29 he developed tuberculosis and died on 16 October 1755. He was declared a saint by Pope Pius X in 1904.