Following three days at the National Ploughing Championship, Bishop Denis Nulty expressed his delight at how visitors to Stand 399 had engaged with the Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin’s outreach.

Bishop Nulty said, “There was great excitement surrounding the search for Ireland’s Favourite Prayer and visitors to the stand voted in their droves to finally award the title to the Hail Mary.  This very familiar prayer got 61% of the vote, while the Prayer to the Guardian Angel came in 2nd place, with 39% of the vote.  The fact that both of the final prayers are so familiar and are ones that were learnt by all of us as children is interesting and points to the importance of the traditional prayers as a source of comfort and a place to which we turn when only a prayer will do.  The interest in our competitions to find Ireland’s Favourite Prayer and to compose a new ‘green prayer’, far surpassed all our expectations.  I was delighted to announce that Siobhan Hayes from Ballacolla in Co Laois had won the first prize of a €100 One for All Gift Voucher for her composition of a beautiful ‘Prayer in a Poem for the Ploughing’.  Second place was awarded to Racheal Diyaolu from Saint Leo’s College Carlow and third prize went to pupils from Skeoughvosteen NS in Co Kilkenny.  The fact that both entries came from Catholic schools in our diocese is a great testament to the commitment of our parents, teachers and students to keeping the light of faith alive in our parish communities.  I am happy to say that I will work with Messenger Publications in the coming year to produce a book of the environmental prayer/poems submitted for our competition.

“Thousands of people came to visit us, they drank endless cups of tea and coffee, spent time in our quiet prayer space and listened to the poetry of Patrick Kavanagh recited so beautifully by Father Tom Lalor.  Our visitors were also treated to great music, dancing and the two guest speakers, Davide Barbieri from Aid to the Church in Need and Father Paul Lawler OP offered thought-provoking insight into the plight of persecuted Christians throughout the world.

“Over the three days 3,000 bags of blessed salt, 4,000 wrist bands, hundreds of Saint Brigid’s Crosses, thousands of prayer cards and magnets were taken away by visitors who were delighted to find this oasis in the midst of the busyness of the Ploughing.

“I wish to thank all those who visited our stand, the diocesan team, and in particular Anna May McHugh, her daughter Anna Maria and the National Ploughing Association for all their kindness and support.”