Lough Derg: For a second pilgrimage season in a row the Lough Derg boats will not ferry pilgrims, yet the voice of prayer will not be silent.
The traditional pilgrimage on Lough Derg will not go ahead this summer. The public health measures still in place within the phased relaxation of restrictions do not go far enough at this time to enable Station Island to reopen for the safe return of pilgrims.
In a normal season, over 10,000 pilgrims would make their annual pilgrimage or retreat during the summer months to Station Island in County Donegal. This year again the Prior, Fr La Flynn, will move out to the Island on the first of June to begin his witness of a daily Station Prayer on behalf of pilgrims who otherwise would themselves be coming on pilgrimage over the ten weeks until 15 August.
This offers also a pledge of assurance to the many who send their petitions and prayers to Lough Derg, that these will be remembered before God on this holy ground.
Fr La, speaking on how it feels this second time around knowing that we will be into a third year before the return of a full pilgrimage programme in 2022, said: “Here at Lough Derg we accept that the steady roll-out of the vaccine programme is something that is a priority for people at this time, offering hope and joy. We respect the wisdom of a phased and stable relaxing of restrictions. The timing is just not on our side this year.
“Lough Derg sees itself with a responsibility towards its thousands of faithful pilgrims and friends, to help them keep connected to the momentum of prayer that I hope to maintain from today until August 15.
“The tradition of prayer and intercession is part of the fabric of this place. As I take up the daily Station Prayer of the Pilgrimage I do so with a glad heart, carrying the prayer of our pilgrim family near and far.”
Fr La added: “Many areas of society are returning to some normality. I particularly rejoice at the welcome return of faithful people to their places of worship. I want to say that Lough Derg is still here. I am very confident that, with a further easing of restrictions on outdoor gatherings in the coming weeks, Lough Derg will be able to offer the ‘Pilgrimage along the Lakeshore’ with a possibility of open-air Mass.
“Our regular pilgrims will be glad to learn that the ‘Pilgrimage from Afar’, offered in response to the pandemic last year, will be held on 3-5 July. From their own home, pilgrims will be able to join with me and some members of our pastoral team to do their Three Day Pilgrimage from where they are, with a live stream link.”
“Participation in ‘Do Lough Derg from wherever you are’ will be open to anyone across Ireland and indeed worldwide who is up for the challenge of the traditional pilgrimage. Last year we were joined across timelines by pilgrims from Beijing to Vancouver, all sharing in a continuum of prayer that has been kept alive by families from generation to generation back through the centuries.
““I see myself simply as a kind of humble ‘place-marker’ for the continuity of the pilgrimage experience until the pilgrims themselves can return to take up what is really their own tradition and – in many cases – the tradition of their families back through the generations.”
(Mgr La Flynn is the Prior of Lough Derg and Adm of Pettigo Parish.)
Lough Derg… the background.
St Patrick’s Sanctuary, Lough Derg, lies about four miles north of the village of Pettigo in County Donegal. Station Island, the location of the Pilgrimage, is often referred to as Saint Patrick’s Purgatory or simply Lough Derg. Since 1780 Lough Derg has been under the custodianship of the Diocese of Clogher.
For more than fifteen hundred years the story of Lough Derg has been told and as far back as records go, it has been associated with St Patrick. Ancient writings have it that the first monks settled at Lough Derg in the fifth century, not long after St Patrick came to Ireland. It would seem to have been well established as a place of pilgrimage by the ninth century, and there is a famous world map of 1492 on which the only place marked for Ireland is St Patrick’s Purgatory.
The Lough Derg Pilgrimage Season runs from May through until October each year, and the traditional Three Day Pilgrimage season is from 01 June until 15 August. One Day Retreats and Special Retreat Days run in the months of May, late August and September followed by Youth Retreats in September and October.
Information about Lough Derg and regular updates on the Pilgrimage along the Lakeshore and Guided Walks along the Pilgrim Path can be found online:
The Diocese of Clogher encompasses all of Co Monaghan, most of Fermanagh and portions of Tyrone, Donegal, Louth and Cavan. Bishop Larry Duffy is the Roman Catholic Bishop of Clogher.