Donegal’s famous religious pilgrimages to Lough Derg will not take place this year.
The traditional three-day retreat undertaken by thousands of local people each year will not take place because of Covid.
This is the first time since 1828 that the pilgrimage in Pettigo has been suspended.
A spokesperson for the famous retreat centre said that striking the right balance between Covid-safety and welcoming pilgrims back to Lough Derg with confidence was the deciding factor.
The spokesperson added “As pilgrims know from experience, by its very nature the pilgrimage is a tactile one. Pilgrim hands and feet in touch with the stones on the penitential beds – this is at the heart of what it means ‘to do the pilgrimage’ on Lough Derg.”
Prior Fr La Flynn, said it is important to be clear about how the reached this decision, since we know that there are many pilgrims who will be disappointed with this news.
He said “Now when so many other aspects of life are moving, rather carefully, back towards what used to be normal, there will naturally be an expectation that the Three Day Pilgrimage could be possible.
“We approached the question of re-opening for the Three Day Pilgrimage with our Lough Derg mission and values at the forefront of our consciousness. We considered these alongside the Covid-safe practices that we would be required to implement to ensure pilgrim and staff safety.”
Every year, from 1st June until 15th August, more than five thousand pilgrims arrive to do the traditional Three Day Pilgrimage on Lough Derg.
Pilgrims travel to this remote island from across the island of Ireland and beyond.
Fr La continued; “One of our core values is the Lough Derg welcome, true to the spirit of a place of sanctuary – the ancient termann. The Covid-related measures essential to ensure pilgrim and staff safety would compromise this welcome and all aspects of the traditional pilgrimage. Our confined space on the Island both inside and outside was the ultimate determining factor.
“In reaching this decision I have not forgotten the scores of local seasonal staff as well as the many young people who rely on summer work here. Indeed it has not been an easy call to make.”
Fr La thanked the hundreds of pilgrims who have been in contact with them.
He added that their support is carrying them through this difficult time.
And he added with them in mind he is offering the opportunity to ‘do Lough Derg from wherever you are’ on 27 – 29 June. Further information on this can be found at www.loughderg.live
Fr La concluded; “Lough Derg is facing substantial financial pressure. The resources that sustain us annually come from the generous contributions of pilgrims. We are intending to open in a limited way on the lakeshore from 6th July and we are hoping that it may be possible to return to Station Island in the later part of the summer when we normally offer Day Retreats.”