People missing Donegal’s Lough Derg can revisit the pilgrimage in a very special way in the coming weeks.
Periods of change and times of crisis became moments in history when St Patrick’s Purgatory near Pettigo found fresh ways to welcome pilgrims on their journey with God, and to meet their hopes for renewal and new direction in their lives.
Last year, 2020 was no different for the Island: the Covid-19 situation prevented Lough Derg from reopening its traditional Three-Day Pilgrimage and One Day Retreats, which drew thousands to Donegal every summer, from Ireland and around the world.
This summer saw a similar challenge and the boats to Station Island could not run for a second year in a row.
Fr La Flynn, Lough Derg Prior, moved out once again to the Island alone on the 1st of June this summer and remained there until the 15th August, marking the traditional Lough Derg ‘season’.
The memory of pilgrims in times past and their sheer determination, encouraged the development of a new pilgrimage experience on the Lakeshore along the Lough Derg Pilgrim Path (now officially part of the Pilgrim Path network in Ireland) which follows part of the historic route to Saints Island.
This Pilgrim Path walk experience, guided by the Prior and Team, includes some ‘stational’ elements to connect people with the traditional Three-Day Pilgrimage: prayer at the statue of Patrick the Pilgrim, at St Brigid’s Well, at Saints Island; and a pause for prayer at each of the nine Lough Derg Values.
Fr La remarks about the guided Pilgrimage which people can book to walk with the Lough Derg Team this September.
He said “In July we were delighted to welcome pilgrims back to our Pilgrim Path here on the shore of Lough Derg and the encouraging feedback we received spurred us to plan these further dates for September.
“We propose that as they walk, pilgrims might pray in their own way and also take some quiet time to be in touch with nature and to talk with God. Those who walk the Path in company with others can share some of their memories, stories and experiences in relation to past visits to Lough Derg.
“With our organised groups, and if the weather is suitable, we offer the possibility of Mass on a rock at the old quarry before the final stretch of the route.
“There are many echoes of our Christian past along the way, as well as the delight of a diverse natural habitat. I am looking forward to September and the opportunity of helping our pilgrims make these walks a true experience of Pilgrimage in the Lough Derg tradition. I would love for you to come and re-connect with the Lough Derg Pilgrimage in the nature-rich setting along the lough shore.”
The Lough Derg Pilgrim Path on the Lakeshore is also open daily to those who wish to come and walk it in a prayerful pilgrim spirit.
Contact Lough Derg 00353 (0) 71 9861518 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
St Patrick’s Sanctuary, Lough Derg lies about four miles north of the village of Pettigo. Station Island, the location of the Pilgrimage, is often referred to as Saint Patrick’s Purgatory or simply Lough Derg. In 1780 Lough Derg came under the custodianship of the Diocese of Clogher. The Diocese of Clogher encompasses all of Co Monaghan, most of Fermanagh and portions of Tyrone, Donegal, Louth and Cavan.
For more than fifteen hundred years the story of Lough Derg has been told and as far back as records go, 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 the penitential island of Lough Derg.
The Pilgrim Path itself reflects the story of Lough Derg. The present route from Pettigo to Lough Derg goes back only to the 1860s. Before then the pilgrims came over the hills and down to the lough shore at Portcreevy, near St Brigid’s Well. From there the path made its way onwards towards the monastery on Saints Island.
In Reformation times the monastery was suppressed, and from about 1600 pilgrims began to cross directly to Station Island by boat from Portcreevy. But in 1632 every structure on Station Island was destroyed and the island was closed by decree of the Privy Council. At this time pilgrims who arrived to Lough Derg and found themselves unable to cross to the Island made their stations there on the shore near St Brigid’s Well.
September dates for guided Lakeshore Pilgrimage September 2021 experience: Sun 12th Sept | Wed 15th Sept | Sat 18th Sept | Sun 26th Sept | Sun 3rd Oct