A new museum has been unveiled at the pilgrimage site of Lough Derg.
St Patrick’s Sanctuary at Lough Derg is preparig to re-open Station Island in Donegal to pilgrims from May 1st, for its full Pilgrimage summer programme, after having been forced to close for the last two years due to Covid restrictions.
This week, the new museum has been unveiled at the lakeshore, with Lough Derg Priors past and present joining representatives from Donegal County Council in attendance at the official opening.
Described as an ‘institutional memory’ of this unique place of pilgrimage, the Pilgrim Shelter Museum will serve as a brand new point of interest for the many pilgrims eager to return to the sacred Island.
Remarkably, before the pandemic, the last time the renowned Lough Derg Pilgrimage season was suspended was back in 1828.
In a normal season, over 10,000 pilgrims would make their annual pilgrimage or retreat during the summer months, and this year Prior Fr La Flynn is confident that Lough Derg is back with a stronger mission than ever, building on foundations that reach back as far as St Patrick.
“In what has been a most challenging time for everyone, at Lough Derg we experienced our own challenges. We acknowledge how much our loyal pilgrims missed their annual Pilgrimage on Station Island and we are delighted to announce we are re-opening the Island for the usual One Day Retreats in May, August and September and for the Three Day Pilgrimage 1st June – 15th August.
“This is a historic moment in itself, and our dedicated team at Lough Derg have been putting plans in place for pilgrims to return in a safe manner. This is the year to encourage anyone who has always thought about visiting, or who has had the Three Day Pilgrimage on their ‘bucket-list’, to come and see what it is all about.
“It is an opportunity particularly for those who feel the need to ‘switch off’, and for others it may perhaps be a chance to re-connect with God. Our boats are ready to welcome pilgrims on board, no matter where their spiritual journey has taken them.”
When the pandemic struck, Lough Derg was determined to ensure that its mission would still continue over the lockdown periods, when pilgrims needed a space for prayer.
The ‘Do Lough Derg wherever you are’ online event in late June 2020 was the first time that the historic pilgrimage, including an all-night vigil, was experienced digitally.
This initiative saw over 1000 pilgrims join in from all around the world, from Vancouver to Beijing, and it was repeated in July 2021 on account of the renewed public health restrictions then in place.
A guided pilgrimage walk experience on the lakeshore Lough Derg Pilgrim Path was likewise born out of necessity when Station Island was closed. Unlike the exceptional online pilgrimage, the Pilgrim Path is here to stay, and dates will shortly be published for this year.
Speaking about the launch of the new museum, Fr La added, “Lough Derg has been a place of prayer since the fifth century, and the emergence of the pilgrimage to St Patrick’s Purgatory made it famous across Europe all through the Middle Ages.
“It is absolutely steeped in history. In addition to the thousands who come each year as pilgrims, many other visitors arrive at the lakeshore: walkers, cyclists, families on days out and organised tour groups.
“The Pilgrim Shelter Museum and the newly refurbished Visitor Centre will greatly enhance the experience for visitors and pilgrims alike. The 1500 year timeline illustrated in the Visitor Centre, and the range of perspectives offered by the museum, will provide a whole new dimension for those who enjoy an opportunity to look anew at the past.
“Our Lough Derg Team’s longstanding dream of a lakeshore museum became a realistic project because of the grant-aid we received from Donegal County Council under the auspices of their Minor Tourism Related Works Grant Scheme; we are indebted to the awarding body for their significant funding towards this new development.
“We will be delighted to welcome many people – pilgrims, visitors and tourists – to this wonderful new facility when the Pilgrimage Season officially re-opens on Sunday 1st May.”
Further information for booking a One Day Retreat, Three Day Pilgrimage, the Pilgrim Path lakeshore pilgrimage and group tours and visits are available from www.loughderg.org / email email@example.com / tel 00353 (0) 71 986 1518.