Almost 350 pilgrims departed yesterday, 6 July, for the annual Clogher Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes. The pilgrimage, which lasts until Tuesday 11 July next, is led by Diocesan Administrator Monsignor Joseph McGuinness. Bishop Joseph Duffy, Bishop Emeritus of Clogher, is also attending the pilgrimage along with other clergy and lay people from the diocese.
The opening Mass of the pilgrimage was celebrated this morning at 8.00am. As a high point of the pilgrimage, tomorrow morning at 7.30am Monsignor McGuinness will celebrate and preach the homily at the Mass at the Grotto. During the pilgrimage, pilgrims will also partake in the iconic Torchlight Marian Procession.
The pilgrimage to Lourdes is a central feature of the Clogher Diocesan life and is especially important to the sick of the diocese. Among the 350 pilgrims travelling to Lourdes this year are thirty-six assisted pilgrims who will avail of first-class specialised facilities at the Marian shrine for the entire duration of the pilgrimage. They will be assisted by sixty-seven voluntary pilgrim doctors, nurses and carers who will accompany them throughout.
A notable feature of the pilgrimage is the large number of young people taking part. Some sixty-nine members of the youth ministry group Clogher don Óige are attending the pilgrimage and will assist the pilgrims in a variety of ways and add their own special contribution to the pilgrimage experience.
This year’s pilgrimage also has a new director, Mr Brian Armitage, replacing Canon Joseph Mullin who carried out the role for almost 25 years. Mr Armitage is the first layperson to undertake the role. Father Noel McGahan, Parish Priest of Clogher and Eskra parishes, is the new Spiritual Director while John Hueston, also of Lisnaskea, is the new pilgrimage secretary.
The Diocese of Clogher is a cross border diocese which includes all of County Monaghan, most of County Fermanagh and portions of Counties Tyrone, Donegal, Louth and Cavan. Saint Macartan is the patron saint of the diocese. For more information please see www.clogherdiocese.ie.
Lourdes, a small market town lying in the foothills of the Pyrenees in southern France, rose to prominence in 1858 due to the Marian apparitions seen by the then fourteen-year-old Bernadette Soubirous, who was later canonised. Today, Lourdes hosts around six million visitors every year from all corners of the world. It is the most popular pilgrimage site for Irish people outside our country and its ongoing popularity has transformed Lourdes into the second most important centre of tourism in France, second only to Paris, and the third most important site of international Catholic pilgrimage after Rome and the Holy Land.