This Sunday, Archbishop Eamon Martin will join with thousands of pilgrims of all ages in the annual pilgrimage to the summit of Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s holy mountain, for Reek Sunday 2023.
Father Charlie McDonnell, Administrator of the local parish of Westport, Co Mayo, in the Archdiocese Tuam, welcomed the news that Archbishop Martin will celebrate Mass in Westport on 29 July, and on the summit of Croagh Patrick on Reek Sunday, and also that this year’s Reek Sunday pilgrimage has been designated as one of the key initiatives to highlight the Year for Vocation to the Diocesan Priesthood, which is taking place across Ireland over 2023 – 2024.
Father McDonnell said, “I am delighted that for this Reek Sunday we will be joined by the successor of Saint Patrick, Archbishop Eamon Martin of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, who will join us on our pilgrimage and celebrate Mass with Archbishop Francis Duffy in Westport, and also on the summit of Croagh Patrick.”
Croagh Patrick (2,510ft/765m) is a physically demanding pilgrimage which has been undertaken for over 1500 years. The Reek, as it known locally, dominates the landscape of southwest Mayo both spiritually and physically. The pilgrimage is associated with Saint Patrick who, in 441, spent forty days and nights fasting on the summit, following the example of Christ and Moses. The name ‘Reek Sunday’ comes from Patrick’s ability to Christianise many pagan customs including the festival of Lughnasa, which previously heralded the start of the harvest festival honouring the ancient pagan god Lugh, whose name is encompassed in the Irish language word for August: Lughnasa. This festival’s tradition became absorbed into new Christian beliefs and locally become known as Domhnach na Cruaiche (Reek Sunday). A virtual tour and additional information on Croagh Patrick can be viewed on tuamarchdiocese.org and on westportparish.ie.
Regarding the dedication of this year’s Reek Sunday pilgrimage to vocations to the priesthood, Father McDonnell said, “our Church needs vocations to the priesthood like never before. No doubt it is a challenging time to minister as a priest, but in my role I find that serving the people of God in today’s counter-cultural environment is nothing short of a faith-enriching experience. I love being a priest and I draw spiritual strength from the people I meet every day on the journey of life. For this Reek Sunday, I invite any man who is discerning a vocation to the priesthood to avail of the opportunity to come to Croagh Patrick and pray, climb and reflect with other priests and members of the faithful. To help raise awareness of vocations, a special ‘Year for Vocation to the Diocesan Priesthood’ stand will be in place on Reek Sunday morning, at the base of Croagh Patrick, to offer information on the priesthood.”
Father McDonnell continued, “In advance of the pilgrimage, I appeal to any priest in a position to minister the Sacraments over the Reek weekend, to contact me by email as soon as possible on email@example.com.”
Father McDonnell also spoke of the importance of conserving the natural environment of Croagh Patrick for current and for future generations. He said, “Croagh Patrick is an iconic feature of the Mayo landscape and is of significant natural, cultural and spiritual importance. In recent years the Croagh Patrick Stakeholders’ Group has achieved monumental success in helping to preserve and safeguard the mountain. However, we cannot do this alone. As the largest annual gathering on the Reek, it is essential that Reek Sunday pilgrims – and indeed all pilgrims – play their responsible part to sustain this holy site for future generations. The Church has actively engaged with other stakeholders to undertake the ‘Sustainable Access and Habitat Restoration Project’ to provide a robust path for access, and to restore the eroded parts of the mountain. In this regard we are committed to minimising the impact of the pilgrimage on the drinking water of the mountain streams, on the local community and on other users of the mountain. To help us to achieve these aims, we ask of each pilgrim to adhere to the following best practice guidance:
- if you are traveling by car, car-pool if you can, park responsibly and follow the instructions of stewards on the day;
- while climbing, stay on the defined path on the mountain (where in place) and do not encroach on the adjoining habitat which may be in the process of restoration;
- be respectful to the mountain streams which provide drinking water to the local community;
- support our ‘Leave No Trace’ principle by not discarding litter on the mountain and by appropriately disposing of any that you might come across; and,
- as dogs are not permitted on the mountain, please do not bring dogs to Croagh Patrick. I ask all dog owners to respect this requirement.”
From 8.00am on Reek Sunday, Mass will be celebrated on the hour outside of the chapel on the summit of Croagh Patrick. The full schedule for the 2023 annual pilgrimage, which takes place from Garland Friday 28 July, to Reek Sunday 30 July, is available here.