This Sunday, 1 May, will see the launch of the 2016 Lough Derg Pilgrimage and Retreat season at Saint Patrick’s Basilica on Lough Derg, the national Shrine of Saint Patrick. To mark the beginning of the Jubilee of Mercy Pilgrimage Season, the Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, His Excellency Archbishop Charles Brown will open the Holy Door of Mercy at Saint Patrick’s Basilica.
‘The Jubilee of Mercy Pilgrimage Season’ commences on Sunday and ‘One Day Retreats’ continue on certain days until 30 May. ‘The Three Day Pilgrimage Season’ commences on Wednesday 1 June until 15 August. Pilgrims can begin their pilgrimage on any day up to and including 13 August, with One Day Retreats recommencing after this on Sunday 21 August. During the Three Day Pilgrimage, pilgrims make ‘Stations’: they walk barefoot, kneel on the hallowed beds, fast, pray and keep vigil. On One Day Retreats, pilgrims enter into a day of prayer and reflection and keep footwear on. 14,000 pilgrims visit Lough Derg every year, and since 1861 the number is estimated to be two million. On average, 70% of pilgrims have been female and 30% male. Eight out of ten pilgrims return to the island and each year a growing number of new younger people come to experience the sacred island.
Speaking ahead of the start of the 2016 pilgrimage season, the Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, His Excellency Archbishop Charles Brown, said, “I am looking forward to Sunday as Lough Derg is a very special for me, as it is for all pilgrims. It is really wonderful that during this Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, pilgrims have the opportunity to pass through a specially dedicated Holy Door on this holy island. By doing so we, the pilgrims to Lough Derg – in the words of Pope Francis himself – ask, “the Father to forgive our sins and to bathe us in his merciful ‘indulgence’” (cf. Misericordiae Vultus, 22).
Bishop Liam MacDaid, Bishop of Clogher, said, “The faithful of the diocese are honoured that the Papal Nuncio will open a ‘Holy Door of Mercy’ on Lough Derg, on Sunday. Having a Door of Mercy, in this extraordinary Jubilee Year, puts Lough Derg on a par with the major shrines and holy places of pilgrimage and retreat throughout the world. We are deeply grateful to His Holiness Pope Francis for his thoughtfulness and we warmly welcome again to Lough Derg his representative, the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Brown.”
Lough Derg Prior, Father Owen McEneaney, said, “The island shrine is a sacred space of mercy and everyone is invited to ‘Come and let God’s mercy find you on Lough Derg’. It is a special sanctuary of peace and personal challenge. There are no outsiders here: everyone is equal. During 2016, I invite pilgrims into a new a commitment: if you are seeking time out from the daily grind of the everyday to come and walk in the footsteps of our forebears. Lough Derg reaches out to those in need: whatever your creed, background, personal circumstances or religious practice, everyone is most welcome.”
Five hundred pilgrims are expected to attend the opening day of the 2016 pilgrimage on Sunday. The Apostolic Nuncio to Ireland, His Excellency Archbishop Charles Brown will preach the homily at Mass. The schedule for the opening day is as follows:
10.20am – Gather in Saint Patrick’s Basilica
10.40am – Welcome
Way of the Cross
The Door of Mercy
Gift of Mercy
12.00 – 2.15pm Lunch
Sacrament of Reconciliation
2.15pm – Gather at Davog House
Opening Door of Mercy
Saint Patrick’s Basilica
Celebration of Eucharist (Mass)
4.15pm – Departure
For more information on the pilgrimages and a full list of pilgrimage dates for both the One Day Retreats and the Three Day Pilgrimage Season visit www.loughderg.org.