The pilgrimage team on the island of Lough Derg, Pettigo in County Donegal, are busy making final preparations for pilgrims arriving for the Three Day Pilgrimage Season which runs from 1 June to 15 August 2022.
For more than fifteen hundred years Lough Derg has been a sacred place and over the centuries it has been synonymous with the name of St Patrick. 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 on a world map of 1492 the only place marked within Ireland is the penitential island named as St Patrick’s Purgatory. Still today, the Island can offer a meeting place where God’s healing grace is experienced in an intensity seldom encountered elsewhere, through the spiritual programmes, the companionship of fellow pilgrims and the sense of a place apart that is enhanced by the remote location of the Island.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic it would be usual for Lough Derg to welcome more than 10,000 pilgrims annually during the summer months. The pandemic saw the pilgrimage season closed for almost two years, however, pilgrims made a welcome return to the island for the first time on 1 May for the One Day Pilgrimage programme and now the season will extend into the three day season.
After the two year closure, Prior of Lough Derg, Father La Flynn is delighted to see pilgrims happy to return to Lough Derg over the coming months. Father Flynn said, “Our new season is now well and truly launched! This year, the theme of our One Day Retreats experience was based on three words: Pilgrimage, Presence, and Prayer. We believe these words sum up the thrust of the Lough Derg experience, both for One Day retreatants and for those who will come for the Three Day Pilgrimage beginning shortly, in June.
“These words evoke so much of what Lough Derg holds for those who come to us here to find God – or to be found by God. The memory of St Patrick is inescapable in this place. The smiling faces of pilgrims who have visited us already this month seem to suggest that Lough Derg can still offer them a real sense that God is on their side.”
Described a few years back as the Ironman of Pilgrimages, the Lough Derg Three Day Pilgrimage offers a special opportunity to take time out and experience the embrace of the deep love and mercy of God. Pilgrims undertake the pilgrimage programme of prayer and quiet reflection in bare feet, keeping vigil for 24 hours and maintaining a fast from the midnight prior to their arrival (with one simple Lough Derg meal each day), in this way leaving themselves personally open to experience God’s presence to them in the unique spiritual atmosphere which pervades the out-of-the-way location of the Island.
The pilgrimage follows a centuries-old pattern prayer. Details of the prescribed ‘Station Prayer’ and liturgy timetable are available to pilgrims on arrival. Advance booking is strongly recommended.
Fr La Flynn, continued, “This is the year for anyone who has always thought about visiting Lough Derg, 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 for those who particularly feel the need to switch off’. 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.”
Booking is open now
Information for booking a One Day Retreat, Three Day Pilgrimage, the Pilgrim Path Loughshore Pilgrimage and organised parish group pilgrimages and visits are available from www.loughderg.org, or by email [email protected] You can phone for more information on 00353 (0) 71 9861518.
The Lough Derg Pilgrimage Season occurs annually from May through until October. The traditional Three Day Pilgrimage season happens between 1 June and 15 August. One Day Retreats and Special Retreat Days run in the months of May, August and September, followed by Youth Retreats in September and October.
About the island
St Patrick’s Sanctuary, Lough Derg lies about four miles north of the village of Pettigo in County Donegal. 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. It has a Catholic population of 88,000 across 37 parishes. There are 85 churches and 66 priests ministering in the diocese.
For more information see www.loughderg.org.