By Sarah Mac Donald - 29 June, 2016
The Bishop of Derry has expressed the hope that people will rediscover something of the Irish Church’s “great Celtic tradition” of walking and ‘pilgrimaging’.
Speaking to CatholicIreland.net after completing a 48-mile pilgrimage, which began on Wednesday 15 June, and lasted three days, before the 23 walkers joined other pilgrims from Derry diocese for a further three-day pilgrimage on Lough Derg, Bishop Donal McKeown said, “Pilgrimages can be a great leveller.”
“Blisters and tiredness remind us that we are all equal before God.”
Bishop McKeown was inspired to walk to Lough Derg after meeting Thomas Gallagher from Derry Cursillo when he made the pilgrimage to the island last year.
For the past five years, male members of Cursillo have walked from Derry to Lough Derg and this inspired the new bishop of Derry to suggest a pilgrimage to St Patrick’s Purgatory for the Year of Mercy, in addition to the usual diocesan pilgrimages to Rome and Lourdes.
Speaking about the walk, which he said left him energised for the three-day pilgrimage, Bishop McKeown explained to CatholicIreland.net, “Because of the experience of the last century in Ireland, we have tended to assume that we should normally be a settled, strong church.”
“But a key biblical image of the Church is that of the Pilgrim People. We are constantly on a personal and communal exodus. What lies behind was never the Promised Land.”
“For me, pilgrimages offer an experience of being a people on the move, pushing ourselves beyond our comfort religious and physical zone, non unlike Jesus was spend most of his time on the road with his disciples.
He said that even for the secular world, there is a new discovery of the value of ‘pilgrimaging’ with others and that pilgrimages can be a great leveller.
“Buildings are there only at the service of mission and to recall us to our belief that, because of Jesus, God with us, there is sacred time and sacred space in this world.”
“I hope that we can rediscover something of our great Celtic tradition of walking, with eyes and ears open for the God who is never far from us, greeting strangers, being welcomed by parish communities.”
“I pray that it will help us to rediscover our missionary spirit and not fear discomfort in the service of the Gospel.”
The first day of the pilgrimage covered 23.5 miles, from Derry City to Killygordon with a break in Ballindrait. Pilgrims stayed in Killygordon on the first night.
The second day covered a further 20 miles to Pettigo.
The third day covered the final four and a half miles to the island of Lough Derg.
The Diocese of Derry will undertake a second pilgrimages to Lough Derg in August.