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Presbyterian minister & prior join in prayer on Lough Derg

By Sarah Mac Donald - 05 March, 2014

Lough DergA Presbyterian minister and a Catholic priest will join in prayer on Lough Derg for the very first time today.

Very Rev John Dunlop is a minister and former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

He will join the new Prior of Lough Derg, Fr Owen J McEneaney, in the unique inter-church day for Ash Wednesday.

This is the tenth ecumenical ‘Day of Friendship and Prayer’ on Lough Derg which continues to see growing numbers each year from across the Christian traditions.

According to organisers, it is a day for peaceful reflection where people ‘are all one in Christ Jesus.’ (Gal 3:28)

The day is seen as a “unifying occasion where neighbour can reach out to neighbour through their shared Christian heritage on this unique Island made sacred through centuries of prayer.”

In advance of his first visit to Lough Derg, Rev Dunlop said he appreciated “the generous invitation” from Fr McEneaney.

“It will be my first visit to the island. Someone from my Presbyterian tradition would look upon Lough Derg as a strange place, so I look forward to joining those who will be there.”

He continued, “I have always found such inter-church occasions to be enriching.”

Prior to his retirement in 2004, Rev Dunlop was for 26 years the minister of Rosemary Presbyterian Church in North Belfast.

Prior to that he worked for 10 years with the United Church in Jamaica. He was the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland in 1992.

His book ‘A Precarious Belonging: Presbyterians and the Conflict in Ireland’ was published by Blackstaff Press in May 1995.

He has written and presented a number of programmes for the BBC, RTE and Ulster Television and he is also a regular contributor to BBC Radio’s ‘Thought for the Day’, Sunday Worship and to their current affairs’ programmes.

In 2005, he presented a six-part TV programme for BBC NI on the church in China.

He has served on public bodies dealing with parades and marches;  community capacity in North Belfast and the wording on the memorial to the victims of the Omagh bomb.

He has spoken at many inter-Church services and given numerous lectures at events organised by a wide cross section of groups.

He has also explored in lectures, sermons and conferences the importance of understanding one another’s culture, history and religion as well as the difficulties involved in the churches’ identification with particular communities and their responsibilities to be agents and facilitators of reconciliation.

John Dunlop is married to Rosemary, a couple counsellor with Relate of which she is now a Board member. They have a daughter and a son and five grand-children.

Ahead of Ash Wednesday, Fr McEneaney said, “I am honoured to have the privilege to begin my first season on Lough Derg in union with my Christian brothers and sisters.”

He added, “Ash Wednesday is an opportunity for us to experience our togetherness in Christ as a community of believers, and alongside Rev John Dunlop we extend an invitation to all of you to come and experience the rich benefits of this day of friendship and prayer.”

Fr McEneaney was appointed Prior of Lough Derg and Administrator of Pettigo in September 2013.

Before this appointment he served in Monaghan Town where he was appointed Administrator in 2001. Fr McEneaney was ordained in 1984. He served on Lough Derg from 1991 until 1998.

Lough Derg, Sanctuary of St Patrick, lies about four miles north of the village of Pettigo, on the Donegal/Fermanagh border.

Station Island, the location of the pilgrimage is often referred to as simply ‘Lough Derg’.

Boats depart for the Island from 10am and return at 3pm. The boat journey is 10 minutes. Refreshments, service & lunch: price €25. Full details of the programme are available at www.loughderg.org

Contact information: Tel: 071 9861518 (from NI 028 686 32391) or email: info@loughderg.org.

Lough Derg Pilgrimage & Retreat Season commences with One-Day Retreats on 3 May 2014 and on certain days until 26 May.

They re-commence again after the Three Day Pilgrimage season ends on 17 August and on certain days up until 21 September 2014.

These guided days of prayer and reflection include Prayers of Intercession and Healing of Memories as well as the sacrament of Reconciliation and celebration of Eucharist.

The afternoon offers an opportunity for quiet and contemplation. The traditional Three-Day Pilgrimage season runs from Friday 30 May until 15 August.

Pilgrims make ‘Stations’: they will walk barefooted, kneel on the hallowed beds, fast and keep vigil. All the while they will be connecting with suffering and starving people of our world, while keeping in touch with the soil and the rocks of the earth, their feet firmly on the ground.

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