Bishop Duffy welcomes increase in number of pilgrims to Lough Derg

12 Aug 2009

12 August 2009

Bishop Duffy welcomes increase in number of pilgrims to Lough Derg

Bishop Joseph Duffy, Bishop of Clogher, has welcomed the increase in pilgrims visiting the Christian pilgrimage site of Lough Derg.  Approximately 8,500 pilgrims will have participated in the three-day pilgrimage by this weekend, a 10% increase over 2008.  In addition to the traditional three-day pilgrimage, the Lough Derg season includes one-day retreats, family days, quiet days, workshops and special events.

Bishop Duffy said “the first televised Mass from Lough Derg was broadcast by RTÉ on 2 August last and it was a great success.  I am delighted that in 2009 more people are allowing themselves the time to visit Lough Derg which is a special place of peace and personal challenge.  The pilgrims’ experience exemplifies the healing and liberating work of the Church which we all agree is very much needed at the present time.  As a pilgrimage, Lough Derg reminds us that we are all members of a community, searching for peace and reconciliation in our lives.”

“While people travel to Lough Derg for many reasons, I have heard that many decided to travel having seen the televised Mass last month.  This positive development reflects a common theme in the World Communication Day messages of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, as he encourages the use of new media technologies to promote the gospel.”

The Prior of Lough Derg, Monsignor Richard Mohan, also welcomed the number of people coming on pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Patrick.  He said, “Particularly significant are two groups of people: those who have returned after a long absence of 20 or 30 years and, secondly, those pilgrims who have come for the first time.

“‘First timers’ as they are affectionately known on the island, constitute approximately 18% of all pilgrims.  Their presence gives us great hope for the future of both the Church and Lough Derg.  I feel that people need a place apart where they can reflect on the busyness of their lives; to give themselves time and space.”

Prior Mohan continued, “Father Finbarr Tracey SVD, the director of the television production company Kairos Communications, approached me in early June to ask about the possibility of broadcasting Sunday Eucharist live from Lough Derg on RTÉ television.  I readily agreed as I believe it is very important for a place like Lough Derg to reach out to as many people as possible and a live broadcast on national television provided us with the vehicle to do this. 

“The liturgy here is always special:  we have a team of young people who lead the music and the pilgrims always join in the singing.  In fact the Psalm sung at the broadcast Mass was composed by Peter Manning who is our organist and only 16 years of age.  I am delighted to be in a position to offer young people such an opportunity.  We are indebted to Kairos Communications for the invitation and indeed for all the work put in by the team.  Transporting the broadcasting equipment across to the island was no mean feat, and it gives a whole new meaning to the term ‘Outside Broadcasting’!” said Prior Mohan.


Notes for Editors
The final group of pilgrims for the 2009 three-day pilgrimage will arrive on the island tomorrow, Thursday 13 August.  Boats run between 10.30am and 3.00pm.  For further details regarding this pilgrimage and One Day Retreats please see or telephone 07198 61518.

A video interview with Bishop Duffy, a brief history of Lough Derg as well as a description of the pilgrimage experience is also available on

Dating back to the sixth century, Lough Derg is among the oldest centres of Christian Pilgrimage in Western Europe.  Lough Derg lies four miles north of the village of Pettigo in County Donegal, in the Diocese of Clogher.  Station Island, the location of the pilgrimage, is often referred to as St Patrick’s Purgatory.

The three-day pilgrimage attracts people of all ages and walks of life, from different cultures and social backgrounds.  Stepping outside their ordinary lives and routine, they leave behind many of the trappings of the modern world.  Pilgrims will have begun their commitment by fasting from the previous midnight; they follow a set routine of prayers and actions, hallowed by 1,500 years of practice, all the while fasting and walking barefooted.

Pilgrims make nine “Stations” during their time on the island.  The challenging nature of the fasting, vigil and Stations is complemented by excellent communal celebrations in the Basilica.  One of the great experiences of Lough Derg is the warm and friendly communal relations that develop among the pilgrims.  Another interesting experience is the challenge to think differently about one’s faith and to begin to develop new and fresh insights into one’s life.


See our image gallery for images from Sunday 2 August …

Further information:
Martin Long, Director of Communications 086 172 7678