Lough Derg memorial to Covid-19 victims launched as pilgrimage season suspended

People offered opportunity to do pilgrimage from afar over three days at end of June

The island retreat of Loug Derg in Co Donegal has launched a memorial to those who have died in the Covid-19 pandemic. A dedicated book in their memory will rest at the "In memoriam" space in St Mary's Chapel on the island.

People are invited to submit the name of a relative who has died, with a photograph (optional), and text of 10 words or less, to https://www.loughderg.org/covid-19-memorial/

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and for the first time in over 200 years, the summer pilgrimage season to the island has been suspended. As a monastic foundation, Lough Derg dates back to the earliest Christian period in Ireland and has been a place of pilgrimage since the early Middle Ages.

Prior Fr La Flynn says: "We have to go back almost 200 years to the 1820s, 1828 to be exact, to find a time when the summer pilgrimage season was last suspended, but . . .[on] 1st June 2020, my journey across to the island is a solitary one."


Going there he felt he could “in a humble way ensure that the voice of prayer does not fall silent in this place that has so long been faithful to the way of St Patrick.” Its “unique tradition of prayer, handed on by pilgrims who have come here season by season from century to century, will be sustained until I can welcome them here again.”

Would-be pilgrims, however, are invited to join spiritually with Fr Flynn and his pastoral team at Lough Derg over the three days of June 27th, 28th, 29th next in what “will not be a virtual pilgrimage” but an experience that “will involve the full pilgrimage exercises, wherever the pilgrim may be.”

Registration opens on the Lough Derg website from Wednesday (June 3rd).

Participation in the Lough Derg pilgrimage from afar happened twice before. Fr Flynn recalled how "in 1921 about 250 detainees at a prison camp in Ballykinlar in Co Down sought permission to perform the pilgrimage exercises there in the camp. Two years later the same request was made by 194 Republican internees on board the prison ship Argenta moored in Belfast Lough. On both occasions, because of the exceptional circumstances, the Prior granted permission to do Lough Derg from afar."

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times