This small lake tucked away in Donegal seems to be surviving the tidal change of doom and gloom that is pervading society today. Entering the last week of the traditional Three Day Pilgrimage season, signs are encouraging that for the third consecutive year there will be a slight increase in the number of pilgrims to Lough Derg. If the trend holds until Saturday we will have seen pilgrim numbers increasing each year since 2008. Fasting, going without sleep and shoes is contrary to the world we live in today where everything is instant and too often about ourselves. But still the practice continues unabated - pilgrims have been travelling to this remote Donegal Island for centuries, from all over Ireland and indeed the world. There are records of pilgrims coming from Catalonia in Spain in the 1300s - and in 2011 pilgrims have travelled not only from every county in Ireland but also from 30 other countries as far away as Brazil and Bermuda!
Lough Derg’s motto “Bringing you the Gift of Hope” seems to pervade the air on the third morning when pilgrims depart a little lighter in their heart after this tough but rewarding experience.
It’s always encouraging when a ‘business’ gets repeat trade and Lough Derg is delighted to welcome back each year 80% of regulars, but they are equally encouraged with 20% of new blood embarking upon this ancient rite for the first time. What has been remarked this Season is the number of people coming back after a lapse of up to 30 years and those pilgrims have been impressed with the many physical improvements to the Island which has been quite transformed over the last 20 or so years. ‘There is a definite trend of ‘Come back to Lough Derg, and see what they’re all talking about’, says Manager, Deborah Maxwell. Recent exposure on television such as Nationwide has also been a great help.’
Inviting all media to spread the good news, Lough Derg is actively tweeting and using facebook to keep in touch with their pilgrims, bringing to reality their commitment of ‘Being with you on Life’s Journey’ .
For a place to have survived 1500 years it cannot stand still; Lough Derg certainly is passionate about creating new opportunities for people to enjoy the sanctity of the Island. 2011 has seen the biggest programme on offer ever - with a Mother and Daughter Retreat in May, a Father and Son Retreat in September, a special Family Day on August 19th, and not to be outshone on the festival circuit, an event called Pure Oxygen-a gig, on 25th August on the Island for young people. This event which may seem contrary to the ethos of the Island is all about welcoming young people from both sides of the community to enjoy some local talented music, without the pressure from their peers of alcohol and drugs.
There are still a few days left to take three days to yourself, to give yourself the gift of time, reflection and renewal - an opportunity to connect with yourself, and with this special place of prayer. There’s plenty other events remaining in the 2011 programme to allow you to experience this special Island where time has most definitely not stood still.
Some Dates to Remember
13th August - Last day for starting the Three-Day Pilgrimage
15th August - Last day of the Three-Day Pilgrimage
One Day Retreats are available on
August: 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31
September: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, 20
22nd August Living In The Present
27th August Understanding Our Children
30th August Guided Prayer
4th September A Day With The Angels
14th September Meditation for Beginners
Full Day Workshops
19th August Family Day Retreat
9th September Father and Son Retreat
View Lough Derg video library on www.icatholic.ie
“Lough Derg is an experience of real humility where the material world takes a back seat.”