A Capital Camino

A Capital Camino
WMOF 2018: Programme
A seven-church pilgrim walk offers an extra way to get involved 
in WMOF2018, 
writes Greg Daly


The ‘Seven Churches of Dublin’ was a longstanding tradition on Holy Thursday when Canon Damien O’Reilly was growing up, and with the Camino de Santiago growing in popularity in the year leading to 2012’s International Eucharistic Congress, a ‘pilgrim walk’ around the city during the congress had seemed an obvious idea.

“It was something that people who might not be able to attend the congress could do and still be part of it,” he explains, relating how the committee he was on thought a useful ‘Dublin camino’ could include three Catholic churches on either side of the Liffey, with a Church of Ireland church included too to ensure the pilgrimage was an ecumenical experience.

The pilgrim walk was designed to be flexible, he continues – taking place over a week, it could be done in one go, or broken up throughout the week, and involved pilgrims visiting each of the seven churches, spending time in prayer at each one, and having ‘pilgrim passports’ stamped at each church along the way, with them receiving a certificate of completion once they had finished their pilgrimage, allowing them to share in the indulgences granted for participation in the Eucharistic Congress.

All told, over 20,000 people took part in the walk.


Given this success, it’s not surprising that a similar idea was raised for this year’s World Meeting of Families, with a small sub-committee being set up to consider it and making recommendations to Fr Tim Bartlett and his team.

“The concept is basically the same,” Fr O’Reilly says, “though the seven churches are different.”

Of the seven churches picked in 2012, only St Michan’s Church on Halston Street and the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on Whitefriar Street are among the seven churches in the 2018 camino, Fr O’Reilly adds. “St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral is listed, but it’s not fully one of the seven this time because it has to close on the Thursday in preparation for the Pope coming,” he explains.

Churches this time were chosen for a range of reasons including connections with the Pope himself and obvious links with the theme of the World Meeting of Families itself.

“Whitefriar Street is home to the relics of St Valentine and the shrine of Our Lady of Dublin,” Fr O’Reilly says as an example, adding, “St Thérése of Lisieux’ parents Louis and Zélie Martin are patrons of the World Meeting, and during WMOF2018, their relics will be there during the pilgrim walk.”

Run by St Thérése’s order of Discalced Carmelites, Clarendon Street Church was a natural stopping point along the way, while St Audeon’s Church on High Street was another obvious choice as one of Dublin’s oldest Catholic churches and a key point for the Polish community in Ireland.

While some way north of the Liffey, St Saviour’s on Dominick Street has long been a centre for the veneration of St Martin de Porres and the Church of St Francis Xavier on Gardiner Street was, as a Jesuit church, another easy choice given how Pope Francis is the first Jesuit Pope.

Dublin’s Archbishop Diarmuid Martin and the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin Dr Michael Jackson will jointly launch the walk on August 18, he says, walking between St Michan’s Church on Halston Street to the Church of Ireland St Michan’s Church on Church Street.


Curiously, Fr O’Reilly says, during preparations for the walk in recent weeks, the organising committee led by Bishop Ray Field came upon the tombstone of Archbishop John Carpenter, Dublin’s Catholic Archbishop from 1770-1786, in a family plot in St Michan’s Church of Ireland Churchyard.

Explaining that there’ll be volunteers in every church along the route to meet and greet pilgrims, and to supply them with pilgrim passports if they need them, Fr O’Reilly stresses: “Pilgrims can visit any church in any order, and can take as long as they like. If they complete the walk all in one go, it will probably take about two-and-a-half hours.”

That model could work especially well for parish groups, he says, but however people choose to do it, he says, noting that some may wish to do it with a newly-released app, one key thing they should remember is that it opens up WMOF2018 for people who can’t make it to the RDS.

“It’s a way for people to be involved who can’t go to the Pastoral Congress,” he says.


St Audoen’s Church, High Street 

The theme for this station is the gift of grandparents to the family.

Home to Ireland’s Polish Chaplaincy service, St Audeon’s was built between 1841 and 1847, designed by Patrick Byrne, the architect of the nearby St Paul’s Church on Arran Quay and the Church of the Immaculate Conception on Merchants Quay.

Appropriately for a church on a WMOF2018 pilgrim walk, St Audoen’s houses the National Shrine of St Anne, the mother of Mary and thus the grandmother of Jesus. The site on which the church is built once housed a college to accommodate the chaplains to the Guild of St Anne’s – the bakers’ guild of medieval Dublin.


Our Lady of Mount Carmel – Whitefriar’s, Aungier Street

The theme for this station is love at the heart of the family.

The first Carmelites arrived in Ireland in the late 13th Century, with Dublin’s original Carmelite community being suppressed during the Reformation in 1539. They were back in the city early in the 17th Century, their community moving several times before settling on Whitefriar Street, the site of their pre-Reformation priory, over 1824-1825, with the foundation stone of the new church being laid in 1826 and the building being consecrated in November 1827.

The original 19th-Century church, designed by George Papworth, architect of St Mary’s Pro Cathedral, proved far too small, however, and major redevelopment took place in the 1840s.


St Teresa’s Carmelite Church, Clarendon Street

The theme for this station is the gift of parents to the family.

Home to the city’s Discalced Carmelites since 1797, St Teresa’s played a key role in the 19th-Century Catholic emancipation movement, with Daniel O’Connell holding political meetings there between 1813 and 1829 and Fr John Francis Lestrange acting as secretary of O’Connell’s Catholic Association. Its political links continued through the 19th Century, holding the funeral of the Fenian Charles McCarthy in 1878 in a hall off the main church despite Church authorities had declared all Fenians excommunicate.

Nowadays, situated as it is just off Grafton Street, St Teresa’s may be one of Dublin’s busiest churches, with several Masses being celebrated there every day and Confessions being heard throughout the week.


St Francis Xavier’s, Gardiner Street

The theme for this station is the role of teachers in enriching the children of our families.

St Francis Xavier’s Church received national attention last year when it was the site of the first ever beatification on Irish soil, with the Jesuit priest Fr John Sullivan being numbered among the ‘Blessed’. Blessed John’s remains lie within the church, where they can be venerated by the Faithful.

Built between 1829 and 1832, the Jesuit church was heavily influenced by Italian architecture and in 1889 was the site of the funeral of the Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, who is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.


St Saviour’s, Dominick Street

The theme of this station is God walks with families when times are tough.

The Dominican Priory of St Saviour’s was first founded in 1224, roughly on the site now occupied by the Four Courts, with the present church having been opened in 1862.

In 1974 St Saviour’s became parish church for the surrounding area, and in 2000 became the student house for the formation of priests for Ireland’s Dominicans. In recent years the church has also become home to the Dominican Polish chaplaincy, also offering Masses in Slovak and Spanish, making it a truly international church in the heart of the capital.


St Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Marlborough Street

The theme for this station is the gift of brothers and sisters within the family.

Not one of the formal ‘seven churches’ of the pilgrim way, pilgrims are nonetheless invited to visit Dublin’s pro cathedral, although it should be noted that St Mary’s will close after 12.45pm Mass on Thursday August 23 until the morning of Sunday August 26.


St Michan’s, Church Street

The theme for this station is fostering the gift of forgiveness among families.

Dublin’s oldest parish church north of the Liffey, St Michan’s is an Anglican Church, and its inclusion is part of the ecumenical dimension of the Pilgrim Walk. Originally built in 1095, the current building dates from 1686 and was substantially renovated in 1825 with its interior substantially the same as in Victorian times.

The church’s organ was built in the 1720s, and was reputedly used by Handel when practicising for the first performance of the Messiah, while below the church are burial vaults containing the mummified remains of many of Dublin’s most influential 17th-, 18th- and 19th-Century families, including the famous 1798 rebels the Shears brothers.


St Michan’s, Halston Street

The theme for this station is the gift of children to the family.

Built between 1812 and 1817, and developed further in 1891, St Michan’s on Halston Street has for two centuries served the people of the Markets, Courts and all those who live and work in the very busy part of the city which extends west from Capel Street to the Phoenix Park, south to the North Quays and north towards Phibsborough and Drumcondra. Home to a small but vibrant Capuchin community, the church was restored last year to mark its bicentenary.