‘Counter-cultural’ Lough Derg sees rising pilgrim numbers

‘Counter-cultural’ Lough Derg sees rising pilgrim numbers Fr La ODR shaking hands with visitors to Lough Derg.

Record numbers of pilgrims visited St Patrick’s Purgatory in Lough Derg for the opening weekend of the island shrine’s 2017 Three-Day Pilgrimage season.

With numbers up 10% on last year’s opening weekend, Fr Owen McEneaney, Prior of Lough Derg, told The Irish Catholic that it was even more heartening to compare today’s numbers – which saw 656 people arriving on the island over three days – with those from a century ago, when just 89 pilgrims arrived over the same period.

“It is very encouraging when you look at the numbers 100 years on and compare the times we are now living in,” he said, pointing to how the popularity of the Donegal shrine stands in sharp contrast to common narratives of declining faith and practice.


“We continue to read in the mainstream media that numbers are falling in church attendance,” he said, continuing, “but Lough Derg has never followed trends and we are continuing to witness a steady flow of people to this sacred Island.”

Describing the island, famous for its arduous devotional practices, as “counter-cultural to what else is going on around us” he highlighted as especially encouraging the conspicuous number of younger pilgrims to the island.

“The Spirit is at work and perhaps the number of people coming on pilgrimage is a sign of a renewal at a deeper level,” he said.