Parish Pilgrimage in the Footsteps of St. Patrick

Parish Pilgrimage in the Footsteps of St. Patrick

At the end of August, Michael Kenning, a Diocesan Lay Reader based at Carrigrohane Union of Parishes, led a small group of young men from Carrigrohane and Christ Church, Bray, Co. Wicklow, on a pilgrimage in the footsteps of St. Patrick. He had been planning to walk the Camino Inglés in Northern Spain, but due to Covid-19, was inspired to walk an Irish alternative route instead!

The group walked the Saint Patrick’s Way in Northern Ireland from Navan Fort (Emain Macha), the ancient capital of Ulster, just outside Armagh City, to Downpatrick, the traditional burial place of Patrick. The 132 km (82 mile) pilgrim trail was developed a few years ago by Alan Graham, a veteran of Alpine and Arctic expeditions. It is designed to take in locations associated with the life and ministry of St. Patrick and to emulate the Camino de Santiago in an Irish setting through the provision of a Passport that pilgrims can get stamped at key locations along the route and keep as a souvenir after wards.

The pilgrimage took seven days to complete and each day the group used a liturgy and bible reading plan together as they walked, to help guide their prayers and provide the walk with a spiritual focus. They also stopped off where possible, to pray in churches, such as Newry Cathedral.

The route takes in a surprising diversity of scenery and history along the way. It begins with the ancient Irish literary associations of the Táin and the Ulster Cycle connected with Emain Macha and the rich spiritual & Georgian history of Armagh, continues with the industrial heritage of Ulster where the walk follows the 250-year-old Newry Canal,  rises to its highest elevation amongst the rugged beauty of the Mourne Mountains, traverses the estuarine and coastal habitats at Murlough Nature Reserve and Tyrella beach, before concluding beside the Cathedral at Downpatrick, where Patrick was buried in A.D. 461. Along the way, the group also examined the restored 16th century Bagenal’s Castle at Newry, the Anglo-Norman ruins of Dundrum Castle, the 6,000-year-old stone circle at Ballynoe and even an 18th century neo-gothic hermitage at Tollymore!

Journey’s end – Alexander Cupples, Tiarnán Healy, Jonathan Stanley & Nzube Mekah at St. Patrick’s grave in Downpatrick

It wasn’t all easy going however, as the pilgrims had to contend with both Storm Ellen and Storm Francis and cope with heavy downpours of rain, floods on the roads and strong gusts of wind near the beginning and end of their walk.

The pilgrimage concluded at Saul Parish Church, the traditional site of St. Patrick’s first church in Ireland which he started in a barn donated by a local chieftain named Dichu. It was a special privilege to meet both the Rector of Saul, Rev. Henry Hull and the Bishop of Down and Dromore, David McClay, who despite a busy schedule, took the time to meet the group, listen to their personal stories and pray for them. It was a fitting end to a wonderful and personally challenging pilgrimage.

“Although I am originally from Co.Down, I learnt many new things about St. Patrick and the heritage of my home area. For me, it was much an interior pilgrimage into my past, as it was a physical walk. It was a special privilege to travel with such an impressive group of young men, who encourage me so much through their maturity, spiritual insights and perseverance. They were such a joy to spend time with”. (Michael, CUP)

“I started the St Patrick’s way with a list of decisions I had to make in my life. I hoped that this would be a good opportunity to sort them out with the Lord. Instead, I felt God encouraging me to simply enjoy his company and marvel at his creation as I walked. The Mournes were stunning and beautifully silent but I particularly enjoyed walking along the sea at Murlough Nature Reserve at dusk, listening to the sound of Oystercatchers and the sea. By the end of the walk I still hadn’t made a single decision, but I was pleased that I had “wasted” several days resting and enjoying a companionable silence with God” (Jonathan, Bray).

“Walking through Northern Ireland was bliss! The sights, the scents, the history were all breathtaking. It’s amazing to have experienced such rich culture and be a part of St. Patrick’s legacy and walk in his footsteps. It was a life changing experience!” (Nzube Mekah, CUP)

Jonathan Stanley and Nzube Mekah stamping their Pilgrim Passports in Armagh.

“The highlights for me were the fellowship and having time to process issues after a tough week before the walk. There were some wonderful views along the way and the bonus of visiting Saul. I also learnt more about the importance of building margin into my life and slowing down”. (Alexander, CUP)

More information on St. Patrick’s Way can be found at

Messy Church June

Messy Church June

Messy Church has now been Running in Blarney for 11 years – this is our second Online Messy Church – do check out the videos , story, activities etc below. All are welcome 🙂

Resources needed for today’s activities

Flour, sugar, margarine, eggs, icing sugar & decorations for the cake activity 

Card, glue sticks, scissors, felt pens, paper, bucket, coins, permanent marker and some coins

Activity 1: Cake making and decorating

Make a cake (could be cupcake size) and decorate it for the 11th Birthday. You might even use a candle. (Recipe for cake and icing below or use your favourite ones!) Take a picture and send it to and we will put the pictures up on the Lighthouse Facebook page for everyone to see (so no faces in the photos please!) These would make a lovely dessert for your party meal!

The Father in the story just had to have a big party when his son returned because he loved him so much and was just so happy to have him back. Who are the people you love? How do you show love to them? How do you show love to those outside your family? Is there something you could do as a family to show love to someone who is lonely or sad at this time?

Activity 2: ‘I Love you this much’ card  

idea from

Draw around your hands onto card and cut them out. You could use the same or different colours for each hand! Then cut a long strip of card and fold it concertina style. On the front hand of your card write ‘I love you’ and on the strip of folded card write ‘this much’. Then stick the strip to the back of the card which says I love you and then place the other hand with thumbs together and stick the strip to the inside of the second hand. You could give this to your Dad, or uncle, or grandfather or … for Father’s Day. You could make more than one and give them to other people too.

The younger son in the story knew he had really messed up. But his Father still loved him. It doesn’t tell us in the Bible if the younger son told his Father he loved him. It is really good for us to tell those that love us that we love them. 

Activity 3: Party food and decorations

Create some party food together and decorations for the table and have a party together. Decide what party food/meal you would like to create and assign activities for each person or work as a team. Here is one idea for the table: Each person creates a placemat from an A4 piece of paper covered with drawings and/or words of all the things you want to thank God for. You could also dress up and put on some music and dance to it either before or after your food/meal.

The Father was so happy that his son was back safe and well that he decided to have a party to celebrate. He had his servants give his son the best clothes available and cook the best food and they all had a great big party together. God loves us just like the father in the story. We all do wrong things but it doesn’t matter how small or big they are God still loves us and wants us to come to him and say sorry just like the son in the story said sorry to his father. You could write ‘thank you God you love me’ on your placemat. What else will you say thank you for?

Activity 4: Coin throwing game

Put a mark on the base of the bucket in the middle on the inside (use permanent or waterproof marker) Now put some water in the bucket and see if you can drop a coin onto the mark in the bucket. (It is very unlikely that you will be able to do this!)

In the story the younger son wasted all the money he was given. But the older son thought he had done all the correct things and was acting in the best way and so was so angry when his father gave a party. But no matter how ‘good’ we are there is no way we can ever be as good or holy as God is, which means we are never perfect like God is which is a bit like how no matter how careful we are when we drop the coin it probably won’t hit the mark. Just like we won’t ever hit the mark of being perfect and holy like God. 

Recipe for cake 

4 oz margarine, 4 oz sugar, 6 oz self-raising flour and 2 eggs

Cream the flour and margarine together. Add the eggs and beat. Then add half the flour and beat it and finally add the rest of the flour and stir it in until it is all well mixed. Place the mixture in a well-greased tin with a piece of baking parchment on the base and put in a pre-heated oven at 180degrees for approximately 30 minutes. Or you can put the mixture in cupcake cases and the cooking time will be approximately 10-15 minutes. 

This mixture will make approximately 15 cupcakes or one 2cm deep cake in a 20cm tin

Water icing: mix icing sugar and a small amount of water to make a thick paste. You can add food colouring if you wish. Spread the icing on the cupcakes or cake and decorate as you would like with small sweets or any cake decorations you may have.

A Pastoral Letter from Bishop Paul Colton

A Pastoral Letter from the Right Reverend Dr Paul Colton,

Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross

to the United Dioceses of Cork, Cloyne and Ross

When I sent you my pastoral guidance on 16th March requesting that, in response to the CoronaVirus crisis, we, like other dioceses of the Church of Ireland, close our church buildings, my prime concern was the safety and well-being of everyone.  This was your concern also, I know.

Much has happened since then; there have been many changes, challenges and, for too many people, tragedies.  In my monthly letter in the Diocesan Magazine published yesterday, I extended sympathy, not only to the loved ones of all those who have died of COVID-19, but also to everyone who has been bereaved during this pandemic, while also assuring those who have been ill or whose lives have been upheaved, of our prayers.

May I take this opportunity, once again, as your Bishop, to thank you most sincerely, for the ways in which you have responded to this crisis.  Your faithfulness, commitment, energy, determination, inventiveness, self-sacrifice, generosity and compassion have all been inspiring and humbling to witness.

The time approaches now when, subject to the public health advice and the public health situation generally, we can begin to look forward to the reopening, progressively, of our church buildings at some stage after 20th July.  This is good news and let us anticipate it with joy and hope, rejoicing that, although things will be very different for a time, we can begin to be in community together again as Christians.

Later today, or tomorrow, clergy and select vestries will receive information from the Church of Ireland about what is required in order to reopen church buildings.  The protocol that will be circulated is based on the Government’s two documents – the Roadmap for Reopening Society and  Business and the Return to Work Safely Protocol – both of which have been explained, and the practical implications set out,  in such a way that is specific to our church settings. 

I know that, in this Diocese, the responsibilities required of us all will be addressed and put into place with pragmatism and commitment; that is our tradition here in Cork, Cloyne and  Ross.

In  anticipation  of  the arrival of that protocol, I want first to underline a few key principles:

  • Safety: This is still about keeping everyone safe.  We do not want, either by our actions or omissions, to put one another or those who join us at risk.
  • Personal responsibility:  A message that we must keep highlighting for everyone is that each person must also take personal responsibility, first, not to come to church if  we or  anyone in our household has COVID-19 or has the symptoms of COVID-19; and second, to share in  the responsibility of making and keeping our church buildings safe places during the current times.
  • Three core areas: Church buildings are no different from any other place in the community in that the three core areas will apply to us too, all of which are mentioned in the new protocol:
    • Social or physical distancing in accordance with public health advice. This may mean that some buildings have a maximum capacity which has to be taken account of.  It will mean changes to our usual ways of gathering and seating. 
    • Hand hygiene
    • Respiratory hygiene
  • The new ‘normal’: When we reopen it will not be ‘business as usual’.  We will all need to be accommodating, flexible and  purposeful; determined to get this right for everyone’s sake as well as for the long term good of the people, churches and parishes in our Diocese. 
  • Step by step reopening.  It may also be both necessary and prudent, according to local circumstances and logistics not ‘to bite off more than we can chew’ at first, and to open our buildings progressively, one by one, over a period of time. We have to take into account also the situations of those available to take the large number of Church Services in our Diocese each Sunday.
  • The bare basics: The protocol that you will receive will encompass the basics and essentials needed just to get the building open and in use.  Further advice is in the pipeline and will follow soon about other core concerns such as Holy Communion, Holy Baptism, Funerals, and weekday opening for private prayer and visitors.  There are also some areas where additional advice is needed and is being sought, such as about singing. 
  • The unknown:  There are still many uncertainties and unknowns. We live in a time when there is a lot of conjecture and speculation in the public space as well as mutually exclusive views being articulated by experts. There are political and economic pressures from many directions. It can seem confusing.  We need, therefore, to be on our toes and ready to respond to changes in the public health advice as time goes on.   

So, dear friends, let us, as faithful followers of our Lord Jesus Christ, continue to walk the path of faith, hope and love.  In all of this (as I have tried to do, I hope, so far) I pledge to stand alongside each of our clergy and our parishes, and to give of myself, in whatever practical ways I can, for as long as the good Lord gives me life and strength to do so.  May he grant us all those gifts and all that we need to do what needs to be done in these times in which we live.

I end this letter as I ended that on 16th March.  I pray that the Lord God who has been with our forebears throughout the ages, including at times of great uncertainty and danger, in being with us all now too, will give us fortitude and calm, wisdom and perseverance, and enable us to live in the Christian way of faith, hope and love.  Amen.

With prayerful good wishes,

✞ Paul Cork: