Pat Lally, originally from Louisburgh, pictured with family Ashleigh and Ciaran near the summit of Croagh Patrick. Pic: Conor McKeown
Only hundreds climb after plea due to Covid-19 restrictions
Approximately 500 people climbed Croagh Patrick as part of the Reek Sunday pilgrimage despite the event being cancelled officially.
The annual pilgrimage to the holy mountain regularly attracts around 25,000 pilgrims. However, the numbers that attempted the climb on Sunday fell well short of this.
Last year’s climb saw 23 injuries. This year, Mayo Mountain Rescue reported none.
The last time the pilgrimage was cancelled was 2015, and that was due to bad weather. This year’s pilgrimage was cancelled because of Covid-19 and social-distancing concerns.
Speaking to The Mayo News, Westport parish priest Fr Charlie McDonnell said that the numbers that did show up were very manageable.
“It was the best weekend day of the year so far since the lockdown,” he said. “Everyone that came fitted into the car park, everything went off fine. It was a lovely day, and a perfect success from our point of view.”
Of the few hundred who did the climb, Fr McDonnell said there was a ‘mixture’ of people.
“I met about ten young lads in Centra, and they didn’t know it was Reek Sunday but they were just going climbing it. Then there were people who always climb Reek Sunday and couldn’t not climb it [this year]. There was room for everyone,” he said.
He added: “If we could get [the numbers] this weekend every weekend, the local community would be very happy. We always knew there would be people who would have to come for Reek Sunday for very valid and respectable reasons.”
Fr McDonnell described the decision to cancel the pilgrimage as ‘the only decision’, saying that accommodating the usual numbers and providing Holy Communion and confessions wouldn’t been possible with social distancing.
He said: “I had hoped early on that we’d be able to have some kind of pilgrimage, but as time went on we could see that we didn’t have the resources.”
Speaking during his homily in St Mary’s Church in Westport, Archbishop Michael Neary said: “This year for obvious reasons we have had to cancel the pilgrimage. And while the possibility of climbing Ireland’s Holy Mountain is not possible this year, I encourage those who had hoped to do so to still attend Mass, write petitions, and go to Confession in your own parishes. Such faith practice is very important in order to keep these important links with this year’s Reek Sunday.”
He concluded: “Croagh Patrick, as a pilgrimage, enables and encourages us to isolate the important from the unimportant. It highlights our fragility, our vulnerability, and at the same time it enables us to catch a glimpse of and appreciate the bigger world, its beauty and our responsibility as we support each other on our journey towards the summit and on our life’s journey.”