HEADING FOR THE SUMMIT Michéal Crosby and Tom Feehan on their way to the summit of Croagh Patrick as the annual pilgrimage up Ireland’s Holy Mountain returned after a two-year hiatus due to the Covid pandemic. Pic: Conor McKeown
The pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick is alive and well according to a local cleric after he estimated close to 7,000 climbed the holy mountain on Reek Sunday.
The prayers for fine weather on Sunday were answered in abundance with glorious sunshine greeting pilgrims in Murrisk for the first Reek Sunday pilgrimage since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Fr Charlie McDonnell, Administrator of Westport Parish, told The Mayo News that the numbers who climbed were in excess of the pre-pandemic numbers and estimated that between 6,000 amd 7,000 people climbed throughout the day.
“It was great to be back to be honest and the numbers of people who climbed were in excess of what we have been expecting. There was way more that in 2018 and 2019 and the weather made a massive difference. Since we cancelled in 2015 because of bad weather, we have noticed that many people wait to see what kind of day it is before climbing and the morning was a bit slow. However by 7.15am the cloud was gone from the top of the mountain and the numbers started to flock,” he said.
This was the first Reek Sunday pilgrimage for the new Archbishop of Tuam Francis Duffy and the Cavan native used his homily to highlight the decline in priest numbers and the change in store for parishes.
“I suggest you look at your priest, he may be the last in a long line of resident pastors and may not be replaced. I suggest you look at your church, you may be lucky to have a Sunday Mass or several, but for how much longer?” he told the homily in St Mary’s Church in Westport.
A great mix
Fr McDonnell said that there was a great mix of people climbing Croagh Patrick on Sunday and while he stated that people may climb it for many reasons, there is still a cohort of people who climb it because of their faith.
“There was very much an international dimension to this year’s pilgrimage with groups of nuns from Poland and India taking part. There was people from Ukraine and many of them had come for the Mass and it was very much a pilgrimage for them. This year has shown that the pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick is very much alive and you could see a sizeable number of young Catholic people who have a devotion to their faith and want to keep it alive,” he said.
This year was also the first Reek Sunday pilgrimage with the new pathway and Fr McDonnell praised the work of the people involved. He said many climbers commented on it and he believed that the number of accidents were reduced because of it.
The Mayo Mountain Rescue team were joined this year by various teams from Mountain Rescue Ireland and including the Irish Cave Rescue organisation and the Calder Valley team from the UK.
Mayo Mountain Rescue recorded eight casualties on Sunday but none were considered serious with a number recorded as exhaustion on such a warm day. One female who was suffering from exhaustion at the summit of Croagh Patrick, was airlifted by the Irish Air Corps helicopter after she was assessed by mountain rescue personnel and was stretchered down from the summit to the medical tent.
Meanwhile, the Achill Island Coast Guard was asked to attend to a female casualty who suffered a ankle injury close to the megalithic tombs on Slievemore on Achill Island. The incident occuured at approximately 4.29pm when the female suffered a fracture to her ankle.
The coast guard personal with the assistance of some tourists helped stretcher the casualty to an awaiting ambulance and she was transferred to Mayo University Hospital.