Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
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Catholic Charities Foundation’s Ireland tour both spiritual and inspirational
from the Catholic Charities Foundation
(From the May 19, 2016 edition of the Inland Register)
Father Mark Pautler (left) and Msgr. John Steiner celebrate Mass with their fellow pilgrims at the Marian shrine at Knock, Ireland. (IR photo courtesy of the Catholic Charities Foundation)
“This trip was truly spiritual and inspirational,” said Jaclyn Perkins of Colville, in describing her journey through St. Patrick’s Ireland, “and this pilgrimage helped me to appreciate our rich church history, the perseverance of Catholicism, and solidified my faith even further.”
The tour retraced the footsteps and ministry of St. Patrick, Ireland’s famous patron saint. Perkins, along with her mother, Karen Johnson, joined other parishioners from the Diocese of Spokane for the ten-day tour, April 10-19, sponsored by the Catholic Charities Foundation. Her mother, Karen, had this to say: “Not only did we visit some incredibly beautiful and spiritual places, we also had a great time!”
Led by Msgr. John Steiner of the Diocese of Spokane and Dennis Hake of the Catholic Charities Foundation, the 44 travelers on the trip toured the less-visited region of Northern Ireland (as compared to the Republic of Ireland to the south). The escorted tour visited holy and religious sites, important and significant monastic communities, and included visits to well-known landmarks and cities.
In a circular traverse of the country, the group visited Clonmacnoise and Monasterboice, two of the best-known monastic communities in Ireland. These “settlements,” with their dedicated cloisters, became important trade and cultural centers in Ireland, while helping to promote spiritual reflection, learning and shaping Christian faith. In these communities exist some of the largest and finest examples of “high crosses,” stone crosses that are carved with scenes and artistic depictions on the life and Resurrection of Christ.
Visiting many historically and architecturally significant churches, cathedrals, and holy sites, the travelers saw the simple stone church at Saul which, in 432 A.D., was the first Christian church erected in Ireland by none other than St. Patrick himself. Nestled atop one of the rolling green hills of the northeast, the group was invited by the bishop of Downpatrick to “sit and experience the peace, serenity, and presence of the Holy Spirit in this first church.” At St. Patrick’s Center, which is dedicated to documenting the history of Ireland’s patron saint, the group further learned about his early life and “apostolic” ministry throughout Ireland. St. Patrick, whose given name was Maewyn Succat, was believed to have been born in Wales and brought the Christian faith to Hibernia (the classical Latin name of Ireland before the 4th century A.D.).
Although Ireland is not a particularly large country, the group, along with guide Jennifer and driver Brian, logged several hours and many miles taking in the pastoral scenery, ubiquitous flocks of sheep, and quaint villages for which the country is well known. Stops along the way included the ancient towns of Tullamore, Kilbeggan, Armagh, and the coastal village of Westport. These stops sometimes included a “wee bit of lunch” – usually vegetable soup and brown bread and a pint at the local pub.
A highlight of the journey was a visit to the Marian Shrine of Knock, where Msgr. Steiner and Father Mark Pautler concelebrated Mass for the group and other pilgrims from around the world. Knock is where an apparition of the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, and St. John the Evangelist was witnessed in 1879.
Even though the tour placed special emphasis on St. Patrick’s mission and presence in Ireland, the group also visited and participated in other interesting and educational activities and destinations. Among these were a visit to Trinity College, which was founded in 1592, to view the Book of Kells, and city tours of Dublin and Belfast. In the latter city the group visited the Titanic Museum, where the famous and doomed ship was built. The pilgrims also took part in a tour to the world-famous Belleek ceramic factory, located in a village of the same name); visited a still-working, centuries-old whiskey distillery; stopped at the iconic Guinness Brewery at St. James’s Gate; and made a memorable journey to majestic Kylemore Abbey, originally built as Kylemore Castle, and its fabled Victorian Walled Garden.
Preparing for the journey back to the U.S., the travelers reflected on their experience and observations from the tour. Said VaLinda Saterlee, “We came to Ireland mostly strangers, but now are leaving as friends.”
The overwhelming sentiment expressed by individuals in the group was that the tour had a profound and reinforcing impact on their Christian faith. Msgr. Steiner, now “Father John” to his fellow travelers, summed it up this way: “To walk in the footsteps of St. Patrick reminded our group of the strength of the faith of the Irish people. There is so much more to Ireland than that it being green and wet. So much more.”
(To learn more about this story, about the Catholic Charities Foundation, or about future tours, contact Dennis Hake at the Foundation: by phone at (509) 358-4255, or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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