Croagh Patrick chapel restored ahead of pilgrimage season – Irish Times report
Fri, Jul 2, 2021, 01:00
The small church at the peak of Croagh Patrick was restored to its former glory ahead of the 2021 pilgrimage season.
The annual Reek Sunday pilgrimage to the Mayo mountain was cancelled last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and accompanying Masses normally held in the chapel were also called off.
Located 764m above sea level, the building is exposed to the wild Atlantic elements. It has been struck by lightning countless times, and when the winter ice thaws it pulls with it large chunks of white paint, according to Westport parish priest Fr Charlie McDonnell.
A fresh coat is usually applied each spring but Covid-19 restrictions scuppered last year’s makeover.
“After two winters it looked absolutely awful . . . People thought it hadn’t been painted for 100 years, but the reality was it had only been two years,” said Fr McDonnell
The restoration job is no walk in the park, with a private helicopter required to deliver tools and paint to the mountain’s summit. The reek’s caretaker, John Cummins, and a painter ascend by quad bike to reach the canvas, which should be fully repainted by the end of this week.
“The budget for the reek is fairly tight,” said Fr McDonnell, adding: “We manage from year to year with people putting in bits and pieces.”
Cancelling Reek Sunday events when many local volunteers were cocooning during 2020 was a “no-brainer”, Fr McDonnell said. “This year we said people are going to come anyway and so let’s put the facilities in place. This is a spiritual thing, but also has huge mental health benefits.”
To adhere to Covid-19 regulations on gatherings, it seems there is something to be said for saying another Mass. Instead of the usual eight sacraments at the mountain’s peak on Reek Sunday, 19 will be held across 19 days throughout July.
“The number one thing for us is that this must be safe for people. We are not doing anything to compromise Covid-19 guidelines and we cannot have this turning into a super-spreader event,” he said.
Fr McDonnell said the parish has received a good response from priests around the country offering to perform the additional Masses, which will be held outdoors from the conservatory of the chapel. The Masses will take place at noon on Wednesdays to Saturdays each week in July, weather and Government guidelines permitting. In general, the chaplains volunteering to say Mass at high altitude are young and fit, Fr McDonnell added.
The pilgrimage is organised by a full-time working parish, and 2021’s events are more logistically tricky than any previous year, currently requiring a full-time staff member, Fr McDonnell said, adding: “We are a small outfit; we are not Knock or the Galway races… We are hoping that it all works.”
Click on link below for a prayer booklet/guide for climbing Croagh Patrick