During the Mid-term break for schools here in this part of Ireland, the community of Mitchelstown organized a mini-pilgrimage with a group of high school girls, from February 20th-22nd. This was the first pilgrimage that we have been able to organize from here and it was a great experience for all those who participated!
The small group of girls began to arrive early Wednesday morning, February 20th. We all went to Mass in the Mitchelstown parish in the morning, and then immediately began our adventure by traveling to Knock, where Our Lady appeared. So we started off the best way possible: close to Our Blessed Mother. In Knock, Our Lady spoiled us with a beautiful sunny day from the moment we arrived up until we left in the evening. We spent a full day there, complete with a visit to Our Blessed Mother, confession, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, lunch, time to look around and - of course - we sang songs in front of the apparition chapel. This was a very musical group of girls: We had one playing the guitar, another with the ukulele, and many enthusiastic voices.
The next day, Thursday, after we ate breakfast, we drove directly to Cobh, a small island within the southern part of Ireland. There we went to the cathedral of our diocese of Cloyne. It was a beautiful view: The cathedral is right on the water's edge and its towers seem to point straight to Heaven. We had Mass there in the morning, and afterwards, we spent some time looking around at all the artwork inside. Each corner is full of beautiful details and is like a graphic catechism lesson.
From there we went on the Benedictine convent close by. The nuns (of the Congregation of Adorers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Montmartre) received us very warmly. We spent time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and afterwards, Mother explained to us the story of their foundress, Mother Adèle Garnier, and spoke about their spirituality, while giving some very good advice to the girls. We also venerated the relic of St. Oliver Plunkett, bishop and martyr. We ate lunch there as well (and the nuns offered us tea), and before we left, of course, we could not forget to sing songs with them. It was a beautiful time of testimony: the nuns for us with their words and example, and the girls to them as well with their joyfulness and their music.
Home once again, we worked up an appetite with an energetic ball game outside in the garden while we made dinner. Later on, we went to a friend's house here in town to eat dinner with her. We had an uplifting conversation during dinner, and afterwards, we prayed the Rosary with songs. When we came home again, we had a beautiful Holy Hour with Jesus before we went to bed.
On Friday, the last day of our mini-pilgrimage, we spent the day in the city of Cork. We had time for prayer and Mass in the church of the Dominicans, and afterwards, we went to our dear Benedictus Bookshop. After lunch, we headed over to the Nano Nagle Place, a center dedicated to the foundress of the Presentation Sisters. Nano Nagle is buried there, and there is a large museum that explains her life.
Later we got back into the cars and went to Blarney, a town close to Cork, to visit the Missionaries of Charity who run a house for men in recovery from addictions. When we arrived, we were received by two Missionaries who had lived with Mother Teresa. They told us many stories about her. We were blessed to be able to venerate a relic of St. Mother Teresa and to spend a short time praying in the Missionaries' chapel. And, as always, before leaving we sang songs!
Finally, once again at home, the girls shared their experiences while we ate pizza before their parents came to pick them up. For all of them it had been a very special time visiting the different sites, the time we spent talking and singing together, and, of course, the opportunity it had been for them to grow in their relationship with Our Lord and with Our Mother.
May the Lord and His Blessed Mother cause the seeds that have been planted during these few days to grow, and may they continue to give us many more opportunities to be their instruments with souls!