An exterior view shows St. Mary of the Angels on Church Street, Dublin, March 23. A new city center "camino," or pilgrim walk, has been launched in Dublin as part of the celebrations surrounding the International Eucharistic Congress set for June 10-17. CNS photo/John McElroy

Dublin's city center 'Camino' takes pilgrims to seven historic churches

By  Cian Molloy, Catholic News Service
  • May 24, 2012

DUBLIN - A new city center "Camino," or pilgrim walk, has been launched in Dublin as part of the celebrations surrounding the International Eucharistic Congress set for June 10-17.

The walk, involving prayerful visits to seven of Dublin's most historic Catholic and Anglican churches, is partly inspired by the famous pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain and partly inspired by the traditional Dublin devotion of visiting seven churches on Holy Thursday.

Unlike the pilgrimage across Spain to the burial place of St. James, which takes weeks to complete, the Dublin walk can be completed in about four hours. In typical Irish fashion, the Dublin pilgrimage has no set route; visitors can make their own path to the churches in any order desired.

The pilgrim walk will operate June 2-16. Participants will be given a "Pilgrim Passport" that can be stamped at each church, which will be open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

Mass will be celebrated at 5:45 p.m. daily at St. Mary's Pro-Cathedral, where people who have finished the walk can receive a certificate marking completion of the pilgrimage.

Father Damian O'Reilly, administrator of the pro-cathedral and one of the pilgrimage's organizers said interest in the walk has been high and that 30,000 passports have been ordered.

"There is great excitement in each of the parishes, where there will be volunteer pilgrimage ambassadors to greet the pilgrims and stamp their passports," he said." The volunteers see it as a way of showcasing both their churches and their parishes -- there is a great pride of place."

The seven churches involved -- St. James; Our Lady of Mount Carmel; John's Lane; St. Ann's, Dawson Street; St. Mary of the Angels; St. Michan's, Halston Street; and St Mary's Pro-Cathedral -- are each notable in their own right.

Opened in 1854, St. James' Church creates a link between the Dublin's Camino and Spain's El Camino de Santiago because it stands near the site of St. James's Gate, where Irish pilgrims departed to journey through France and Spain in the Middle Ages. The site today is occupied by the St James's Gate Brewery, home of Guinness, where a visitor center offers refreshment to thirsty pilgrims.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel on Whitefriar Street was founded in 1279, dispossessed during the Reformation and re-established in 1825. The mother house of Ireland's Carmelites and one of Dublin's largest churches, it contains relics of St. Valentine and the Shrine of Our Lady of Dublin, which features an oak statue of St. Mary dating to the 16th century.

The Church of St. Augustine and St. John the Baptist on Thomas Street is more commonly known as John's Lane Church and usually has a flow of people stopping to pray before the shrine of Our Mother of Good Counsel. The church opened in 1874, but an Augustine community was established in Norman times on the site at the end of the 12th century. The church is known for its stained glass windows and the four different schools of art represented in their designs.

In keeping with the ecumenical nature of the congress, an Anglican church is included in the pilgrimage. St. Ann's, Dawson Street, is a favorite of Dubliners of all faiths because of its lunchtime recitals and evening concerts. Located next door to the Mansion House, St. Ann's once was a place of worship for Ireland's ruling class.

St. Mary of the Angels on Church Street and nearby St. Michan's on Halston Street are Capuchin Franciscan churches in the same parish, which is said to be the oldest in Dublin, dating to about 1095. St. Michan's, once the site of Dublin's cathedral, houses a plethora of coffins in its vault including several with the lids removed. One holds the mummified remains of a soldier returned from the Crusades.

St. Mary's, with its many fine mosaics, and St. Michan's have been included in the walk partly because of the notable pastoral work carried out by the Capuchins. The Capuchin Day Center feeds 480 homeless people breakfast and lunch six days a week.

"It's a great shop window for our pastoral work, as well as the day center, we are also the home for the Capuchin Foreign Missions office," Franciscan Father Bryan Shortall said. "It's also a great opportunity to highlight our two beautiful churches. St. Mary's is 164 feet from floor to ceiling. The roof was built by a shipbuilder, so the pitch-pine ceiling looks like the inside of an upturned boat."

Designed in the Decorative Gothic style, St. Mary's is considered one of the most beautiful churches in the city. St. Michan's also is known for its stained glass windows depicting the mysteries of the rosary and the seven sacraments. Notably, it was at St. Michan's where the first novena to St. Francis Xavier was prayed at a time when the Jesuits served the community.

The walk's last stop is St Mary's Pro-Cathedral, where construction began in 1815 in the midst of the Catholic emancipation movement. Hence its location off of a main street, albeit a few dozen yards from O'Connell Street, Europe's widest boulevard. A neoclassical building, the pro-cathedral has a Greek revival portico but a Romanesque interior. In addition to the fine high altar, there are two intricately designed altars dedicated to St. Mary and to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

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