Pilgrims are invited to Ireland this year for “Gathering Ireland 2013.” Among the pilgrimages to make is a hike up Croagh Patrick. Register file photo

Pilgrimage seeks to bring the Irish back to Ireland

By  Joseph Austin, Catholic News Service
  • April 14, 2013

WASHINGTON - An organization called World- Priest is offering a pilgrimage for priests and their parishioners and friends from around the world to experience the cultural heritage and spirituality of the Emerald Isle as part of “Gathering Ireland 2013.”

The Gathering is a government initiative to encourage people from around the globe with Irish heritage or who are “honorary Irish” to come back to Ireland and celebrate their Irish roots.

“Over 70 million people worldwide claim Irish ancestry,” said a statement posted on a web site promoting the year-long celebration. “Irish individuals and community groups — both at home and abroad — are at the heart of the Gathering.”

Leaders of WorldPriest, founded in the early 2000s to support the Catholic priesthood, have planned the pilgrimage as way for the world’s priests and others to celebrate their faith during this special year.

“Ireland was the island of saints and scholars (in the Church) ... how can we leave our priests out of it?” Marion Mulhall, founder and president of WorldPriest, told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview.

In the early 1990s, Mulhall said, she was a successful business woman when she decided in 1994 to go on a retreat she said changed her life.

“I honestly believe that I received a very clear vocation to promote the priesthood,” she said, adding that she was “gently taken out of that career” in advertising to start WorldPriest.

“If everybody does a little good, then big change can happen” in the world, she recalled thinking. Mulhall wondered if there was any way her advertising background and her newly discovered vocation could connect “to do good for the world.”

Mulhall launched WorldPriest after the Vatican in 2002 established the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests, celebrated in many dioceses on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which this year is June 7.

In 2004 Mulhall, who is a lay Carmelite, and two colleagues had established a nonprofit company, Quantum Universal, to develop the WorldPriest site and other sites. Quantum Universal’s work includes creating print-based promotional campaigns to promote vocations to priesthood and religious life for several dioceses.

As part of Gathering 2013, the WorldPriest organization is sponsoring an “Irish Camino” in “celebration of Catholic priesthood.” The “Tochar Phadraig” Pilgrimage Walk is planned for Aug. 12-15 in County Mayo. It will follow the ancient promenades of the early Irish Christians, most famous among them St. Patrick.

The pilgrimage will start with a Mass at the nearly 800-year-old Ballintubber Abbey and proceed through “the majestic lands of Irish cultural and spiritual history,” ending with a Mass in the Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of Knock.

General information about the Gathering can be found at www. thegatheringireland.com, and www.worldpriest.com has details about the pilgrimage.

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