Irish Jesuit Bishop Alan McGuckian is Bishop of the diocese of Raphoe in Co. Donegal. In July 202o he set off on a 260km pilgrim trek, taking in many places in Donegal and Derry associated with St Colmcille, the well-known Irish saint who ended up founding a monastic settlement on the island of Iona, Scotland. Next year marks the 1,500 anniversary of the birth of St Colmcille (also known as St Columba) in Gartan, Co. Donegal. He is the patron saint of Derry, the border county to Donegal.
The Bishop made the journey as part of a trial run to see if it would work as an official pilgrimage trail, Slí Colmcille, that could be offered to people at home and abroad. Along the way, he was joined by members of his team who planned the walk, as well as by local people who shared some of the journey with him. At night he stayed in the house of the local parish priest.
In this interview with Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications, Bishop Alan tells the tale of his challenging journey across the roads, bogs, and hills of scenic Donegal. He recalls the memorable moments and the places of significance in the life of St Colmcille that he visited.
He also speaks of the people he met along the way, including members of the Church of Ireland who came out to greet him and who also lay justifiable claim to the saint. And he concludes by telling of the impact the pilgrimage made on him as a member of the Jesuits, whose founder St Ignatius, travelled many hundreds of miles around Europe ‘alone and on foot’.