The road to Ireland | Persons, places and things

Kylemore Abbey monastery is one of the sites that is part of a pilgrimage trip to Ireland this summer, sponsored by The Catholic Messenger.

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

A pilgrimage to Ireland, the “Emerald Isle,” has been among my deepest desires since childhood and that desire is about to be fulfilled. The Catholic Messenger’s “Faith of the Irish” pilgrimage with Bishop Thomas Zinkula as our spiritual guide takes place Aug. 31-Sept. 9. Our list of pilgrims grows but we welcome others on what promises to be a journey of faith, friendship, history and taking in the wonders of God’s creation.

As a child, I developed a love for Ireland, where my dad’s family has its roots. I devoured stories about Ireland, its history and current events. I read novels, including Leon Uris’ “Trinity.” I pestered my Grandma Irene Arland, whose Irish eyes always seemed to smile, to share her memories of family stories about Ireland. My husband Steve and I planned to visit Ireland for our 25th wedding anniversary, but my graduate studies postponed our plans. Now is the time.


Oh, the places we will go! Major sites along the pilgrimage include Dublin, Armagh, the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock, the Holy Mountain of Croagh Patrick, the Cliffs of Moher and the Blarney Stone. We have an opportunity to find and refresh our cultural and spiritual roots.


I look forward to visiting the Holy Mountain of Croagh Patrick where St. Patrick is said to have fasted for 40 days. From there, we take in the scenery of Connemara on the way to Kylemore Abbey for a visit with lunch, followed by the celebration of Mass. Then we head to Galway where many of the pubs serve great food accompanied by Irish music.

Traveling along the coastline toward the famous Cliffs of Moher, we stop to visit an authentic Irish farm where pilgrims glimpse this important part of Irish industry (including a scone-making demonstration at the farmhouse). Then we travel through the ancient burial grounds and unique countryside of the Burren before arriving at the Cliffs of Moher, where we have time to hike along the cliff trails, relax, read, and savor God’s creation. We stop at one of the many St. Brigid’s Wells, located throughout Ireland for an outdoor Mass (weather permitting).

We also visit Knock Shrine, one of the leading Marian shrines in the world, celebrate Mass, and visit the basilica, the largest church in Ireland. Knock is a popular pilgrimage destination. St. John Paul II visited in 1979.

St. Patrick’s country in Armagh is another must-visit stop. Ireland’s ecclesiastical capital, Armagh, is home to two cathedrals named after St. Patrick. We celebrate Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, followed by Holy Hour. Our travels take us through St. Patrick’s country to Downpatrick. According to tradition, St. Patrick was buried in 461 on Cathedral Hill.

At Blarney Castle, we see the famous Blarney Stone. The Woollen Mills next door offers shopping for traditional Irish gifts. We continue our drive to the “Rock of Cashel” to see the ruins of a magnificent, medieval romantic site. Our next stop is the Holy Cross Abbey to celebrate Mass. Our day ends in Kildare where we visit St. Brigid’s Cathedral and the Round Tower.

A visit to Glendalough promises to be special. This ancient monastic city, established in the 6th-century by St. Kevin, is in the heart of “the valley of the two lakes.” It was an important center of learning and a pilgrimage destination. On a guided tour of the site, we see the Round Tower, the ruins of the cathedral and “St. Kevin’s Kitchen.”

Join us on the journey! Contact Select International Tours at (800) 842-4842 or for details about the trip and cost. Also, visit the website at

(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at

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