Extensive maintenance and structural repairs required to buildings on Lough Derg pose a major financial challenge.
Lough Derg in County Donegal has been a place of Christian pilgrimage since the time of Saint Patrick and there is no sign of a fall off in its popularity. Some 26,000 people made their way to the island in the summer 10 week season.
On the island, known as Saint Patrick’s Purgatory, the visitors, in bare feet, engage in a ritual of prayer and fasting, which dates back to the middle ages. They spend their first night without sleep. For the second and final night, pilgrims sleep in the men’s and women’s hostels.
Monsignor Gerard McSorley, Prior of Saint Patrick's Purgatory, Lough Derg was appointed as administrator in 1979, but the financial challenge he faces are immense. In 1983 he discovered some of the buildings on the island were in such a state of disrepair that they were crumbling into the sea.
The whole future of the pilgrimage centre was in jeopardy.
Immediate restoration work began on Saint Patrick’s Basilica, but the maintenance cost is greatly increased by having to ferry all materials from the mainland.
The entire restoration project is estimated at £2.5 million and a Lough Derg Restoration Fund was established in 1983. To date Monsignor McSorley, regarded by some people as Donegal’s version of Monsignor James Horan of Knock, has raised £700,000. This is a result of a direct donation from pilgrims and the diocesan collection.
It has been going well, at this stage I could say we’re on target.
Monsignor McSorley is not sure if the target will be raised in the next two or three years, but certainly, they will get it eventually and the restoration programme will be completed within five or six years.
An RTÉ News report broadcast on 5 September 1984. The reporter is Tommie Gorman.