The pilgrimage season begins at Lough Derg in Donegal a place of Christian prayer and reflection since the 5th century.

From late May pilgrims head to Station Island on Lough Derg in County Donegal for a period of prayer and fasting. Station Island acquired its reputation as a place of pilgrimage before the middle ages. Tradition has it, St Patrick came here.

Through the ages, the practice of using the island as a place of repentance has continued.

The 1982 pilgrimage season opened last week and continues until 15 August. There is already a steady flow of pilgrims from all walks of life who pay an all-in fee of £6 per person.

Rich rub shoulders with poor, young sit alongside old, and all assume the common mantle of penitence.

Pilgrims fast for a period of 72 hours apart for some black tea and dry toast. While on the island, pilgrims are obliged to spend their time in prayer and reflection, and follow a set programme of religious activities.

Outside the Basilica, they renounce the world, then the flesh, and finally the devil.

This could be described a markedly different manifestation of Catholicism where suffering is an important element. Pilgrims spend the entire 48 hours on the island barefoot. Other physical strains include the lack of sleep, where the first night on the island is devoted entirely to prayer.

38 hours of religious exercises and self-denial passes before he gets to a bed.

What is the attraction to a place where one is guaranteed to suffer? One woman describes the experience as "splendid" and says she has been renewed spiritually. For many, the biggest challenge of the pilgrimage is staying awake.

It's very, very hard but it's worth it all.

Life on Station Island has its own pace, cut off from the rest of the world and virtually unaffected by modern ways.

This year, a telephone was installed on the island for the first time to accommodate a staff of 50. This prompted serious consideration before any action was taken.

Father McSorley believes that the popularity of Lough Derg is holding out in the modern world. He says that in the last three years, there has been an increase in the number of pilgrims to the island. In 1980 and 1981, over twenty thousand people took part in the pilgrimage.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 9 June 1982. The reporter is Tommie Gorman.