Mgr Joseph McGuinness, at the Opening Mass for the 2018 Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes.

At 9am this morning, in the church of St Joseph in the Sanctuary at Lourdes, the opening Mass of the 2018 Diocese of Clogher Pilgrimage to Lourdes was celebrated. 300 pilgrims, including a number of assisted-pilgrims and their helpers attended the Mass. The chief celebrant of the Mass was the Diocesan Administrator, Monsignor Joseph McGuinness. Other celebrants were Fr Noel McGahan PP, Clogher & Eskra (Spiritual Director of the pilgrimage), Canon Joseph Mullin PP, Lisnaskea & Maguiresbride, Canon Lawrence Dawson PE, Brookeboro & Fivemiletown, Fr Terence Connolly PE, Eskra and Fr Leo Creelman CC, Castleblayney.

This afternoon, the pilgrims will celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, led by Fr McGahan. Tonight, they will take part in the torchlight procession on the esplanade in front of the basilica – a hugely important part of the Lourdes tradition. Tomorrow morning at 8.30am, the Clogher pilgrims will join those from the Archdiocese of Edinburgh and St Andrews, Scotland, for Mass at the Grotto.


‘For all of us, this time together in Lourdes is a very special time. It is a great gift to have this time to be together, to pray together, and to support each other in the great pilgrimage which is the journey of life. Many of you, I know, have been coming here for many years and this is something you look forward to with great anticipation, and remember with great fondness.

‘But what each one of us brings with us is quite unique. We bring our own personal joys and cares; we bear our own burdens and hopes. In our hearts are our own wishes for graces we need and blessings we desire. And also in our hearts we bear with us the care we have for the people we love.

‘Many people will have asked us to pray for them while we’re in Lourdes, but those who will probably be most in our thoughts are the members of our own families. We will be thinking especially of family members who are facing great challenges or difficulties at the moment: those who are threatened by illness of body or mind; those who may be struggling with addiction to alcohol or drugs; those who are weighed down with financial or employment worries; those who are experiencing difficulties in relationships.

‘But Lourdes also provides us with time to reflect on, and give thanks for the great joys, gifts and blessings which our families have given to us. These are things which we should never cease to be grateful for, and take every opportunity to celebrate. In the Gospel story today we hear of just such an occasion in the life of Jesus, one of the most joyous of family celebrations – a wedding.

‘What a privilege for that young couple to have Jesus and his Blessed Mother both present at the moment that they were beginning to create a home and a family together. But we shouldn’t forget that the Lord and his Mother are with all of us at all times and that their presence blesses all our homes and families, when we open out hearts to them. In Lourdes we open our hearts in a special way to Jesus and Mary, because here we are more conscious of their presence with us. We open our hearts to share with them the deepest needs of our own lives. We share with them also those whose needs we bring with us. And we share with them the wishes we have for our families.

‘As at Cana, Mary directs us to her Son. She says to us “Go to him. Do whatever he tells you.” And Jesus says, as he did to the beloved disciple from the Cross, “This is your Mother”.

‘In our lives and in our families we have experiences which are both Cana and the Cross. In our families in particular there can be both great love and joy, but also profound pain and hurt. May we always be aware that in both of these, our Saviour and his Mother are with us, just as they both were at the wedding feast and the crucifixion. And may we open our hearts to them both.

‘In just over a month’s time we will witness the great celebration of the World Meeting of Families. I hope that all of our country will find a sense of joy and hope in this great event. We will be happy and privileged to have with us our Pope, Francis, whom we call, with respect and affection, our Holy Father, for the fatherly care, love and compassion which he shows to our Church and our world.

‘I hope it will be a time when we can renew our gratitude for the gifts of family life and love, and especially find the grace of forgiveness and healing where our families are wounded or divided. Our Church, it has been said, is a Family of families. As we of the family of Clogher gather in prayer at this blessed place, honouring Mary, our Mother, may we extend our thoughts and prayers to the whole family of God, and seek from Him, the Father of us all, the grace of his deep and abiding love.’


Notes for Editors:

1. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Clogher encompasses all of Co Monaghan, most of Fermanagh and portions of Tyrone, Donegal, Louth and Cavan. It has a Catholic population of 88,000, across 37 parishes, which are served by 64 priests and 2 deacons. There are 85 churches in the diocese.

2. Monsignor Joseph McGuinness is the Diocesan Administrator of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Clogher, pending the appointment of a new bishop by Pope Francis. He is also the Administrator of the Parish of Tyholland, Co Monaghan.

3. There are 300 pilgrims taking part in the Clogher Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes, which lasts until 11 July. These include many assisted pilgrims and their helpers, together with members of Clogher don Óige youth ministry and pilgrims from every parish in the diocese.

4. For more information on the Shrine of Lourdes visit