His Holiness Pope Francis has conferred the honour of Chaplain to His Holiness on Very Reverend Laurence (La) Flynn, priest of the Diocese of Clogher and Prior of Lough Derg, an honour which carries with it the title of Monsignor. The title Monsignor means that the priest has been made an honorary member of the Pope’s own ‘household’.
Announcing the appointment, the Bishop of Clogher, Bishop Larry Duffy, said he was very pleased to receive notification from the Holy See before Christmas. ‘It is a well-merited honour for Fr Flynn and recognises his own significant contribution to the life and ministry of our diocese, of which Lough Derg is an important part. This appointment also signifies a close connection between the Holy Father and the mission of Lough Derg in today’s world. That mission, continuing in the tradition that goes back to St Patrick, is to be a sacred space and a place on the margins where people can find the God of love and compassion’, he said.
Commenting on the news, Fr La said:
‘For me, this gesture on the part of the Holy Father is an unexpected one and a humbling one. I take it as a sign of the esteem in which Lough Derg is held by the Holy See. Pope Francis has spoken repeatedly of the significance that pilgrimages continue to hold for Christian people in our times, as well as for other religious traditions and for so many of our contemporaries who do not identify themselves as ‘religious’. At Lough Derg we hold dear the memory of St Patrick who, in out-of-the-way places, found his God again when he seemed to have lost everything. I hope that all whom we welcome here will find what they seek along their pilgrimage of life.’
The title of Monsignor is a distinction given by the Pope to certain priests in the Roman Catholic Church as part of a papal honour recognising the priest’s service to the Church. Priests upon whom the title of Monsignor is bestowed are considered to be members of the papal household and thus are listed in the Annuario Pontificio, which is the annual Papal Yearbook. It also carries with it the dignity address of ‘Right Reverend’.
Monsignor La Flynn was born in Roslea, Co Fermanagh in 1950. From primary school at St Tierney’s he went on to St Michael’s College, Enniskillen. His seminary training was in St Patrick’s College, Maynooth and then in the Irish College in Rome. After his ordination as priest in 1976, Monsignor Flynn first ministered on Lough Derg during the three-day pilgrimage season of 1978, and he has served there for at least some weeks each summer continuously ever since, apart from 1992-94, and the following four pilgrimage seasons during his time in Kitui Diocese in Kenya. His appointments have included CC Monaghan Town, teaching staff St Macartan’s College, CC Carrickmacross and CC Clogher, before serving as PP of Tullycorbet Parish (Ballybay), Co Monaghan from 2004 until his appointment as Prior of Lough Derg and Administrator of the Parish of Pettigo in 2017. His areas of engagement include liturgical renewal and church music, ecumenism (he was a founder member of Fermanagh Churches Forum), and adult faith development, especially in the New Heart New Spirit programme which ran in various venues across Clogher Diocese for twelve years from 2003.
St Patrick’s Sanctuary, Lough Derg lies about four miles north of the village of Pettigo in County Donegal. Station Island, the location of the Pilgrimage, is often referred to as Saint Patrick’s Purgatory or simply Lough Derg. In 1780 Lough Derg came under the custodianship of the Diocese of Clogher. For more than fifteen hundred years the story of Lough Derg has been told and as far back as records go, has been associated with St Patrick. Ancient writings have it that the first monks settled at Lough Derg in the fifth century, not long after St Patrick came to Ireland. It would seem to have been well established as a place of pilgrimage by the ninth century, and there is a famous world map of 1492 on which the only place marked for Ireland is the penitential island of Lough Derg.
The Lough Derg Pilgrimage Season occurs annually from May through until October and the traditional Three Day Pilgrimage season happens between 1st June and 15th August. One Day Retreats and Special Retreat Days run in the months of May, late August and September following by Youth Retreats in September and October.
Detailed information on Lough Derg at www.loughderg.org