NORTHERN STANDARD Thursday 6th June 2013
With around 30,000 pilgrims in Lourdes last weekend most of them attending the 55th annual international military pilgrimage, Michael Fisher managed to find several Monaghan connections among the Defence Forces contingent that travelled from Dublin……
Among the six chaplains with the 300-strong party was Fr Jerry Carroll from Carrickmacross. He is chaplain to the Air Corps at Baldonnel in Co. Dublin.
He led the group in making the Stations of the Cross. During the procession Evelyn Fisher from Drumcoo Woods, Tydavnet, was asked to carry the cross at the eighth station (Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem) to the next one (Jesus falls the third time).
Naval Cadet and former member of the Reserve Defence Force in Monaghan, Aron Nutley, was among the 51st cadet class who travelled overland from Haulbowline in Cork with their chaplain Fr Des Campion to take part in the visit to the shrine of Our Lady and to the Grotto.
Mass for English-speaking countries including Ireland, the UK, USA and Norway was concelebrated by Bishop Richard Moth, Chaplain to the British forces along with the Defence Forces Head Chaplain Monsignor Eoin Thynne and a number of other priests. Aron from Coolshannagh is a former pupil of Beech Hill College in Monaghan. Accompanying the party from the 89th Army Cadet Class at the Curragh, the Air Corps and Navy cadets was a group of nineteen from the Civil Defence drawn from eight counties.
They included a number from Westmeath, based in Mullingar. One of them was Siobhan Courtney from Clones, a former pupil at Largy College. The Civil Defence have been accompanying the military on the pilgrimage since 1994 and for three of them, this was their 20th trip.
A number of former soldiers took part in the pilgrimage, including Paddy Reilly from Glenview Drive in Monaghan. He is a UN Veteran who served in Monaghan town and for a number of years was in charge of the local FCÁ unit (now the Reserve Defence Force). He was also active with the Civil Defence. The final Monaghan connection was through one of the Joe Walsh Tours guides, Carmel Power (McGinty). She lives in Skerries, Co. Dublin and is a former pupil of Clochar Lughaidh Muineachain, where she was a boarder for a number of years.
Groups from the Dioceses of Raphoe (Donegal) and Ossory (Kilkenny) were in Lourdes at the same time as the military pilgrimage. The Minister of State for Defence Paul Kehoe TD joined the group and read one of the lessons at the International Mass on Sunday in the underground basilica of St Pius X. He also laid a wreath at the Irish memorial at the town cemetery in Lourdes which commemorates all those Irish pilgrims who died there, including Monsignor James Horan from Knock and Cardinal O Fiaich.