A packed programme of celebrations is being organised to mark the 1450th anniversary of the departure of Derry’s patron saint, St Columba, to Iona.
The events will include Masses, a novena, musical celebrations, a parade through the city to Thornhill and activities for local school children.
The highlight of the celebrations is likely to be the feast day Mass on June 9th which will be celebrated by Archbishop Eamon Martin, Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh, on what will be his first official visit to Derry since his episcopal ordination.
The celebrations will also include a Novena of Prayer which will be led by Passionist priest Fr Aidan Troy. Fr Troy formerly ministered in Ardoyne, north Belfast, and came to prominence during loyalist protests outside a catholic primary school. The Novena will begin on Saturday June 1st and end on St Columba’s Day on June 9th.
On Sunday June 2nd as part of the Novena there will be an hour of prayer from 4.00pm. This hour of prayer will be in communion with the Church throughout the world and with Pope Francis. Each day Monday to Friday there will be Mass at 6.30am and 10.00am. Each evening there will be Mass with guest speakers at 7.30pm.
On Sunday 9th June at 12.00 the annual Mass for the feast of St Columba will be celebrated by Archbishop Eamon Martin. Before the Mass the rosary will be said in Irish at the Calvary and the Mass will be followed by the annual procession to the nearby St Columb’s Well.
On the eve of beginning of the programme of events, an open air Mass will be held at the Grotto in the Brandywell on Friday May 31st at 6pm.
The events will formally begin the following morning at 8pm with a pilgrimage from the Long Tower to Thornhill, the point where St Columba left Derry for Iona.
On Sunday June 2nd at 7.30pm in St Cecilia’s College there will be a variety concert featuring the cream of local talent including Margaret Keys, Ben Kelly and May McFettridge. The winner of the Song For Columba competition will also be announced at the concert.
Tickets are now available from the Long Tower Church, Long Tower Parochial House, St Eugene’s Cathedral and other local agents priced £5.00.
On Friday June 7th the parish will host ‘Trad for the Tower’ in Bishop Street Community Centre featuring local musicians, including Fr Gerard Mongan. Tickets for this event are now on sale.
On St Columba’s Day a fun day will be held in the grounds of Longtower Primary School and will include bouncy castles, and competitions.
Looking forward to the events, Fr Paul Farren, the administrator of the parish said: “Our Parish Pastoral Council wanted to celebrate this important milestone by focusing on the parish community and the history and tradition of the Church. Hopefully through the spiritual, cultural and fun events, we will build up the parish community and welcome many people who have always seen the Long Tower Church as their spiritual home and the heart of faith in the city since St Columba’s time. I want to thank the Celebrations committee for all the work that they are doing and I look forward to seeing many people in the Long Tower throughout the celebrations.”