The IOSAS retreat centre in Muff will host dozens of Irish missionaries early next month as part of its celebrations of the 1,450th anniversary of St Columba’s departure from Derry.
The ‘Welcome Home for Missionaries’ event has been organised by the Columba Community and will feature the largest gathering of Irish missionaries ever assembled in Donegal.
It will celebrate the many hundreds of missionaries from Derry and Donegal who worked in countries across the world over the last 60 years.
The event will also look at the role of missionaries today and ask if the modern church in Ireland is in need of missionary work.
The two-day event will be opened by Archbishop Eamon Martin on one of his first official engagements in Derry since being ordained as Coadjutor Archbishop of Armagh last month.
Fr Neal Carlin, the director of the Columba Community, said the feast of St Columba is a fitting time to celebrate Ireland’s missionaries.
“At the IOSAS centre we are interested in the first group of missionaries who left Ireland from the fifth to the 12th century, what has become known as the golden age of missionary work. But the present group of missionaries, those who went out in the last 50 to 60 years was the largest group of missionaries ever to leave Ireland. I have always felt that ought to be honoured and celebrated,” he said.
Fr Carlin also said his plan to celebrate Ireland’s missionaries coincided with The Gathering events. “I met Paddy Harte and he is co-ordinating The Gathering in Donegal and this seemed to go very well with that,” he explained.
The gathering of missionaries will also include a number of high profile public figures who will give talks about their missionary work, including Nobel peace prize nominee Fr Shay Cullen and Burt farmer and lay missionary from the Presbyterian Church, Derek Roulston. Other speakers will include Fr Hugh McMahon, Sr Cora Richardson, Fr Paul Roche, and Fr Chris McGuinness.
Fr Carlin said the event will also look at the continuing importance of missionary work today. “We are hoping that young people will come along and see that missionary activity is not just something that happened in the past. Missionaries are dynamic people and they are at the heart of their communities in many parts of the world promoting not just gospel issues, but also health, education and social issues. They envelop the poor and the marginalised.
“Honouring and recognising that work is a way of celebrating something positive that the church is doing,” he said.
The event gets underway on Friday June 7 at 6pm with Archbishop Martin’s address at the IOSAS centre. Following the Return of Coumcille celebrations in the city centre on Saturday it continues at the IOSAS centre on Sunday from 2.30pm. For more information tel:(00353) 0749384866.