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Daughters of Charity Pilgrimage to Barra, Scotland June 2015

Daughters of Charity Pilgrimage to Barra, Scotland June 2015

In 1660 St Vincent sent 2 priests, Fr Duggan and Fr White, to minister to the people of Barra, a small island in the Outer Hebrides.

The Catholic Church in Scotland in the seventeenth century was experiencing the aftermath of the Reformation and celebrating Mass was a criminal offence. The inhabitants of the island of Barra were in a process of being ‘reconciled‘  to the Roman faith, the foundations of which had been begun by Frs Hearty and Ward, two Franciscan priests.

It was into this reality that Fr Duggan and Fr White were sent. Fr Duggan’s work on the island is still remembered today in Barra and the elevated pass between two hills on the island is known as Bealach Dhughain, or Pass of Duggan.

Daughters of Charity Pilgrimage to Barra, Scotland June 2015


In June 2015, a group of Daughters of Charity from the Irish and British Provinces made a pilgrimage in the footsteps of their Vincentian brothers!

Below are some of our memories of our Pilgrimage to Barra.

For me the trip to Barra was an unforgettable experience.   Being a city ‘girl’ at heart, I found it at times quite breath-taking.   The beauty of the island, with the hills in the background.     

In the stillness and in the silence I encountered God’s presence.

As we set off from Oban on the ferry, we were reminded that we were moving towards a time of pilgrimage.   To help us focus we were given a reflection sheet identifying the word pilgrim.  Standing on the ship looking back at the land we were leaving, helped to identify a sense of distance and marvel at the wonder and beauty of nature.  

A highlight for me was the day we climbed over fairly rough ground on the hill overlooking the sea, to celebrate Mass at the Mass Rock Fr Duggan used when he said Mass for the islanders. Looking out from a great height we had a beautiful backdrop of sea and sky.    It seemed that we were truly following in the steps of those who had gone before us, those who had risked their lives to bring faith to this remote place.  It was a moving experience.   A number of parishioners from Barra accompanied us, assisting us as we struggled over the rough terrain, giving a helping hand where necessary.  It was a great privilege to have the local people with us, supporting us on the journey.   

The faith appears to be strong within the Barra Community and the Parish Church a focal point in their lives.   The Mass was mainly celebrated in Gaelic which has a beautiful tone.    Everyone does speak English, their natural language is spoken among themselves.   The Parish Priest was of great assistance to us and interested in what we were doing, in tracing our Vincentian roots.

For me this was a unique experience. It was unlike a retreat or a holiday, it was a very special way of being together with other like-minded Sisters.  It was a time to journey as one, sharing, walking, praying and eating together. The opportunity to walk in the footsteps of our Vincentian Brothers was a faith filled time and I was in awe of the courage they showed in what was then a hostile terrain.

The fact that the Vincentians, Fr Duggan and Fr White, are still so alive in the minds, hearts and faith of the Islanders today, was evident in the conversations and places of Pilgrimage.

A highlight for me was the climb to the Mass Rock and the beautiful Mass we celebrated there. The journey to the Mass Rock would not have been possible without the encouragement and the help of the local people who journeyed with us, pointing the way and helping us over the rough terrain.

I felt very energised by the whole experience, the company, the landscape, the prayer, the connection with the past, the friendliness of the people, the sheer beauty of the place. And of course the togetherness.
I was reminded of Hopkins words many mornings as I looked out to sea;

                                           'The world is charged with the grandeur of God.'

To be able to experience that beauty from my bedroom was something that will remain etched on my mind.
The whole experience was very positive, but I suppose, if I had to identify one specific blessing it would have to be the celebration of the Eucharist at the Mass Rock.                     

- the prayerful preparation  
- a beautiful Celtic liturgy for morning prayer.  
- the actual climb  
- time to reflect and help one another or accept being helped.
- the wonderful support of the local people  
- connecting us to place
- the actual Mass …..  a very precious moment
- connecting us to both grace and time. 


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