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Pilgrimage to Ireland – Exploring Celtic Spirituality and More

Led by:
Sheryl L. Shenk, Spiritual Director
Ted Swartz, Playwright/Actor

August 27 - September 11, 2018

An overview of this pilgrimage:

Come to Ireland and walk the ancient lands where Christianity took root, following in the footsteps of St. Patrick and other early saints from the 5th and 6th centuries. Listen to knowledgeable guides share stories and Celtic legends that will spark the imaginative consciousness, inviting a broader way of understanding faith. Our travels will include an exploration of a peace movement in Northern Ireland grounded there for 50 years in a center for reconciliation and peacebuilding. We will see the illuminated Book of Kells (c. 800 AD), stand before tall crosses at Monasterboice, travel to the Aran Islands where Christianity lived on the edge of the world, and include live music in Dublin and Galway. Our community of pilgrims will be guided daily in morning and evening Celtic prayers by Sheryl and others and enriched by the fun-loving woven stories of our common travels by actor Ted.


[Download this itinerary as a PDF]

Day 1. Aug-27. Meet the coach company at Dublin airport & travel on to Northern Ireland with an introduction by our leaders of a pilgrimage overview as we settle in at Dromantine Conference Center, our stay for two nights in Newry. "To be on pilgrimage", Esther de Waal writes as an introduction to Michael Rodgers and Marcus Losack’s book, Glendalough: A Celtic Pilgrimage, "is to move into a world where the dividing line between past and present, between this world and the next, between what we call sacred and what we call secular, dissolves."

We meet Rev. Grace Clunie, Episcopalian priest and Celtic author, and Tim Foley of Mennonite Mission Network. Location TBD. Grace will provide an overview of early Celtic Christianity as we begin pilgrimage and Tim and Grace will share stories of living amidst the conflicts in Northern Ireland.
(Dromantine Conference Center accommodation: Contact info: +44 28 30 821964) (Dinner provided)

Day 2. Aug-28. Meet with Grace Clunie at the Center for Celtic Spirituality in Armagh at the Navan Centre and explore the Ireland that St Patrick and the early Christian missionaries would have encountered. Visit Armagh and the Cathedrals known for St Patrick. We close with experiencing two forms of Celtic prayer.
(Dromantine Conference Center accommodation) (Breakfast + Dinner provided)

Day 3. Aug-29. Travel to Corrymeela (meaning “lumpy crossing place”) in Ballycastle and meet Padraig O’Tuama, theologian, poet, social healer and leader of this internationally known community for its work on peace and reconciliation. Corrymeela community has been providing over fifty years of peacemaking, resourcing those caught in the conflicts of Northern Ireland as well as to many around the world. Their vision is to discover how in the midst of difficulties “to live well together”.
(Corrymeela Community: Contact info: 07841525804) (All meals provided)

Day 4. Aug-30. Meet with Padraig O’Tuama for a retreat day focusing on “Spirituality of Conflict” with time for group and individual reflection.
(Corrymeela Community) (All meals provided)

Day 5. Aug-31. Travel to Glendalough with a stop at Newgrange on the way; Newgrange was constructed around 3200BC. This makes it more than 600 years older than the Giza Pyramids in Egypt, and 1,000 years more ancient than Stonehenge. This area has great eminence throughout Irish history - legend tells us the foundations of Christianity were laid here.
(Glendalough hotel; Contact info: 00353 404 45135) (Breakfast + Dinner provided)

Day 6. Sept-1. In the morning, meet at the visitor’s center for an introduction to Glendalough. Glendalough (or Gleann da Loch, meaning “The Glen of the Two Lakes”) is situated in the heart of the Wicklow Mountains National Park. The ancient monastery is a fascinating site, having been founded in the 6th century by St. Kevin. Set in a glaciated valley with two lakes, the monastic remains include a superb round tower, a Celtic high cross, St. Mary’s Church and St. Kevin’s Church. The remains of three stone crosses and a stone fort are also to be found between the upper and lower lakes.
In the afternoon, we will be led on a half-day walking retreat with Irish Catholic priest, Father Michael Rodgers, as we explore the 6th century Celtic saint/ founder St Kevin, his timeless legends, and the monastic city.
(Glendalough hotel accommodation) (Breakfast + Dinner provided)

Day 7. Sept-2. Depart for Kildare where we will meet with Sister Mary Minehan of the Brigidine Sisters who will introduce us to St. Brigid, 5th century founding woman saint of Kildare. Sunday worship will be at the Catholic Parish of St Brigid. After the service and sandwich lunch at Silken Thomas Restaurant, we plan to visit the grounds of the St Brigid’s Cathedral which contain St. Brigid's Firehouse and a Round Tower from which you can see a view of Kildare and the curragh from the top. After lunch we will travel by coach to St Brigid’s well: This well is reputedly a 'healing well', one of many in Ireland where healing liturgies are often held.
(Glendalough hotel accommodation) (Breakfast, Lunch + Dinner provided)

Day 8. Sept-3. Meet with Marcus Losack, Irish Anglican priest and St Patrick historian, and travel to the Hill of Tara seat of the high kings, Tara was at the height of its power as a political and religious centre in the early centuries after Christ. On a clear day, half the counties of Ireland can be seen from atop Tara. Travel on to the Hill of Slane: In Christian history, the hill became established as the place where St. Patrick lit the first paschal fire in direct defiance of the pagan kings at nearby Tara. The hill remained an eminence of Christian significance long after St. Patrick appointed Erc as the first Bishop there. We then proceed to Monasterboice Monastery which was founded by St. Buite, who died in 521 AD. Monasterboice contains two of the finest High Crosses in Ireland.
(Glendalough hotel accommodation) (Breakfast + Dinner provided)

Day 9. Sept-4. Relax around Glendalough in the morning and early afternoon. Depart for Dublin at 2:30 pm to visit Trinity College and see the Book of Kells, which is one of the masterpieces of Western art. Evening dinner 7-10 pm at Merry Ploughboy for a traditional Irish music and dance night.
(Glendalough hotel accommodation) (Breakfast + Dinner provided)

Day 10. Sept-5. Today we say goodbye to Co. Wicklow and head west to the Aran Islands. Enroute we will visit Clonmacnoise, one of Ireland’s most
prominent Christian sites, founded by St. Ciarán in the mid-6th century on the eastern bank of the River Shannon. The site includes the ruins of a cathedral, seven churches (10th -13th century), two round towers, three high crosses and the largest collection of Early Christian grave slabs in Western Europe. After lunch, we will head on to Rossaveal port and on by ferry to Inis mor. Overnight accommodation will be at two locations for our group:
(Ard Einne Guesthouse and Tigh Fitz Guesthouse, Inis mor, Contact info: 00353 0 99 61126) (Breakfast + Dinner provided)

Day 11. Sept-6. Today we explore Inis Mór (meaning “big island”, the largest of the Aran Islands) where St. Enda founded the first monastery in Ireland. We meet our guide, Padraigin Clancy, an Irish folklorist and historian, who will share stories with us about the Aran Islands and its historical sites such as Dun Aengus, churches, forts and monasteries dating as far back as 2,000 B.C. We will walk in the footsteps of St. Enda who is the patron saint of Inis Mór and patriarch of Irish monasticism. He died around 535 A.D. and is buried on this island. (Option in evening: view Man of Aran film)
(Ard Einne Guesthouse and Tigh Fitz Guesthouse accommodations) (Breakfast + Dinner provided)

Day 12. Sept-7. We depart Inis Mór around noon boarding the ferry and make our way to Galway where we will settle in at the guesthouse with an orientation to the city of Galway—the Claddagh, the River Corrib, the Salthill Promenade, and the Latin Quarter as well as options for live music venues.
(Ardawn Guesthouse accommodation; contact info: 00 353 (0) 91 582 638) (Breakfast provided; Dinner incl. Galway restaurant)

Day 13. Sept-8. If the weather is good, we will travel by coach into Connemara and hike the Mam Ean Pass, an ancient site of pilgrimage since the 5th century where allegedly St Patrick came to bless the lands of Connemara. This is also the region beloved Irish poet John O’Donohue was raised. (lunch, self-pay at Powers restaurant in Oughterard) free time in pm in Galway.
(Ardawn Guesthouse accommodation (Breakfast provided; Dinner included at Galway restaurant)

Day 14. Sept-9. Worship at St. Nicholas Collegiate Church (Anglican), the largest medieval parish church in continual use in Ireland; free time in afternoon to enjoy Galway, a great city to explore by walking.
(Ardawn Guesthouse accommodation)
(Breakfast provided; Dinner included at Galway restaurant)

Day 15. Sept-10. Depart Galway in the morning and travel to Glendalough, arriving around noon with free time until 3 pm afternoon pilgrimage retreat closure time; Irish music concert with local traditional Irish group in evening.
(Glendalough hotel accommodation) (Breakfast + Dinner provided)

about the leaders of this pilgrimage

Sheryl L. Shenk is a spiritual director and co-creator of Eklectic Pilgrimages LLC, a newly formed company providing diverse opportunities to travel, exploring Christian spirituality through a contemplative lens and engaging participants in both a delightful and transformative journey. She is founder and former director of Blue Ridge Ministries, an ecumenical organization that has offered retreats focusing on Christian spiritual formation, discovery, and nurture for 14 years. Having co-led four prior Celtic Pilgrimages, she will be guiding the group through ancient sites where Christianity took root. Group experiences will highlight Celtic spirituality and include opportunities for Celtic morning and evening prayers. Both she and her husband Jonathan are Mennonites with a deep appreciation of Celtic reverence for God, earth, community and the stuff of ordinary life. Jon provides technical support and photography as needed on the trip.

Ted Swartz is an actor, playwright and founder of Ted and Company TheatreWorks using humor and professional storytelling to talk about issues of faith and social justice. He is passionate about creating art that provokes both laughter and thought. On the pilgrimage, Ted will be bringing our pilgrim stories as well as scriptural texts and characters to life, in all of our fumbling and faithful humanity. He is intrigued by the delicious intersection of Anabaptist theology, Celtic spirituality, and theater. Ted will be joined by his wife Sue, an occasional acting partner and one of the reverent ones.

Come and explore Eklectic Pilgrimages: Journeys for the reverent and the rest of us!