Day Six – Hike to a glacier lake and Eucharist

On the last day of our pilgrimage we drove to the south coast of Ireland to the Comeragh Mountains and hiked to Coumshingaun, a glacial lake. A few brave (young) souls jumped into the very cold lake and a few others dunked their heads to feel the apparently refreshing chill of the water.

As a special treat, Mackenna and Sage sang an Irish Blessing for us and the beauty of their voices carried over the lake and in the mountain air.

After a leisurely lunch, Mother Margaret led us in a Eucharistic service on the side of the mount above the lake. Her reading of the Sermon on the Mount and her homily was moving and a very spiritual time together. We experienced God in a deep and beautiful way today.


Here are a few photos from the day.

Hiking to lake.JPG

The hike in.


Group on rock

The gang on a rock on the way up.

Brave swimmers

The brave souls in the cold water.





Chris dunking his head to test the temperature.


Yep, it’s cold.


Blessing the bread and wine.


Preparing for communion.


Sierra serves the wine to Joe during communion.


Mother Margaret follows her flock.


“This trip, especially today, has been one of the highlights of my life. Traveling is one of my favorite things and traveling with this group has been amazing. We have bonded more than anyone expected and I have come to really enjoy everyone’s company. Today we hiked to a glacier lake, where many of us either decided to get into the water or just dunk our heads. It was a very spiritual experience, especially celebrating Eucharist on the rocks for the goats to enjoy. We have bonded, loved, adventured, learned, prayed, and come closer to both God and each other on this journey.”  – Emma

Day Five -Woodstock, Jerpoint Abbey, Kilkenny, Saint Canice’s Cathedral

A very busy day was started in Woodstock, visiting the amazing gardens and the lovely town of Inistioge and saw a church there. We then headed to Jerpoint Abbey to tour the ruins of an abbey begun 1160 by the Cistercian Monks until the reign of Henry the 8th when he destroyed the abbey and confiscated the lands.

We finished the day in Kilkenny with some time to explore the city and a tour of St. Canice’s Cathedral. We even climbed the tower! The day ended with a  lovely meal cooked and served by our youth. Tomorrow is our final day. Stay tuned….







“When I heard that we were going to Kilkenny today, I was so excited! I have been waiting to visit the town since I first started researching our pilgrimage. We enjoyed looking around the shops and the cafés. It was very interesting to see everyone else going about their daily lives in the city. I also went on a little adventure with some fellow pilgrims around the city in order to find St. Canice’s Cathedral. I do admit we got a little lost on the way, and we were late to the Cathedral. However, throughout the stress of being lost in an unfamiliar city, I found that my friends and were blazing a new path and experiencing the city and the culture in a brand new way. We ended the day with a lovely dinner, and I could not be happier that I am here.” -Sage


“Today was essentially the beginning of the end, it was our second to last day here in Ireland, and we’ve been packing our trip full of little adventures up to this point. We’ve been on long walks, swimming in the Irish Sea, exploring vast gardens full of gargantuan trees and puff ball sized birds (one of which we named Bubbles). We also may or may not have gotten lost two or three times. Okay seven times. During this pilgrimage I’ve also gotten some much needed alone time. I know it doesn’t sound like something that appealing, but very rarely does one get the time to just walk through a forest or a garden and just think; it’s something that many people now a’ days never really get despite its true value. Well, anyway, I look forward to what John (our guide) has in store for us tomorrow (I hear more swimming is involved, YAY!) So peace out!” –Graham


Day Four – Saltee Island

Today we went to Kilmore Quay in the on the Southeast coast to catch two fishing boats to transit to Saltee Island. A short 20 minute boat rise landed us at low tide, requiring us to hop across a number of slick rocks. We only had a damp butt or two for the effort and we crossed a sandy beach to begin the climb to the top of the island.

The islands are a breeding ground for Fulmar, Gannet, Shat, Kittiwake Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffins and Grey Seals. It is truly an extraordinary sanctuary for wildlife and we were able to get up close to most of the bird species.

As we do on each day, we begin with morning prayer and later our host and guide John Spencer takes us through some Irish history, the influence of the Vikings and Normans and the impact of Christianity on Ireland. After a brief lunch we went out to explore the island and commune with God in nature.




We got very close to the rookeries. We’ll let the photos tell a little of the story.






It was loud and….ummm, odiferous….

Some reflections.


“Sage and I sang ‘The Irish Blessing’ while visiting the Saltee Island today. This song acts as sort of an anthem for the Woodson choral department, and it has been a major part of my life since I started high school. Singing the song in its original home felt surreal. It reminded me of the importance that music holds for me and for others. In addition, I felt more connected to those who have come before me. -Mackenna


“For me, today was very meaningful. We took a boat out to an island that was filled with puffins, seagulls, and vast variety of other birds. As we were sitting on the rocks, looking at the rookery, I was thinking about how cool it was that God had made all of these creations, and I watched a bird fly in a figure-8 around the rookery, and it made me feel God’s infiniteness. Later on, when we got back, after not having hot water in the shower for the entire trip, we were able to use Aaron’s bathroom to take a hot shower, and I thanked God several times during it.” -Chris


Day Three -New Ross and St. Mullins


We began the day with a traditional Irish breakfast of eggs, sausage and dark pudding (really ground pork). We listened to patriotic music in honor of the 4th of July. Everyone is in good spirits as we head out to see sites in New Ross, homestead of the ancestors of President John F.Kennedy.



We toured the tall ship The Dunbrody, which transported approximately 4,000 starving Irish families to America and Canada during the years of the great potato famine. It was sobering to see the horrible conditions  for the passengers in steerage class who lived like this for the 60 days of ocean voyage.



“Sketching always connects me to my surroundings and helps me look for details in things  I might have overlooked. I liked sketching here because I had in my vision ancient crosses and beautiful hills, reminding me of both forms of God’s majesty. Last night we read in Mother Teresa’s book about how to pray. I think I pray best in nature, surrounded by the wonder of the people who came before me, who were also searching for God.”



We visited St. Mullins water well in the afternoon.  It was cool that a small place used to be used as a church, so we paused to pray together and refresh our selves with the cold water. Drinking the water from the well was also an amazing experience.  I have felt a closer connection to God over the course of the week. The experience I had at St. Mullins well was a great bonding experience, and has been a great part to this pilgrimage journey. -Max



While reading the Mother Theresa book last night, I came across a particular line that said,’But you cannot give what you don’t have. That’s why it is necessary to deepen your life of prayer’. I took this to mean that you must expand your horizons in order to share your spiritual experiences with those around you. The trip to St. Mullins today was a great opportunity to expand my horizons. Seeing all the ruins and ancient ruins of this church was really cool. -Joe M.


Day two…Waterford

Today we made our way to the city of Waterford – yes, that Waterford, but we are poor pilgrims and we didn’t buy any crystal.

Group at Christ Church Cathedral.jpg

This is the group in front of Christ Church Cathedral where we attended service this morning. It was a beautiful church that is on the site of an original place of worship from 1066.

Here is the tomb of James Rice (Mayor of Waterford 11 times in the 15th century) found in the original church building.


The Reverend Maria Jansson delivered a wonderful sermon, prayed for the Diocese of Virginia in the prayers of the people and was kind enough to meet with us after service.


Inside the church and behind the altar was the Hebrew word for the name of the Lord, Adonai – The Tetragrammaton.


Our young pilgrims had a wonderful time touring the Medieval Museum.


We saw a hat worn by Henry the 8th – no head attached…


We walked about the city and returned late afternoon to the Ferry House.




Some reflections:

“I went to Waterford today to go to a church and visit a museum. Spiritually, I am still the same but I enjoyed the difference in the Anglican service. I really enjoyed trying to read the Old English on the gravestones at Glendalough. I am enjoying the quiet moments.”- Zack

“When we were told that we were going on a pilgrimage, my first thought was Ireland. Known for its beauty, simplicity and elegance, it does not disappoint. There’s a magic in this land, even in the cities that makes one stop and think about life, love, hope and faith. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience with dear friends in a magical place.” – Quincy

Day one….continued


Glendalough in all it’s glory! We were inspired by the green pastures and ancient structures. Saint Kevin was the original pilgrim here and the buildings that came after were built throughout the years. Beyond this pasture is a beautiful lake. Kevin had a lookout in the tower and would have been able to see other pilgrims coming or even Vikings!



Ireland day one


We arrived safely in Dublin and were greeted by our host and guide for the week, John Spencer. We headed right out to Glendalough, a monastery founded by Saint Kevin in the 6th century. The ruins were extraordinary and John provided rich descriptions and history of the site.

We are tired after a very long day and the Internet is slow, so we’ll just post a few of our photos. In the group shot, we surround a perfectly preserved, carved stone Celtic cross estimated to have been in that spot for over 1,000 years.

To walk where so many pilgrims have walked before was very moving.

We are staying at John’s wonderful retreat, the Ferry House, just across the river in Kilkenny. More on that later.