Youth Retreat 2013 – Croagh Patrick

On the 26th of April a bus of twenty-seven people, comprising of twenty-two students, two Salesian Brothers, the college chaplain, the Students Union President and Vice President departed from St. Catherine’s Salesian House on the North Campus of the Maynooth University to Westport for the annual climb of Croagh Patrick. The sunshine and cloudless blue sky lifted already festive moods. The atmosphere on the bus was electric and before the bus had managed to leave the town of Maynooth laughter and chatter threw its lot in with the pilgrims.

936929_364085293702395_587210105_nThe three hour journey seemed a blink of an eye (although the driver might disagree), and was made all the more enjoyable as a result of a wager that had been made to see who could guess the journey time to the closest minute. As the bus pulled in to the Westport Plaza Hotel there was much shouting and celebrating as a result of the wager which was guessed right to the very minute by one of the students. All onboard flooded into the hotel to check-in and get settled into their rooms to prepare for dinner.

Following dinner most headed to their beds in order to get an early night in preparation for the climb in the morning. Others took a stroll around the picturesque town while some of the more ‘adventurous’ of the students opted to partake in what the local social scene had to offer.

Despite a few sore heads in the morning everyone found himself or herself up early in the morning to fill up on breakfast before we departed for the mountain.

551509_364085580369033_2127159062_nAt the foot of the mountain the group gathered in the grotto for some reflection on what brought them to the mountain. Everyone offered up their own personal intentions and thanked God for the sunshine, which had kindly stuck with them on the second day of their trip despite weather warnings which were less than promising. After some introspective words from the chaplain the long ascent to the summit begun. The climb was at times arduous, however as is synonymous with most people’s experience of the Croagh Patrick climb, all found the climb to be a disencumbering journey. The aching muscles seemed a more than just dowry in return for the splendid scenery and sense of serenity.

Upon reaching the top a mass was celebrated by one of the Salesian priests for the group yet many of the other pilgrims joined the service. Once again people had an opportunity to offer up their own private intentions and reflect upon the majesty of the stage they found themselves on.

Upon taking a last glance out at the beautiful Clew Bay the journey down begun.

578899_364085960368995_1945603030_nThe trip, which was organised by the Salesian community in Maynooth and the Chaplaincy service, was an outstanding success. In one way or another every person who partook in the climb seemed to experience God in some form on top of the reek. Whether it was just in the sheer beauty of the landscape, in the sense of peace and serenity which was found there or in some other spiritual encounter each person had their own personal experience. As a student of Maynooth University my sincerest thanks are owed, and I speak on behalf of all the students who journeyed to Westport, to the chaplaincy service and the Salesians of Don Bosco who facilitated the trip and made it such a success.

Daniel McCormack