The annual Galloway Diocesan pilgrimage to Whithorn took place recently, led by Bishop John Cunningham and Bishop Emeritus Maurice Taylor. The bishops were joined in celebrating Mass at St Ninian’s Cave by around 400 pilgrims from parishes across the diocese.
St Ninian’s cave is widely regarded as being the place of retreat of Scotland’s first saint, who founded the country’s first Christian community at Whithorn, by ten priests from the diocese and two of Galloway’s three newly ordained deacons, Bob Simpson and Willie Hiddleston.
Pilgrim numbers were affected this year by a nearby road accident, which prevented many pilgrims reaching their destination.
Fr Ben Lodge, parish priest at Whithorn and Newton Stewart, spoke positively of Sunday’s celebrations, at which music was provided by parishioners from Troon.
“There was a great atmosphere at the pilgrimage and the bishops were enormously grateful to a Scouts group from Kilmarnock, who had arranged transport for them to the cave on a four-wheel drive,” Fr Lodge said. The priest also spoke of a ‘very interesting’ homily preached by Fr John McLean, a retired priest of Galloway Diocese, who spoke about St Ninian in Scotland, his travels to Rome, where he was consecrated as bishop and his subsequent return to Scotland where he set up a monastic community. Fr McLean spoke of the affect this had on the surrounding areas, attracting people such as St Finnian from Ireland, and how other Christian communities, such as Iona, went on to develop.
“It was interesting to hear how one man can have such a profound influence on so many others,” Fr Lodge said.