A Donegal pensioner will take to the saddle for charity this coming Wednesday. He wants to raise funds to allow poor families in the Tasovcici Refugee Camp, Capljina, near Medjugorje, build a new church.
Alphonsus Surplus from Letterkenny estimates it will take until next Sunday to complete the 140 mile trip to Croagh Patrick in Co. Mayo. He will then link up with other pilgrims who will also be climbing the mountain the same day.
As a keen cyclist, Alphonus thrives on the physical challenge. A familiar sight on the roads with his fluorescent yellow jacket and safety helmet, he has already completed many trips on his bike to religious sites including Lough Derg.
“This is not the first time I’ve done this but I don’t believe in lying down when there’s work to be done,” he said.
He adds he decided to undertake the challenge because of the work of Sr. Josephine Walsh, an indominable Irish nun, who has been helping the refugees there since 1993.
“There are 350 families attending every Sunday by standing in a graveyard while the priest celebrates Mass in the Mortuary Chapel. Sr Josephine has housed many of them, now she wants to build a new permenent chapel. She found them living in squalor in 13 years ago but she has worked for them ever since. As Winter approaches it’s heartbreaking to think they will have to attend Mass outside in all conditions.”
Croagh Patrick, also known as ‘The Reek’, has been a holy site for 1500 years.
This location is renowned for its pilgrimages dating back to the time of St Patrick’s fast on the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights in 441.
Since this time the custom has been handed down faithfully from generation to generation to the present day. It is about five miles outside the town of Westport.
Mr Surplus claims the recession and hard times in this country are nothing compared to the primative conditions these people have to deal with.
“Their faith puts us to shame here in Ireland. We have been wrapped up in materialism for far too long. It’s about time we thought of others and made an effort,” he said.
Mr Surplus will start from St Eunan’s Cathedral, Letterkenny next Wednesday morning after 8am Mass.