A CALL has gone out to honour a legendary Irish Saint’s Fermanagh heritage.
St Columbanus, left his mark on the establishment of Christianity in the years following 590AD by founding a number of monasteries across France, Switzerland, Germany and Italy – most notably, Luxeuil Abbey in the Burgundy region of France.
Before that he was born in Co. Carlow before, after turning 12, being sent to study at Cleenish Island in Fermanagh under the watchful tutelage of Abbot Sinell of Cluaninis. Upon reaching adulthood he would spend 20 years at Bangor Abbey, Co. Down where he taught the teachings of the Bible to students.
However, it is the Fermanagh links that former Alliance Party Councillor, Deborah Given of the Friends of Columbanus in Bangor, is aiming to bring back into the public eye as part of the Columban Way walk undertaken by Christian pilgrims stretching all the way from Ireland to Italy.
She said: “Why I want to start a Cleenish or a Fermanagh group is that our group in Bangor has been very active in trying to drive forward this Columban Way.
“It’s a huge European pilgrim route. I am on the European Columbanus Partnership Group – so I’m really representing Northern Ireland along with other representatives from France, Italy, Switzerland and the Republic of Ireland.
“Every country is developing this route in their own region. Switzerland has their route finished as has Italy with France as well.
“France has three or four Columbanus groups. This really is from grassroots community level upwards that has been driving this – not the local government departments. But we do need to work with those departments here if we’re ever going to get it done.
“Councils here need to recognise that this is coming our way and we need to get ready for walkers. If we could get a group organised in Fermanagh that could look to start to raise the profile of Cleenish Island and that Columban Way.
“My vision would be for people to arrive by water to the actual burial site of Columbanus – it would be a very powerful experience.
“The beginning of this route is already up and running in Co. Carlow where there being 30km there. Then we have the end of the route finished between Comber and towards Newtownards, then across to Helen’s Bay where it joins the coastal path around to Bangor.”
Girvan hosted a meeting last month at Cleenish Parish Hall, Bellanaleck to help build up interest in establishing a Columban Way route in Fermanagh.
She added: “We are very pleased with the response to the Columbanus Public Meeting and good interest has been shown. In addition to the presentation, we asked people to sign the Columban Charter of Partnership.
“The Charter is a declaration of intent to support and promote pilgrimage, cultural and scientific activities relating to Saint Columbanus and those of his followers, including Gall, in all the regions and countries where their memory remains alive.
“In particular, the Charter will support the development of the Columban Way, a pilgrim route that traces the footsteps of Columbanus from Mt Leinster in Co Carlow where he was born in 543 AD through eight European countries to Bobbio in Italy where he died in 615 AD.
“In Northern Ireland, we hope to collect over 1,000 signatures which will be presented at the official launch of the Columban Charter of Partnership on 7 July in St Gallen, Switzerland. We are hoping that hundreds of people from Northern Ireland will sign the Charter.”
For more information, log on to: www.friendsofcolumbanusbangor.co.uk
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