Northern Ireland news

Dana Rosemary Scallon leads pilgrimage following in the footsteps of St Patrick, where she describes him as saint for today

Dana with other pilgrims outside St Patrick Centre in Downpatrick
John Breslin
SINGER Dana Rosemary Scallon joined pilgrims to walk St Patrick's Way near Downpatrick, describing the 6th century figure as "truly a saint for today", someone who was trafficked and lived in abject poverty.
The six-mile route around the Co Down town, established by the  St Patrick Centre, takes in his reputed first church and Inch Abbey, where the legend of the country's patron saint banishing snakes from the island was reportedly concocted.


The Derry-born Eurovision winner, who launched her new single Light the Fire at the centre earlier this year, led the pilgrimage along the way with guides Martina Purdy and Elaine Kelly.

Dana with pilgrimage guides Martina Purdy and Elaine Kelly


Ms Purdy, a former BBC NI political journalist and Ms Kelly, a former lawyer, gave up their careers in 2014 to become nuns.

The pair moved to Co Down after leaving the Adoration Sisters convent in 2019 before taking final vows.

Dana said she was drawn to walk in St Patrick’s footsteps because she feels "it would be a way to get to know him better...a way to deepen my faith and increase my courage, so that like him, I can stand for and share the faith, hope and love that I believe in".

Read more: Eurovision winner Dana debuts new St Patrick's song

Read more: Christianity in Ireland before Patrick

She added: "I’ve learned that he is truly a saint for today; he suffered human trafficking, lived in abject poverty in a pagan country, where human sacrifice was practised.  

"Yet in this suffering, he found a true relationship with God and after escaping, he found the courage to return and risk his own life to bring faith, hope and love to the oppressed people of Ireland.”

Pilgrims walk the six-mile route around Downpatrick.
Centre director Tim Campbell said: "The pilgrimage is a great opportunity to follow in the footsteps of Saint Patrick and learn about his journey from a poor slave with no faith to a man of faith and a great missionary.”


Pilgrim guide Martina Purdy, describing the draw Patrick as universal, added: "Whether somee come for faith, or an adventure, while others come for a walk in the beauty of County Down, all go home refreshed and more aware of who Patrick was.”

Organiser Elaine Kelly added: “This past year we have had pilgrims not just from Ireland and the UK but from as far away as the United States and Korea." 


Northern Ireland news