The 38th Roscrea conference held recently at Mount St Joseph Abbey was truly a pilgrimage in every sense of the word. The theme was Aspects of Pilgrimage and participants gathered from not only all over Ireland but from the British Isles, USA, and the Netherlands. On the Saturday of the conference almost 100 gathered at Monaincha where the conference director George Cunningham and Professor Peter Harbison talked on all aspects of the sacred site. The ‘pilgrims’ there recited the Ar nAthair in both Irish and Margaret Hogan of Birr recited it in the language of the MacRegol Gospels that of 10th century England. An tAthair Tomas O Caoimh led the singing of the Salve Regina – the night hymn of the Cistercians echoing around the ruined nave and chancel church. Afterwards a visit to the Black Mills at Church Street to see the new work and the relocated High Cross was most entertaining.
On the Friday evening the conference participants were welcomed to Mt St Joseph by Dom Laurence Walsh OCSO, in the unavoidable absence of Dom Kevin Daly who spoke to the pilgrims on the Saturday. The conference was officially opened by Rev Dr Tom Corbett, PP Roscrea.
Over the next few days the capacity audience was treated to a feast of learning and scholarship in a most entertaining manner. Professors Terry Dolan (whose revised Dictionary of Hiberno-English was a sell out during the weekend) and Peter Harbison (new book on the Christian church heritage of East Galway), Fr Nivard Kinsella, Ian Fisher from Glasgow, Michael Gibbons and Gerry Walshe from Mayo and Galway, George Cunningham and a young scholar Louise Nugent all spoke on various aspects of the theme. So many themes and issues were explored, not least Croagh Patrick and its multi-faceted landscape.
The new Offaly book on the monastic heritage of the county was previewed (wonderful publication – stunning was the word most commonly heard).
During the weekend the sense of monastic location and learning was palpable. Those who were present felt privileged to be part of an extraordinary occasion. The 38th Roscrea conference held its head high in a long list of outstanding conferences. And once again the monastic ambience of Mount St Joseph, both the spiritual and the physical landscape was all embracing.