Since it opened in 1993, the house in Co Mayo has attracted 10,000 visitors annually, anxious to hear the message of its founder. Christina Gallagher claims to have the stigmata wounds of Christ on her feet and to have received divine messages from Our Lady.
There were fears that Mayo County Council would not allow the special prayer service to go ahead due to a lack of planning permission. The House of Prayer said there had been an oversight but that the problem had been sorted out. Another special prayer service will be held next week on July 25.
“Our Blessed Mother asked Christina to hold a special day of prayer on July 25, which was to be called Our Lady’s Fraternity Day. So that is why the date is celebrated. Up to two years ago, we just had July 16,” manager Noel Guinan said.
Christina Gallagher prayed a rosary with pilgrims yesterday and attended mass in the local parish church in Achill Sound.
On a calm but misty day, 20 stewards directed pilgrims with the help of gardaí from the local station.
“It’s a place to worship her [Our Lady] and she has blessed this house with many healings and conversions. A lot of the people who come here would know people who have been healed,” Mr Guinan said.
Although the influx of pilgrims brought minor traffic jams to Achill yesterday, its economic benefits are widely welcomed in what has been a quiet tourist season. Busloads of US visitors arrive regularly.
“It has been a great asset to the island and the owners of the premises around the House have definitely welcomed it,” Achill tourism manager Karen Grealis said.
The House of Prayer manager Noel Guinan encouraged those sceptical of Christina Gallagher to visit the House of Prayer.
“A lot of people judge and they’ve never been here. That’s the sad part of it,” he said.