“Ambiguous loss is the worst cancer of all – not knowing where someone is”
Families from all over Ireland will gather in the beautiful and peaceful surroundings of Our Lady’s Island on Sunday (August 7) to pray for their missing loved ones.
The pilgrimage at the Island in south Wexford takes place from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. and people are urged to go along and show their support for these brave families.
It follows last year’s moving and dignified ceremony, the first of its kind here. I attended it and spoke to some the families of missing people. None of them were praying for miracles, they were simply praying for closure
The outdoor Mass was celebrated less than a kilometre from the pub where Fiona Sinnott was last seen in February 1998. The 19-year-old was looking forward to her sister’s 21st birthday party when she disappeared. And her daughter’s first birthday.
A plaque in her memory was erected on a wall at the local cemetery to mark the tenth anniversary of her disappearance in 2008. It’s the closest thing her loving family have to a resting place.
Fiona’s family are one of many in Ireland who are living with such a terrible and tragic loss. Hopefully, they will find some solace in each other’s company on Sunday, as they did last year, but the acute pain they still feel, years after they lost their loved ones, does not dissipate with time.
Here’s the report I wrote for The Irish Times:
FAMILIES OF missing people travelled from around Ireland on Saturday to attend a Mass in a place of ancient pilgrimage.
The Mass at Our Lady’s Island in south Wexford was organised by Search for the Missing, which is headed by retired Garda diver Thomas Lavery.
Mr Lavery extended a special welcome to the families of missing people in attendance, which included relatives of Jo Jo Dullard from Kilkenny, Gussie Shanahan from Limerick and Philip Cairns from Dublin.
The largest representation by far was from a local family, the Sinnotts. The outdoor Mass was celebrated by Fr Brendan Nolan less than a kilometre from the pub Fiona Sinnott was last seen leaving in February 1998.
“Ambiguous loss is the worst cancer of all – not knowing where someone is,” said Mr Lavery.
During the Mass, seven homing pigeons were released by Mr Lavery with the help of Fiona Sinnott’s nephew, Johnny Walsh.
Mr Lavery said the two white pigeons represented a male and female missing person and the five blue pigeons were going to guide them home.
“We’re not looking for justice, we’re just looking for closure,” said Bob Shanahan, whose son Gussie went missing in Limerick more than 10 years ago.
“We just someone to come forward with information so we can give our son a decent burial,” said Mr Shanahan, who is offering a substantial reward for information that will lead to the recovery of his son’s remains.
He said he was glad so many had come to the Mass. “It was lovely because you can discuss it with other people. You are trying to console one another. It gets no easier, you are always hoping for closure,” he said.
Also still looking for closure are the Sinnott family. Fiona’s first cousin Gina Sinnott once again appealed, in a poem, for those with knowledge of what happened to the 19-year-old mother of one to do the right thing.
“How can you sleep with what you have done, with tears flowing down her face, her empty cries, her swollen eyes, only you know her resting place,” she read.
After Mass, Fr Nolan passed the cross to her and she led the families of missing people and the other pilgrims in attendance around the island, as they prayed for the return of their loved ones.