03 Oct 2022

New York lady to fly 3,000 miles to attend Mass in Portlaoise

New York lady to fly 3,000 miles to attend Mass in Portlaoise

Bonnie Mando (centre) with friends who is travelling to Laois on a personal pilgrimage. Photo from

A New York lady is flying 3,000 miles on her first trip to Ireland on a personal religious holiday, after making friends by attending online Masses in Portlaoise.

It will be her first visit to her ancestral homeland, to meet in person members of a church she’s been attending virtually on since 2020, near the start of the pandemic.

Bonnie Mando from Buffalo will be accompanied by friends, staying at the St Anne's retreat centre in Killenard, and she hopes to attend Mass in St Peter & Paul's Church in Portlaoise up to three times daily.

US website reported her lovely story this week.

The online Masses broadcast from Portlaoise across the word via regularly get 300,000 worshippers. They proved a lifeline to Ms Mando through the Covid pandemic.

“After almost 24 months of cocooning, that virtual connection to a vibrant community was essential to my sanity,” she said.

She struck up friendships with many in the parish, and now has letters and cards from the priests, local people and Bishop Denis Nulty.

Below: Ms Mando's collection of correspondance from her new Irish friends.

The long distance parishioner is planning a "church crawl".

“We are calling our ten-day trip to Ireland a visit to family and friends, although ‘family’ is defined as by choice because we are related by name only. We are also saying it will be a ‘church crawl,’ since we plan to visit the Cathedral in Carlow and several nearby parishes.”

They are also looking forward to checking out church architecture and spending time with a group of cloistered Poor Clare nuns in Carlow. They hope to visit Portlaoise Parish clergy too. 

“Several of the priests are from different countries, including Romania, China and Poland. Hopefully, we’ll be able to discuss with them their roles as people of faith who’ve been blessed for years in their formation by the witness of Irish missionaries.

“I hope to experience a bit of the joy with which the many people who work together to prepare the liturgies.

“Hopefully, we’ll be able to say hello to some of the people we’ve worshipped with and still have time to see the scenery in the lovely midlands area.”

Mando expects they’ll also experience “a sprinkling of pub music."

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