Address by Fr Michael Kelleher at the launch of A Framework Document for Youth Ministry in the Irish Church.
30 May 2009
Launch of Called Together. Making the Difference.
A Framework Document for Youth Ministry in Ireland – Renehan Hall, Maynooth
Contribution by Fr. Michael Kelleher:
In the past week, I’ve been reading the newspapers, listening to the radio and watching the television; I imagine many people here have been doing the same. I expect that many of us have felt very upset these days, not least by the horrific stories of people injured by members of religious congregations. The shocking actions described in the Ryan Report are to be condemned. What I’ve heard described is not only contrary to the Gospel and to the founding charisms of the Institutes involved but contrary to even a very basic humanity. Many of the details are of behaviour that was not only criminal but immoral, sinful and evil.
Later this year, it’s likely that we will be bowled over yet again by a further flood of stories of suffering from Dublin and Cloyne. If we’re feeling upset at this time, what must it be like to be in the shoes of an abuse victim?
Cardinal Brady has asked that the how and the why of these failures be analysed as part of a Church response. What are we to learn from this tragic history?
In the face of this very painful reality, for a member of the Irish Church to lay low, to go into hiding until things got quieter might be the easier option! However, this is not the time to hide; perhaps too much has remained hidden for too long.
Instead of going into hiding, we’re here. Many of us are here because we believe that this Framework Document for Youth Ministry in Ireland may be helpful as the Irish Church moves forward. Many lessons have already been learned and further lessons will need to be learned about how to work respectfully and helpfully with and for young people in a Church setting. This document is an effort to put some of what has been learned already on paper and into practice.
There are four points about the document that I regard as important:
- Firstly, this Framework Document promotes the renewal of many, if not all, aspects of Irish Church life.
- Secondly, it promotes a partnership model of youth ministry with parents, schools and colleges, parishes and dioceses, youth organizations and the wider community all working together for the good of Irish young people.
- Thirdly, it promotes a well-trained and well-resourced youth ministry mostly carried out by lay professionals following the highest standards with regard to safeguarding policies and procedures.
- Fourthly, it is not by any means the last word. It has been written after a two year process of consultation with young people and with those who work with them; some of you are here. The document tries to encourage and build on the good things that are already being done in many parts of the country. But, this document in its turn will need to be reviewed and updated in time; it’s only a step along the way.
This document is being published in 2009 in the midst of a major crisis in the Irish Church but also in the midst of a global financial crisis the like of which hasn’t been seen for nearly 80 years. Many people are asking: When will these crises be over? ‘When will these crises be over’ may not be the most important question at this time. Perhaps the most important question is: ‘How will these crises change us’? – How will they change our decision making? How will they change our ministerial priorities, our ways of living, the way we do things, the way we spend money? – With these crises there is also an opportunity. It would be a terrible thing not to seize the opportunity they offer!
This weekend, for Catholics around the world, the Easter Season concludes with the celebration of Pentecost. We remember that we are a people of the resurrection; a people of hope.
There is a real opportunity at this time for us as an Irish Church to clarify what it is we really stand for in the Ireland and world of today and how we really want to live our lives as followers of Jesus. In this time of economic and spiritual crisis, God’s people look to the Church for a positive response, for help, for direction, for service in solidarity. It is with this in mind that we promote a renewed option for young people in the Irish Church, North and South, today and into the future.
In the preparation of this document some young people were asked what gifts they contribute to the Irish Church. One responded: ‘Longing to belong in a meaningful way and to make a difference:’ I think it was a L’Arche volunteer in Belfast who said those words. Even after all the painful realities of the past, many young people continue to feel this way. They still long to belong; they still long to belong in a meaningful way.
All that is best in the Irish Church longs to be a place where its younger members experience not only a profound respect but a strong sense of welcome, nurture and challenge. This document calls all of us together; it invites young people and the wider Irish Church to shape a new reality. The sponsors of this document are convinced that it’s working together that young people and the wider Irish Church can make a positive difference in Ireland and in the world. We are all ‘Called Together to Make the Difference;’ we are committed to this now and will be into the future. We are committed to inviting young people to work with us as architects of a new future.
We celebrate Pentecost Sunday tomorrow. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended on the followers of Jesus. With this in mind, the Framework Document is being launched today on the Vigil of Pentecost. My earnest prayer is that this Pentecost, the document and the Irish Church may receive a tail wind from the Holy Spirit into a better future.
Notes for Editors
- Fr Michael Kelleher is a Redemptorist priest.
- Up to 100 young people, representing all 26 dioceses in Ireland, attended today’s launch in St Patrick’s College, Maynooth.
- Please contact photographer John McElroy on 087 2416985 firstname.lastname@example.org if you require photos from today’s event.
- A video interview with Sr Anne Codd and summary of A Framework Document for Youth Ministry in Ireland are available on www.catholicbishops.ie
Martin Long, Director of Communications 086 172 7678