Bishop Christopher Jones congratulates the Elphin Diocesan Youth Celebration on its success
On Friday 25 April 2008 more than 580 pre-Leaving Certificate students from the Diocese of Elphin converged on Kilbride Community Centre, Four Mile House, Co Roscommon for a celebration of their Catholic faith. The day, which featured music, testimonies from two young adults, discussion, and two excellent presentations from Fr Benny McHale, a Catholic priest from the Diocese of Tuam, was a tremendous success and it will be remembered for a long time by the teenagers.
Thirteen secondary schools and colleges from throughout the Diocese were represented at the event. Students from Summerhill College, Mercy College and Ursuline College (Sligo), Abbey Community College (Boyle), Castlerea Community College, Elphin Community College, Convent of Mercy Roscommon, CBS Roscommon, St. Aloysius College & Summerhill Convent (Athlone), Scoil Mhuire (Stroketown), Colaiste Mhuire (Ballygar) and St. Cuan’s (Castleblakney) all participated in the various events that took place on the day.
Afterwards teachers were fulsome in their praise of the day. Noel Moran (Roscommon CBS), Mary Murray (Scoil Mhuire Strokestown), and Sr Agatha Ganly (St. Joseph’s College Summerhill, Athlone) were among the teachers who paid warm tribute to Bishop Jones for encouraging the celebration and to the diocesan group of priests, chaplains and religion teachers who organised it. A number of teachers also called for the event to be established as an annual celebration for the pre-leaving certificate students of the diocese.
“The Youth Celebration was a thoroughly enjoyable day. The students were not lectured at – it was a very open event and certainly the feedback from the Roscommon CBS students was very positive,” said Mr Moran. “The lads were mesmerised by Fr Benny McHale in particular. They found what he had to say very interesting and I think there was a consensus afterwards that it (the Youth Celebration) is something that could be held more often,” he said.
Strokestown teacher Mrs Mary Murray also praised the contribution of Fr McHale and said that the celebration made a “big impression” on her students. “The day went very well: it was a very worthwhile event. Our students seemed to be very happy with it, they didn’t know what to expect and they all enjoyed the day. Fr Benny McHale and the other speakers made a big impression on them, and they spoke afterwards of an interest in hearing more from him.
Speaking some days later, as she reflected on the Youth Celebration, Sr Agatha Ganly (Athlone) lauded the diocesan initiative and commented that the students of her school had “thoroughly enjoyed” the event. Sr Agatha was particularly effusive in her praise of Fr Benny McHale who held the 580 students spellbound with two entertaining but deep and meaningful presentations that resonated profoundly with all of the young people.
“I was very impressed with the Youth Celebration last Friday. Like everybody else who attended I was really enthused by the success of the day and by the effect that the various events had on the students,” said Sr Agatha. “I talked to the students on the bus on the way back home and they were certainly exercised by the day. I think Fr Benny (McHale) had a particularly strong affect on them – his presentation led them to think about their lives and about their futures and about what life is about generally. He put their lives in front of them in a particularly resonant way and I think that was very impressive, very enjoyable, and very special,” she said.
Mr Noel Moran, Roscommon CBS, also deemed the celebration worthwhile. “I had a conversation with Mr Joe Lohan from Scoil Mhuire, Ballygar, and we agreed that it was the type of day where each student took something useful from what went on, which is very positive,” he said.
This Diocesan Youth Celebration proceeded from Psalm 50:15 “When you call I will answer”. Fr McHale’s presentations and the testimonies of two young adults, Tracey Stynes and David Fitzpatrick, flowed from this scriptural injunction in stimulating fashions that captured the attention of the young people. There was also short addresses from Fr Raymond Browne PP Kilbride, and Sr. Mary McHugh OSU, Director of Catechetics with the Diocese of Elphin.
Between the presentations and testimonies the students joined in singing led by the contemporary Gospel music group “Elation Ministries”. “Elation Ministries” is an eight-piece music group led by Summerhill College (Sligo) Chaplain Paul Keogh and it succeeded in capturing the attention and voices of the students with several excellent songs.
Fr McHale’s first presentation focussed on the importance and value of every person and, advancing from this, on our Christian duty to persevere in life in order to fulfil the destinies that have been prescribed for us by God. His second presentation centred on the worth of every person and on the role of Christian faith in our lives.
“Each one of us has had a path laid out for us by God and each one of us contributes in our own unique way to the world that God has created. There is a room for each one of you somewhere in heaven and if you don’t take your place in your own room fulfilling the special purpose that God has laid out for us, that room will be empty forever,” he said.
The testimonies of the young man and the young woman were well received by the students present. Tracey Stynes, a native of Sligo who acted for a number of years on Irish television, told the story of her youth in a manner that reverberated with many of the girls present last Friday.
Ms Stynes addressed the practical problems that affect many Irish teenage girls today and spoke of how her relationship with God and the Church has helped her to become a happier woman.
The testimony of the young man, David Fitzpatrick, who lives in Sligo, was a resonant tale of male adolescence and early adulthood that generated discussion among the young men who were present.
Commenting after the event, Bishop Christopher Jones, the Bishop of Elphin, thanked all the young people who took part and the teachers, catechists and principals who accompanied them. “There are fantastic teenagers in every parish and school in this diocese. I am delighted we have celebrated their faith in this way and I look forward to their contribution to the life of our Diocese in the years to come.”
Bishop Jones also thanked the organising committee of the Youth Celebration, mainly priests, school chaplains and catechists. He expressed his wish that they would continue to inspire, challenge and support the diocese to provide teenagers with such faith development opportunities into the future.
Martin Long, Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm, Communications Officer (087 233 7797)