For more than a decade the Transition Year Students in the Post Primary Schools of the Archdiocese of Tuam have been invited to participate in an eight week programme entitled: ‘Parish Life,Living Our Faith’. This project aims to develop the students’ awareness of the concept of parish and to help them see that there are a variety of ministries and as members of their local communities there is a place for them to become involved. It is a school-based parish linked project. Young people are encouraged to work in a team and to link up with their home parish. The students have an opportunity to experience firsthand the faith story and wisdom of ordinary men and women. Through the use of Scripture, talking with others and participating in the project they are enabled to reflect on their own faith story. The project acknowledges the power of young people to build a better Church and a better world. It also taps into young peoples’ innate sense of spirituality and proposes an innovative response.
In the ‘Parish Life Living our Faith’ there are four modules students can choose from: Prayer and Worship, Building Community, Profiles of Faithful People or Our Parish Story. It is amazing the creativity and originality of this project over the years and we owe a deep gratitude to the teachers who help our students discover that in giving they receive. In their own words one group of students described the project as follows: ‘Parish Life-Living Our Faith’ focuses on reaching out to the wider community in a way that will enrich the lives of others. We want to be an inspiration to others by living our faith by as many ways as possible” The activities undertaken by this group was organising a Youth Mass every month in their parish and they organised a Carol Service as a fund raiser for a charity. Their final comment was that they as a group could make a difference and that the parish was more than happy to encourage them as young people to be a witness to their faith.
Some of our Post Primary Schools spend longer than eight weeks on this project as they begin in September training students for the Peer to Peer programme or for the First Communion programmes in which their students are helping their local Primary schools. Other schools are involved in weekly visits to Nursing Homes or helping the young people with a disability to be involved in sport or art activities. Some students have made garden boxes for their local Nursing Home so patients could plant flowers or vegetables. Others have used old tyres, cut in half and filled them with flowering plants to enhance their local environment. One very courageous group undertook to clean an old cemetery and to research the names on the old headstones and made a record for the parish of all the families buried in the overgrown plot. Researching the parish story is a source of great pride to individual students and many contacts are made with an older generation. The young people are fascinated as to how life was lived fifty or sixty years ago in their parish and they learn how important prayer and faith were in the lives of ordinary men and women. One group produced a directory of the local churches represented in their school. Several schools have printed prayer books or organised prayer services in their parish or school. Every school has organised fun events to collect money for local charities. The variety of projects presented each year is inspiritational and we hope that our young people will become involved in the life of their local parish as they grow older.
Each year about ten schools participate in the project and there is a day in the Knock Rest & Care Centre for the participating students where they mount a display and give a short presentation of the activities undertaken and a reflection on how the activity helped them discover God in their lives. Archbishop Michael is always present for this day of Prayer and Celebration of our Young Peoples’ Faith. The day is also an opportunity for the TY students from across the Diocese to meet with each other, to share their good news stories and to meet with the Archbishop as he visits every display and listens to the ideas they express about church life today. Each student receives a certificate before the day ends with a prayer service in the Apparition Chapel. Our hope is that our young people will live out Christ’s vision that they may have life and have it to the full. (Cf. Jn 10:30)
The next TY Parish project day will take place at the Rest in Care Centre, Knock on Monday 13th March. Contact Sr. Margaret Buckley on 087-2257743 for more information.