On Thursday 17 November, 2016 at our Lady’s Basilica, Knock, Archbishop Michael Neary gathered to celebrate and recognise the contribution of over 350 teenagers from all over the Archdiocese of Tuam at the annual presentation of the Pope John Paul II Award.
Archbishop Michael welcomed the young people to the event, along with their families, friends, school teachers, principals, chaplains, and representatives of the various parish and diocesan bodies including Mr. Mattie Harte, Athenry Parish Youth minister and Ms. Siobhan Bradley, Diocesan Co-ordinator for the John Paul II Awards.
Speaking to the young people receiving their Award, Archbishop Michael shared, “This is a wonderful celebration filled with music, dance, reflection and words of affirmation. Over the last year, you have been challenged to give of your time, talents, intellect, and skills as you took an active part in the life of the Church. As a result you have grown in your appreciation and understanding of Church. There is undoubtedly great idealism and generosity, but this needs to be challenged, and when challenged it thrives as it is in the JP II awards. I commend you all on your achievement. You have had the opportunity to reflect more deeply on your faith and have the courage to bear witness to it in situations involving your peers. It is my fervent hope that you will go forward from here to bring joy and hope to the life of the Church in your local area.
Some of the young people shared throughout the evening on the role their faith plays in their young lives and just who are the people who really influence them. One 17 year old student, Aine Duffy from Ballyhaunis Community School shared very poignantly in front of her peers that it is in fact her mother who continues to inspire and challenge her to keep the faith. “My mother would be the person that would have influenced me the most. From a very young age, she has nurtured and developed my faith, encouraging me to explore and challenge my own beliefs and teaching me how to live out my potential as a person in the ways Jesus wants us to live. My mother has a very strong faith which has been tested many times but she always maintained her belief in God. I also, as any other person (particularly the youth) have questioned my faith but with my mother’s help and guidance, I have been able to develop my belief in God and learn how to participate in my faith community”.
Siobhan Bradley, Diocesan youth director reminded the gathering of over 600 people present, both young and young at heart, that “although we may feel inadequate, God’s plans for our lives are directed toward the future, our potential, and our capacity for love. We are not called to be “couch potatoes” or “bench-warmers,” but rather strong witnesses of faith who will leave “a mark on history.” We need to be this message to the world. You need to continue be this message for the world. Congratulations to all of you on your commitment and perseverance in completing your award but also for the thought and consideration you invested in the wonderful reflections you presented. You are an inspiration and a source of great hope to us all”.
All 350 young people received their medal and certificate in recognition of so much work carried out by them in their school, parish and wider communities over the last year. They would have been involved in everything from visiting the elderly to training as a Eucharistic ministers, cycling 150Km for charity to organising a sleepover vigil in their school for refugees.Through their experiences on this award programme, they were given an opportunity to go beyond themselves and their needs, and reach out to others. Their very actions in the ordinary everyday world brought them a whole new understanding of Church and what it means to be part of it. It was a truly wonderful celebration to affirm and celebrate our young people and be uplifted, challenged and pleasantly surprised by the energy, enthusiasm and ideas shared by them. Check out www.tuamdyc.ie for more photos and information about the award.