On Thursday 17th November at 7:30PM at the Annual Pope John Paul II Award ceremony, over 352 second level students from across the 55 parishes of the Archdiocese of Tuam received their Pope John Paul II award medals and certificates from Archbishop Michael Neary at Knock Basilica. It was always a truly wonderful celebration to affirm and celebrate our young people. There was an open invitation to everyone involved in parish life throughout the Archdiocese to come along on the night and be uplifted and pleasantly surprised by the energy, enthusiasm and ideas shared by the young people. As you continue reading, you will catch a glimpse of some of that enthusiasm by reading a number of their reflections on their Pope John Paul II award experience.
Pope John Paul II had a real heart for young people. He believed in them, inspired them and challenged them to become the best possible people that they could be. He lived very much as Jesus lived. Can you tell us about one person in your life who inspires you to do the same?
“Fr. Mike Murphy inspires me to live as Jesus lived because he always treats people with kindness and he listens to people when they need to talk to someone. He is also there for you when things aren’t going well and I would love to be a better person like him”.
My mam inspires me to be a better person. She has always been a great support to me and the rest of the family. She is kind and helpful to everyone she meets. She gets involved in every activity in the school, the community and the parish. I don’t know any other person who helps others as much as my mam does.
St. Teresa once wrote “ Christ has no body now on earth but yours”….Can you tell us about one positive story of your Pope John Paul II award, where you learnt something about yourself or felt you made a real difference in the life of those around you?
“Before the Pope John Paul II award programme, I would not have done reading or singing at mass. Over the last year, I have joined two choirs. I love going to each practice and singing the second Sunday of every month. I have also got the chance to read at Mass, something I would never have done before I took part in this award. It has brought me closer to my community and taking part in projects around me.”
“I learnt a lot about the person I am and last year was where I really found myself as an individual. I decided to volunteer for the VAKs programme which was a weekend during the summer where a group of teenage volunteers spread out on Knock Shrine grounds to help visitors over the few days. I got to meet hundreds of people each day from different nationalities and different disabilities. The response I got from them was like no other. To me, I wasn’t doing much but to them, it was a friendly face and source of help and most popular a person to have a chat with. I really felt I made an impact to the people I came into contact with. To hear how thankful they were for my help really touched me. I believe you receive a lot more back from just giving to others.”
Do you believe young people have a real part to play in the Church? What would you like to see happen in your own parish for young people?
“Throughout our transition year, I watched my faith grow, like a bud sprouts into a beautiful tree. This was all thanks to the youth choir, the Peer 4 Peer programme, the Awakening concert and the Volunteer at Knock Shrine (VAKS) programme. These of course all branch under the Pope John Paul II programme. I hate to imagine what would have happened if I skipped Transition year and didn’t get the opportunity to expand my faith. I finally feel after 15 year of attending Mass every Sunday, that I have a rightful and well- earned place in my parish ad church. Thank you so much for the opportunity.”
“My parish is a parish for youth. I feel this is down to Fr. Pat Donnellan who has a wonderful way with the youth. He encourages us all to participate at Mass. He set up our fold group last year which has new members joining every week. I think music is a great way to bring youth back to Mass because most young people enjoy listening or taking part in music related projects. “