The Pope John Paul II Awards were launched in the Archdiocese of Tuam on Monday November 9th by Galway footballer Michael Meehan. Over 200 senior-cycle second level students together with their teachers and members of Pastoral Councils from across the diocese gathered in the McWilliam Park Hotel, Claremorris for the occasion.
The evening opened with a captivating powerpoint presentation of scenes from the life of Pope John Paul II backed by Andrea Bocelli’s powerful anthem ‘Because we Believe’.
Archbishop Neary welcomed everyone but especially the young people. He told them that he hoped that they would always feel welcome in their local parish communities. ‘This is your church’ he told them. He reminded them that they are not the church of tomorrow but are the church of today. And quoting Pope John Paul II he said ‘the future starts today, not tomorrow’.
Telling the students that they were their church’s greatest asset he challenged them to make their church a better place, ‘a place where God’s presence permeates everything we do and say’.
Fr Paul Farren of the Derry Diocese spoke of how and why the Pope John Paul II Awards were developed. They provide an opportunity for parishes to honour the many young people who are already involved in their local communities while at the same time challenging others to play their part. ‘The Awards’, he said ‘provided a real link between the faith we celebrate on a Sunday and the lives we live on a Monday.
Mr. Seamus Mc Donald, the Supreme Knight of the Knights of St Columbanus travelled from Belfast to attend the launch. He spoke of his admiration for Pope John Paul II and of his memories of the Papal Youth Mass in Ballybrit in 1979. He told the young people that the Knights were delighted to sponsor the Awards because he knew that through such Awards more and more young people could and would make a difference in their local parish.
In launching the Awards, Michael Meehan, the Galway football star, spoke of his earliest memories of parish. He remembered being a Mass server, Sunday Mass, the local stations, etc, he also spoke of playing football at every level for his parish. He said that parish was something that is created by so many anonymous people in thousands of unnoticed ways. He acknowledged that he really didn’t realise this until he experienced the power of parish after the tragic death of his sister Mairead. It was only then that he could see how important parish is to everyone.
He urged the young people to take their turn in building their parish and encouraged all to participate in the Pope John Paul II Awards.
More information about the Pope John Paul II Awards can be found on http://www.thepopejohnpauliiaward.com/archdiocese_of_tuam.htm where application forms can be downloaded