By editor - 26 February, 2013
There was a definite thumbs-up from the more than150 young people and adults who met in Tullamore last Saturday for the Fourth National Parish Youth Conference.
When asked what the young people told him they liked about the day Fr Patrick Donnelly said that it was the mix of the ordinary with the religious and liveliness of the activities. “It wasn’t just all religion and they liked the fact that there was ordinary music from the band Ruaille Buaille. It was relevant to their lives and there was plenty of interaction,” Fr Patrick Donnelly told CatholicIreland.net.
The theme of “Life is a Gift” was chosen with Bishop Michael Smith who expressed his concern about the number of young people who have taken their own lives in recent times. He proposed the theme when he met for prayer followed by pizza with the core organising group of 15 young people and Fr Patrick Donnelly and Sr Genny Hassey.
These young people are also involved in the Junior Parish Pastoral Council in Tullamore and have helped organise similar conferences held for the last four years. Typically young people of secondary school age get involved and attendance was up by at least 30 this year. The participants came from around the county and surrounds but also from places further afield such as Wexford and Drogheda.
One of the main guests was Joan Freeman from Pieta House, who spoke about suicide in a way that is appropriate to the young people present. Fr Patrick said that when she asked if anyone present or their friends had experienced cyber bullying practically everyone in the room put up their hands.
Other speakers included Jonny Somerville who is the National Coordinator of Youth Alpha Ireland, and Scott Evans the author of Closer Still. Will Faulkner from Midland 103 was MC.
Workshops included topics such as Setting up a youth prayer group and some of the Tullamore group were able to share their experiences of their own Sunday evening prayer group which involves refreshments, music and time to chat as well as prayers. The topic of Setting up a Junior Parish Pastoral Council was addressed by local Sr Genny Hassey and Setting up a youth music group was led by the nine member Christian band Without Walls.
“It was better than their expectations,” said Fr Patrick. “Someone said they had planned to stay half an hour and had their mother on standby to collect them in case they didn’t like it, but they stayed the whole day. It was very interactive and people mixed which was good, and they had a laugh and had fun.”
by Ann Marie Foley