By Sean Ryan - 01 May, 2016
The RDS Concert Hall in Dublin recently hosted a gathering of more than 500 Transition Year students and 1st Year A Level students from all over the island of Ireland.
They were joined by teachers, chaplains, priests, religious and volunteers, to celebrate the Extraordinary Jubilee of the Year of Mercy.
This year’s event marked the third annual gathering of its kind.
The last two years were held at Knock Shrine in Co Mayo.
Schools all over the country were invited to send twelve students, accompanied by two members of staff.
Two speakers addressed them in the morning: Méabh Carlin and Richard Moore, who both gave personal testimonies.
Méabh is a native of Co Armagh. She described how she suffered horrific injuries to her pelvis, groin and legs, when knocked down at World Youth Day in Madrid in 2013.
The doctors feared that she would not live, and later, that she would never walk again, but she credits her belief in God to the fact that she recovered her ability to walk.
Richard Moore described how he was blinded by a plastic bullet fired by a British soldier in May 1972 when only ten years old, returning home from school in Derry.
The second youngest of ten children, his family had suffered a terrible tragedy only months earlier when Richard’s uncle was shot dead during Bloody Sunday.
In spite of heartbreak, Richard’s parents were devout Catholics and prayed for God’s grace to help them.
Their faith, and witness, he explained, helped him to accept his blindness without anger or bitterness.
He has lived a full and happy life, setting up his own businesses, getting married and having children, meeting and befriending the soldier who blinded him, and in 1996, founding the charity ‘Children in Crossfire’.
Richard’s charity has raised tens of millions of pounds to help children in Africa, Asia and South America whose lives have been blighted by poverty.
At the RDS event, confession was available all day for any students who wished to avail of the sacrament.
The reverent and joyful atmosphere of the day was greatly enhanced by the singing of soprano Christine O’Flynn, accompanied by pianist Bethan Lee, both during Mass, and during the day.
After lunch, students were given a short address by Fr Dan Baragry CSsR about the Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. Fr Dan explained the history and meaning of Icons.
The Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown, concelebrated Mass in the afternoon with Bishop Francis Duffy and seven priests.
Archbishop Brown spoke about the life and work of Derry native Sr Clare Crockett, who spent the last 14 years of her life serving God and the poor, and was killed in an earthquake in Ecuador earlier this month.
At the end of the day, each school was presented with YOUCATs, a candle, prayer books, miraculous medals, confession leaflets, rosary beads and sweets for the journey home.