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Clonmel students celebrate JPII Award

By Ann Marie Foley - 04 March, 2020

Fr Michael Toomey with Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan

Transition Year students at CBS High School, Clonmel, have helped boost participation in parish liturgies with 79,201 online visitors.

As part of a Transition Year (TY) and John Paul II (JPII) Award project, students set about equipping their local church with a camera to film and livestream via the internet, making the local Mass available far and wide.

Last week at the JPII Award ceremony, where students received Gold Medals for their efforts, they heard that their online broadcast service increased “parishioners” by 19,086 (regulars), and helped those virtual participants “attend” services online for over 35,500 hours.

Those tuning in online to St Peter and St Paul Church included locals and people from all over Ireland and the world, from Australia to Canada, Malaysia to Argentina, India to Cayman Islands, South Africa to Trinidad, China, Korea, Sri Lanka and the Ivory Coast. A total of 77 countries have been tracked to date.

“Who are these people? The great thing is that you will never know, as they come from the very ends of the earth that Pope Francis and his predecessor Pope John Paul II exhorted us to reach,” said Tony Bolger, Church Services TV, who helped provide the technology and was present at the awards ceremony.

In Autumn 2018 the TY students met up with Church Services TV to see what technology was available and then raised funds of €5000 to install the camera and the software which would enable broadcasts on the Church Services TV website that streams Mass live from churches all over Ireland and the UK.

“Each visitor has their own story – their own piece of history written and enabled, because of your generosity, vision and energy,” Tony Bolger told the students. He said that some visitors are confined to home or nursing homes and they are “now relying on technology to continue their association with and participation in the parish. Those who cannot physically make it to a funeral or wedding, possibly from the other side of the world, are some of those visitors who are most grateful to you. You may forget in time about all this – but there will be those beneficiaries who never will.”

These students and others involved in JPII Award projects received their medals on 27 February 2020. Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan of Waterford and Lismore Diocese was present and he spoke of Pope John Paul II, who the awards are named after. He told they students that through them God is bringing “something more” of his healing, mercy, peace, love and joy into the world.

Also present were the parish clergy including Canon Brendan Crowley, Parish Priest, and Fr Michael Toomey, who helped the students with their JPII activities in the parish. The Knights of St Columbanus, who support the JPII Award, were represented by Supreme Knight Gerald Harbinson. Also present were families, fellow students, teachers and local politicians.

A special guest on the night was Seamus Kennedy, a Tipperary hurler. He spoke of his strong faith and how he visits St Patrick’s Well in Marlfield (near Clonmel) as a place to find calm and peace after matches that may have gone well or badly.

Mathew Byrne, one of the students who received a gold medal for the church TV project, described how the students raised funds by producing a calendar, selling poinsettias at Christmas and with a pub quiz.

He explained how the first funeral streamed on the service was of a parent of one of the teachers, and family members were able to view the Mass from Australia.

“Her and many other families over the year have been so grateful that such a service is available for funerals, weddings and baptisms as well as anniversary Masses,” he said. “Jesus said to his disciples ‘Go out to the whole world and proclaim the good news’. We, through the JPII Award, have achieved that, allowing the whole world to participate in services here at St Peters and St Pauls for generations to come.”

He added: “Overall I think JPII Award is an opportunity to meet new people and to experience something new in the Church.”

People can find services, and other videos and programmes, including the JP11 Awards ceremony, on: https://www.churchservices.tv/clonmelpeterpaul.

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