By Sarah Mac Donald - 21 January, 2015
One of the teachers at a school in Galway recently said, ‘I believe my students might never hear this message again’.
Co Laois native, Catriona Heffernan, told CatholicIreland.net that it “a very exciting time to come onto the team” and that “there is a lot of work to be done”.
She explained, “We have just re-launched the website and there is a lot of restructuring going on in Pure in Heart.”
Catriona was working in the legal profession prior to her appointment to this full-time role, though she had been volunteering with Pure in Heart for about four years and she got involved with the core team two years ago.
She first heard about the group through a friend. She had studied for her degree at NUI Galway and had come to Dublin to start her first job as a legal executive.
“I didn’t knowing too much about the mission or the charism of Pure in Heart – I just knew it was a good prayer group and they had a weekly community meeting.”
“One of the things that most impressed me about the Thursday evening community meeting was that it was so packed – they had Mass, confessions, catechesis, time for social chats and tea and it just seemed to cover all the areas that I was looking for.”
It was also full of other young people who were volunteers and seemed to exude joy.
Of her own faith background, she told CatholicIreland.net that she is “very fortunate” to have grown up in her faith, particularly because when she went to college, she had to make her own decisions.
“There is an awful lot on offer in college and it is not always for the betterment of the individual person,” she explained.
“What I found in Pure in Heart was that it really was trying to improve the overall person – the real focus is on the human dignity of the individual.”
She explained that the call to live a life of purity as part of the community of Pure in Heart is not about perfection.
“One of the things we are constantly reminding people in Pure in Heart is that it is not about their past. Come on-board and start living this message and limit the heartbreak as much as possible and try and keep yourself on the right track which will lead you to the greatest joy. The culture of today offers so many things but none of them leads to real happiness.”
Of the mission and outreach undertaken by Pure in Heart, she thinks it is “extraordinary”.
“We have a privileged link with some secondary schools. Some are Church of Ireland schools, some are interdenominational schools – it is not limited just to catholic schools.”
“We give an interactive presentation on a different way of life to what the culture offers today – it is a real breath of fresh air. One of the teachers at a school in Galway recently said, ‘I believe my students might never hear this message again’. That really brought home to me the importance of our mission especially in our own country.”
There is a particular strength in Pure in Heart in that it is young people reaching out to other young people.
“Our mission team are very varied in their personalities and gifts – it is extremely effective when they speak to students because they are so varied,” she comments.
Pure in Heart is now an international movement. It started in the year 2000 when the seed was planted at a World Youth Day when Pope John Paul II urged young people to open the doors of the Church.
According to Catriona Heffernan, the Saint has been “a very big influence” on the group. “We are always delving into his theology of the body and those aids that the Church has already provided us.”
From its humble beginnings in Ireland, the group has now spread to the UK, Wales, the US and Liberia. The group in Boston has managed to secure UN NGO status.
In its literature, Pure in Heart says it may not sound like a ‘modern notion’ but many wonderful things come under the chastity umbrella; sexual health, respect, confidence, freedom, peace, friendship, lasting relationships, self-worth, the list is endless!
“Chastity is about learning how to love authentically with our bodies. At Pure in heart, we cherish our sexuality as one of God’s most beautiful and exciting gifts! But like everything, it’s been given to us with a purpose. Its inscription into our bodies indicates that sex serves marriage; a long term, monogamous relationship.”
More information: www.pureinheartireland.com