John Paul II Awards
Slieve Russell Hotel
1 March 2013
Rev Fathers and Friends,
I’m delighted to be here to welcome you to the Presentation of Awards for the John Paul 11 Scheme. The John Paul Initiative has been a wonderful success in the diocese of Clogher. Last year fifteen of our parishes were involved, this year that has nearly doubled. It is a tribute to Fr. Martin, to Matthew McFadden to Clogher don Óige leaders, to the encouragement and example given by our priests and your parents that so many young people have been persuaded to participate. It should also be a source of great satisfaction to the Knights of St. Columbanus that a number of years ago you took the decision to fund the Awards; in doing so, you backed a winner.
To the young people here present I say to you – you have given a lift to our spirits. Your experiences in Taizé, in Lourdes, on Lough Derg, at World Youth Days and in so many other places of reflection, these experiences have obviously deepened your faith and enriched your lives. In enriching your own lives, you may not realise how much happiness and satisfaction it has given to your parents to see you maturing in faith and understanding. What you have learned and what you have gained will be a great support to you in your studies and in your life’s work.
The communities of the future will look to you for energy and for leadership. Today you are the teenagers. You are feeling your way, learning about life, getting to know yourself in the process and working out where you will fit in, where can you best use your talents in the service of others. Today you are the players, the learners; tomorrow you will be the managers, the leaders. It will be your privilege and responsibility to make the decisions. Your children will look to you for instruction and your communities will turn to you for guidance and direction. ‘Is ait an mac an saol?’ Life takes many turns, and one phase feeds into the next.
What you are doing now will give you understanding and compassion for your fellow human beings. You will see more clearly the needs of others and you will have the generosity to respond. The widow, the orphan, the challenged, the prisoner, the wounded, the hurt will not cry out for help in vain. Instead of chasing the comforts of the rich, you will try to ensure that the needy have the necessities of life and that no one will wither away for want of a loving hand or a supportive shoulder.
When you look around your communities and then turn to God you may find him saying to you, “I need your youthful vigour. Those who look after my sheep are ageing and need replacing. The flock are looking to you and depending on a favourable response.” The Eucharist has to have a priest. Signs of forgiveness need to be given by a human hand. The sick and the dying need someone to represent the creator in comforting those who are finishing their journey. Children need someone to welcome them into God’s family, to strengthen the faith of their parents and later to confirm their own faith. Couples want to declare their marriage vows before a representative of the Lord. We need priests and religious as well as lay helpers. In a few weeks time, we will celebrate the feast of Patrick. He responded to the call of God and the needs of our people. This call and these needs are still there. Don’t turn your back on it. God can call you at any age. If the call is meant for you, God will be with you to see it through. He will bless your generosity and your own people will bless your courage. I compliment the leaders, I congratulate the award winners on their achievements, and I know this evening’s events will give heart and inspiration to us all.
May God bless you all.
+Liam S. MacDaid
1 March 2013