The success of the inaugural John Paul II awards scheme in County Limerick will see it extended across the Diocese this year, organisers stated at last weekend’s awards night in Kilfinane.
The programme, which seeks to foster a sense of civic, community and Christian spirit in parishes, was piloted this year through Scoil Pól in Kilfinane where 17 students aged between 16 and 18 years, received awards at a ceremony last Friday night.
The pilot programme, run by Scoil Pól in conjunction with Limerick Diocese, was initiated by Sr. Patricia Coughlan in Kilfinane with the launch sponsored by The Knights of St Columbanus. The awards are broken down into four categories – bronze, silver, gold and the Papal Cross – with the individual awards based on the level of activity that students can take on.
Started in the Diocese of Derry in 2006, they were created to encourage young people to take an active part in the life of their Church and community and to commemorate the late Pope John Paul II for his commitment to young people.
Running the award in Limerick emerged as one of the recommendations from the Limerick Diocesan Synod held last year to reinvigorate church and community across Limerick and face it positively to the future.
Speaking at the awards ceremony in Kilfinane, Bishop Leahy said that such has been their success that the diocese now intends to expand the programme into other parts of the diocese.
“The beauty of these awards is that they really encourage that sense of community. The Church is community and we saw more young people becoming involved in the Church here through becoming Eucharistic Ministers, reading at Mass, etc. But they also got involved in projects such as Tidy Towns, which really espoused Christian values of working together and celebrating what God has given us.
One of the students, Jack McCarthy, a recipient of the Papal Cross award, said the programme was an opportunity to get a greater sense of what community means.
“Through the awards you get a sense of belonging to the community. People who participated became Eucharistic Ministers, got involved in the choir and started reading at Mass.”
Gold Medal recipient Aine Crowley said: “It’s great to be involved in the programme as through it you meet so many people. You are bringing generations, ideas and the community spirit together.”
Scoil Pól Kilfinane Principal Michael O’Hara said that the moment he was introduced to the concept, he was interested and paid tribute to Sr. Patricia for her initiative.
“The awards came about following an intervention with Sr. Patricia Coughlan in Kilfinane. She intrigued me immediately with regard to the benefits our students could gain by participating in the awards. The intrigue was the simplicity of the awards themselves; involving people in the community, developing their personalities and sharing their experiences. So this very successful pilot was born out of that.”
Parish Priest of Kilfinane, Glenroe/Ballyorgan and Ardpatrick Fr Michael O’Shea commended the students for their commitment. “For me, I would say it’s a great thing to get young people get involved in Church. I have some of the students get involved in the pastoral council for, example, and they bring a different slant that is helpful to all of us involved in the parish,” he said.
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