The Pope John Paul II Awards were created in 2006 in the Diocese of Derry by Fr Paul Farren to commemorate Pope John Paul II, who was so committed to young people and had such belief and confidence in them.

The Pope John Paul II Award enables participants to take an active part in the life of their Church-in the life of their community and society. It also allows young people to become more aware of the teaching and role of the Catholic Church in the world and to engage at a deep level with Christ.

The Award is committed to helping young people enhance their spiritual, physical, emotional and social development through participation in school, parish and community activities.

The Award is for anyone between the ages of 16 and 18, and is non-competitive, inclusive, flexible and voluntary, and requires an ongoing commitment.

Brother Seamus McDonald, who was elected Supreme Knight at the Stated Annual Meeting in October 2008 proposed and obtained permission for the Council of Directors at their next meeting in January 2009 to seek ratification of the Youth imitative, Pope John Paul II Awards.

Fr. Paul Farren addressed the Supreme Executive at their think tank weekend in Athlone in early January 2009 to outline the Award scheme. The Executive approved the plans to focus upon Youth Initiatives as the Orders National Project going forward.

The Council of Directors adopted the Pope John Paul II Award as the Orders National Project on the 25th of January 2009.

The terms of reference were:

  • In each area, the Provincial Grand Knight would approach the local Bishop and introduce the Award.
  • Seek Knights representation on the Diocesan committee, which would assist in rolling out the Award.
  • The Local Councils would participate at a local level to promote the Awards in schools and parishes.
  • The Order would establish a National Knights Award Committee financed by the Order.
  • The Order Nationally would provide up to €7,000 per Diocese to introduce the Award.  After the first year, the Award would become self-financing.  The finance would cover the initial set up of the Award, the Award Handbook, the Award letterhead, the Award invitations, the Award Medals, the Diocesan Website Information, and the costs of the official launch of the Award at Diocesan level.

There are 3 Award levels – Gold, Silver & Bronze.
Awards are earned by taking part in parish and social activities – 1 hour per week over 8, 14 or 20 weeks.

In the first year, the Archdiocese of Armagh and the Dioceses of Raphoe, Dromore and Down and Connor came on board with the project.

Since the Knights of St Columbanus adopted the Pope John Paul II Awards as their National Project, they have introduced the Awards into 25 of the 26 Dioceses in Ireland. To date, approximately 30,000 young people have received the Award.  As the Awards grew over the years, the Knights also financially supported a National Coordinator’s post from 2016 to 2018.  The Bishops of Ireland have acknowledged that the Pope John Paul II Awards as the only National Youth programme, and the Knights of St Columbanus are thanked at all presentation ceremonies for their efforts. Each year, a Supreme Executive member is invited to address the young people receiving their medals and certificates and their families

The Pope John Paul II Award National Committee consists of the following people:

  • Bishop Donal McKeown, Bishop of Derry & Award Patron.
  • Fr Paul Farren, Diocese of Derry.
  • Fr Michael Toomey, Diocese of Waterford & Lismore.
  • Brother Brendan McCann, SK, Knights of St. Columbanus.
  • Brother Barry C. MacMahon, Knights of St. Columbanus.
  • Tony Brennan, National Coordinator of the Pope John Paul II Award

More information can be found at