Over Forty Young People from the Diocese of Clonfert Receive John Paul II Awards at Thursday Evening’s Ceremony in Gullane’s Hotel Ballinasloe.

“I encourage as many young people as possible, throughout our Diocese to continue taking part in these awards. take My hope and prayer is that they may bring great blessings to all involved.” – Bishop Michael

It is really great to gather tonight for what is the largest ever John Paul Award Ceremony for the Diocese of Clonfert. I welcome the award recipients, their families, their friends, the award leaders, representatives of the various schools and parishes involved and our priests.

The John Paul II awards are unique in that they have as their foundation, motivation and focus – the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ. As Christians – each one of us is called to make a difference for the better in the world in which we live in by the way we live our lives. Inspired by this calling – the young people receiving awards this evening have embarked on a job of work to enhance the life of their local communities, their schools and their parishes. They have read at Mass, sung in parish choirs, led school prayer services, provided music for broadcast Mass, helped out the elderly and the poor and cared for and tended to the needs of the sick on pilgrimage to Lourdes. That is to name but some of the work that has taken place.

I feel very privileged to have met Saint John Paul II (1920-2005) on a number of occasions during the time I studied in Rome. He had an enormous heart for young people. On numerous occasions, I heard him call on young people to do something great with the life they had been gifted with. He was convinced that life is enriched not impoverished by being a Christian. The young people who partake in these awards are young people who, in the words of Saint John Paul, refuse to “be ground down by mediocrity”. They are young people who have the courage to commit themselves to improving themselves, their parishes, and society and thereby “making the world more human and more fraternal.” (Tor Vergata, 2000)

I congratulate those receiving awards this evening, their families, schools, parishes and friends. I thank Mary Hynes for her sterling work as the John Paul II Award Co-ordinator, the Award Leaders, our co-operating Parish Priests and everyone involved in the organisation of these awards. I thank in particular, the Knights of St Columbanus who have been the driving force in funding and promoting these awards nationally. I am honoured to welcome here tonight – the Supreme Knight Mr John Murray. I encourage as many young people as possible, throughout our Diocese to continue taking part in these awards. take My hope and prayer is that they may bring great blessings to all involved.

In order to continue to encourage the faith development of John Paul II award participants – I am doubly happy tonight to announce – the sponsorship of a place on the forthcoming Diocesan Pilgrimage to the International Youth Festival in Medujorge in August 2024 and on the Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes in August 2024 for those who are over 18 at the time of travel and who have received an award this year or are enrolled in the award scheme.

I am happy now to welcome our guest speaker tonight Mr Gerard Hanly. Originally from Galway, Gerard’s faith was awakened at about the same age of most of our young award recipients while he was at school. A talented soccer player, he has been involved for many years now in youth ministry. Gerard currently with Youth Alpha Ireland -which aims to reawaken, nourish and strengthen the faith of young people. Gerard, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule – we welcome you to night and look forward to listening to you. (Bishop Michael)