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Address of Bishop Denis at the Pope John Paul II Awards 2022

Pope John Paul II Award Ceremony 2022:                                                           15.12.22

Cathedral of the Assumption, Carlow @ 7.30pm

There is nothing that gives me greater pleasure than being here with you young people, your parents, your teachers, your friends this night. And I appreciate the weather have not been great some and a few couldn’t make the journey, but most are here. Hopefully those who couldn’t make it are joining with us through the Cathedral webcam. All of you are very welcome.

I thank Noeleen Lynam who is new to the role of coordinator and Christine Ogelsby in Faith Development Services for doing so much behind the scenes making this evening a reality. I thank Cathriona who has over the past eight years invested hugely in making this award the award it is. Yvonne Rooney was the first coordinator when the awards were introduced here.

The award as you know is dedicated to the memory of the late Saint Pope John Paul II whose love for young people was always so obvious. He was the Pope who introduced World Youth Day. He was the Pope who travelled more than any other and met young people before anyone else in every country he visited.

One of my Christmas Cards I received from Eddie the postman this week reminded me in 2023 we will celebrate the 45th anniversary of the election of Pope John Paul II. Time passes too quickly. My father taught us a rhyme going to school, we were always asking him the time!

ten past, a quarter past, no particular time,

if you want a watch, buy a watch, and don’t depend on mine”.

Time is so precious. I bet few of you wear watches now, you find out the time by glancing at the phone!

Let’s see can we learn these lines tonight …

ten past, a quarter past, no particular time,

if you want a watch, buy a watch, and don’t depend on mine

Time is so important. We never have enough time, adults or young people! My prayer is sometimes for an eighth day in the week or a twenty-fifth hour in the day, but I’m afraid it’s not going to happen! The awards were first introduced into Ireland in 2006 in Derry. Kildare & Leighlin was one of the first dioceses to promote the awards in 2009. The two key dimensions to the awards are social awareness and parish involvement. Unlike other awards it is non-competitive and voluntary.

The last year wasn’t an easy time to do the Award programme. We are still emerging out of the pandemic. I’m told tonight there are 209 recipients: 46 Papal Crosses; 115 Gold Medals; 34 Silver Medals and 14 Bronze medals. I notice this year some of the awards are school centred and an increasing number are parish centred. This is very welcome. In school we’re going to moving class, we sit for exams, often our time is precious, see we are back to time again.

With the parish, if we can embed the award into the fabric of parish life, there is a great chance of the award having literally a longer shelf life. Growing up at home I used to love cleaning our presses for my mother, everything landed in the bin, all out of date produce, mustards, jams, tins of pears, tins of beans, bags of semolina, tapioca, I’m showing my age now aren’t I! My mother would retrieve some reminding me best before doesn’t always mean worse after! There is a lesson in everything.

In applauding the parishes where this award is well rooted, I want to encourage other parishes to come on board. Noeleen and the Diocese will offer you every support to show you how the award can be both school rooted and parish centred. Perhaps parishes might also help one another in their newly formed clusters and pastoral areas to make this award a reality in every parish.

I want to take a moment to thank our secondary schools who welcome the award and facilitate its programme of activities within the school. This is not taken in any way for granted and deeply appreciated. Every year at these ceremonies I meet the same Principals who are huge believers in the Pope John Paul II Award and I thank you once again tonight, as well as the award leader at parish and school level.

There were fifteen groups recognised tonight, each of them I’m very proud of. I hearing tonight of the activities undertaken by the participants: ministry in church; sanitising; making St. Brigid’s Crosses; being involved with Meitheal, our other Diocesan programme, led by Robert Norton and going on pilgrimages. Some of you took part in the parish synod group and more are members of parish councils. Some of you are very involved in coached underage teams, supervising homework clubs, big brother/big sister volunteering and organising multicultural days in school.

I loved reading earlier your reactions to the programme, how it made you appreciate your baptism, your faith. How it made you appreciate community and volunteerism. And how it made you understand team work and better time management! Back to time! These awards show the creativity, the adaptability, the resilience in the face of the pandemic that is in all our young people. Your priests, your teachers, your award leaders, your parents and myself are immensely proud of each one of you this night.