The most important thing for all our young people, as they begin a new school year, is that they have a sense of happiness and freedom… and may the gifts and talents that God has blessed us all with be realized to the full.

Fr Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Carlow Nationalist.
This column appeared on 03 September 2008

One of the many outstanding heroes of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games must be Michael Phelps, affectionately called “The Baltimore Bullet”. Phelps was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.A. In his youth, Phelps was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). His early life was marked by a huge struggle, in light of his behavioral difficulty; he struggled greatly to conform to the norms that are part and parcel of mainstream education. He was often in huge conflict with teachers and those in authority and also lived with a poor self image.

His purpose and unique gift was expressed in the swimming pool. This was the place where Phelps began to display an enormous talent. He quickly excelled as a swimmer, and by the age of 10 he held a national record for his age group. More championships and records began to quickly emerge, and Phelps’s rapid improvement culminated in his qualifying for the 2000 summer Olympics at the age of just fifteen. Phelps holds the record for the most gold medals won at a single Olympics this summer winning eight gold’s in Beijing China. Overall, Phelps has won Sixteen Olympic medals a record that has assured him of being perhaps the greatest sportsperson of all time, fulfilling this truly amazing record at just Twenty Three years old.

Over the coming day’s primary and secondary schools begin a new academic year. Teachers and Students return with enthusiasm, or perhaps with a sense of apathy, to a process, that holds a huge responsibility, in shaping and educating our young generation. Perhaps Michael Phelps’s is a great role model in light of his vulnerable story and yet successful career. In all our communities we are aware of many people who are great examples of perseverance, commitment and realizing the gifts and talents that our God, has planted generously in all our hearts. Any school community can only be as healthy and vibrant, as it embraces the diversity, difficulties and challenges that are part and parcel of all our human stories. Many students find school a challenging place to be in. Peer group issues, the point’s race, adolescence itself are a difficult process and often stress and indeed anxiety accompany many of our students as they journey through their school years.

Every young student has an abundant supply of gifts and talents and in this regards it so important to encourage young people to use such gifts and talents to the full. All schools offer much more than just the necessary academic program me. A wide range of sporting interests, music and drama, and cultural interests are promoted in all schools. Often the place where a young person’s talent can be realized will provide balance and focus when it comes to the necessary study that accompanies the academic program me.

The most important thing for all our young people, as they begin a new school year, is that they have a sense of happiness and freedom, in order to discover all that is new and learn and appreciate all that we have learnt and value in our society and culture. May the Lord bless all our school communities with health, peace and protection and may the gifts and talents that God has blessed us all with be realized to the full.