Bishop Denis attended the Meitheal Awards Evening on Friday 9th March 2018 in Askea Church.

“It’s great to be here with you this evening. We have gathered in the only church in the diocese dedicated to the Holy Family. We gather just short of six months before the World Meeting of Families in Dublin. I’ll come back to that later.

I’m just back from Naas and Sallins where I had Confirmation earlier and to where I return tomorrow for more ceremonies, before going to Drumphea on the edge of Mount Leinster tomorrow night for the first ever Night-time Confirmation ceremony! It’s a matter of playing catch up for the snow days last week, where five ceremonies were dislodged because of the Beast from the East and the subsequent storm! We all recall those snow days of last week and how it affected our school calendar.

Before the ceremonies I invite every confirmation candidate to write a letter to me, a selection of which I refer to during the Homily at each ceremony. I normally read the letters the night before visiting the parish, once again the snow days gave me an opportunity to plan a little longer ahead of myself. One letter I read for a ceremony soon reads and I quote:

“I am the youngest in my family. I have two brothers aged 18 & 14 and two sisters aged 19 & 16. They are all teenagers. They all changed when they started secondary school. They spend a lot of time on their phones and tend to stay in their rooms. They are more grumpy and cross and I can’t remember the last time we played catch or tip the can. I know they have exams and the leaving cert is important, but the fun seems to be sucked out of them. They also argue with mam and dad about what’s allowed and what’s not allowed. It’s not all bad, they are not mean or anything like that, they are just suffering from TEENAGERISM”.

That’s written by a twelve year old, without any help from teacher or parent. The description of life at home is not untypical for many, and that is why what I might call a ‘Meitheal Mentality’ is so necessary. Acting justly, loving tenderly and walking humbly with God doesn’t stop when your Meitheal Programme of duty ends. Next year Meitheal will be in its thirtieth Year from its fledging beginnings out in Tullow. There are many Meitheal graduates who voluntarily give up a week of holiday time, to spend it in Castletown leading a training programme with Robert. I always enjoy celebrating Mass there, meeting the groups, hearing their symbols and what the clock, the flag, the jersey, the twig means to them.

A Meitheal Mentality long outlives Castletown and the Year or few months of duty. A Meitheal Mentality is taking up leadership positions in every aspect of parish and society. It’s not waiting to be asked. It’s volunteering with St. Clares hospitality, its packing bags for a club fundraiser in Dunne’s Stores, its visiting the sick in Shalom Nursing Home in Kilcock, its giving time to the Share Food Appeal in Newbridge, its giving up your Saturday night to travel to Dublin with PATH, Portlaoise Action To Homelessness. I could go on.

Former President Mary McAleese spoke very movingly yesterday about structures that she she saw as impeding her leadership as a woman in the church she loves and treasures. I watched every moment of her address after Confirmation yesterday in Newbridge and two later ceremonies in Dublin. It was very well crafted and delivered. Her challenge to the internal culture of the Church was indeed brutally stark and certainly for me her pain was very raw and very real. We can’t change things overnight, some of them are not in our gift to change, but no one who has been through the Meitheal Programme, running in Kildare & Leighlin diocese for close to thirty years should in any way feel they are less a leader in our church and in our parishes.

I attend many youth conferences and gatherings. I’m always amazed when young people from all over the country, who travel to these events with great enthusiasm and energy, only to have it ‘sucked’ out of them on their return to their home parish, their local parish. The next Synod in October is around youth issues. In the diocese we offer Meitheal, JPII, Cairdeas, the Spirit of Kandle youth choir.

It would disappoint me if I felt young people didn’t feel heard, values or appreciated in this diocese. Your church, your Bishop cares deeply about you as do your parents and youth leaders. Never be afraid to talk if a challenge arises. Don’t carry a problem alone. Speak up and seek help.

Returning as promised to the World Meeting of Families , there is no charge for young people in a family under 18, but you must register, the family must go online and register. Don’t miss this encounter very likely with Pope Francis, don’t miss this event celebrating family life and relationships, don’t miss this momentous moment when the eyes of the world will be on Dublin and Ireland. Once a Meitheal leader, always a Meitheal leader. Let’s live the Meitheal Mentality!”

ENDS