In this week’s blog, Fr. Paddy reflects as exam season in Ireland begins.


As young people begin official state exams, the Junior and Leaving Certificate. These days, are no doubt anxious ones for young people and indeed their parents and family members. I recently participated in a most uplifting and spiritual Leaving Certificate Graduation Ceremony in Bagenalstown. The theme for our Graduation Liturgy, “Life is a roller coaster”. A very good metaphor, for the ups and downs experienced in all our stories. Life indeed is a roller coaster!! Young people often carry its energy, excitement and enthusiastic spirit. Their upbeat temperament is contagious. However, there is also a sense of caution and concern with every roller coaster journey. We need courage to get on, and when we do ultimately we are not in control. At the ceremony, I suggested that courage, determination and resilience are key attributes that will enhance their journey through life.

I also quoted Michelle Obama’s recent remarks to young students from a North London Secondary School whom she met in Oxford University. The First Lady, spoke with passion and offered great wisdom and insight when she said “Hard work means success and deep fulfilment”. I pray that the great effort and indeed hard work in preparing for these exams by so many students, will translate into good results and new opportunity. I also reminded our Leaving Cert Students, that each one of them, are so much more than any State Exam. That no points system can ever define or measure the enormity of their spirit. There is a wonderful life, no matter how fragile our economic environment is, once the exams are over.

Recently, one of Irelands greatest statesmen, Garrett Fitzgerald died. Much has been written of his great love for young people and his passion for education. Dr. Fitzgerald, once said “Education allows for the human spirit to embrace the possible”. I found it ironic, that the day this great educationalist, died a subtle memo from the Dept of Ed. announced the cessation of two hundred and fifty language support teachers.

Education is key to the Leaving Cert Graduation Class of 2011 success in finding employment and opportunity. I ask why are often the most disadvantaged punished first? when it comes to the draconian cut-backs that have become an all too familiar reality in all our schools?? Special Needs Assistants resource hours are key to the education of many children who attend main stream Primary and Secondary Schools. It is in my opinion worrying when such necessary resources are under constant threat in all our schools.

Finally, at this Grad Ceremony, I wondered how more enhanced might the education of these young students be, if they could avail of resources other young people in our country take for granted; like a proper library and a sports gymnasium. Young people attending Secondary Schools in this county are entitled to the same resources as middle-class Secondary Colleges such as Clongowes Wood and Glenstall. I also find it ironic that in these examples religious orders embraced the middle-classes with such fantastic opportunity (perhaps that’s for another article).

The coming days for our young students are stressful and I pray a great spirit of peace, wisdom and knowledge to enlighten and to bless them all.