Pope John Paul II Award at St Mary's Cathedral
Catherine Armstrong, Pope John Paul II Award Parish Coordinator at the Cathedral writes about the Award:
“Are you capable of giving of yourself, your time, your energies, your talents, for the good of others? Are you capable of love? If you are, the Church and society can expect great things from each one of you.” Pope John Paul II, World Youth Day, Manila, 1995.
On 8th October 2015, in a packed-out St. Mary’s Cathedral, our young people came together for the launch of the Pope John Paul II Award, with special guest, Archbishop Antonio Mennini, Papal Nuncio to Great Britain.
Founded in the Diocese of Derry, the award was widely adopted to support and celebrate the commitment and enthusiasm of young people, to encourage them to become actively involved in their church and local communities and to receive the benefits that come from living out their faith in a real and tangible way. Designed for those aged 16-17 years, commitment to the Award is for 16 months, at the start of the academic year, during which each young person registers 8, 14 or 20 sessions in their parish and 8, 14 or 20 sessions in their community. Awards are earned by taking part in parish and social activities for one hour a week and a written presentation is submitted after all the sessions. Once completed, a ‘Gold, Silver or Bronze’ status is awarded at the end of the programme, and those that have completed the Gold Award have a further option of completing the Papal Cross Award over a further 26 weeks.
Here at the Cathedral our young people are actively involved as welcomers or altar servers at all of the four Sunday Masses, with some of those working towards their Papal Cross Award having merited the Gold Award last year. The Little Sisters of The Poor at St Joseph’s Home is where all of our young people are involved with helping serve meals to the residents, as the local community part of their award. All of our award participants were actively involved at all of the Masses on Youth Sunday, sharing their own personal faith stories through drama and in their own words.
With the ongoing encouragement and support of Bishop Seamus, the Youth Ministry Team, the Cathedral Dean/Head of Diocesan Youth Services Fr. Dermott, and Fr. Paul, our young people have become more aware of the teaching and role of the Catholic Church in the world and are becoming more engaged at a deeper level with Christ.
As Award Parish Coordinator my role is primarily one of support, seeing that the young people have all the necessary paperwork, liaising with the clergy, cathedral volunteers and the sisters at St. Joseph’s Home to ensure the smooth week-to-week running of their award experience. I am also there to assist with any problems that may arise and I am the first point of contact if the young people have any questions or concerns.
Since my involvement with the award, I have realised that this is an exciting time to be involved in Youth Ministry, especially since the election of Pope Francis, whose humility, simplicity and example is prompting the world, and especially young people, to give the church ‘a second look’.
The Cathedral is a vibrant and youth-friendly parish, which fosters adolescent spiritual growth. The Cathedral volunteers have welcomed the young people into the parish community allowing them to serve the parish alongside them, which ultimately enables our youth to identify as community members. The energy, the commitment, the dedication and the vibrancy that young people bring has been fantastic to see and to be a part of.
Finally, to quote Pope Francis, “Dear young people, do not bury your talents, the gifts that God has given you! Do not be afraid to dream of great things!” This highlights the need to encourage our young people to use their gifts and talents and become actively involved in parish life, at a time when we are facing changes in our Diocese, and move forward together within the Blackfriars Partnership.
Our JPII Award candidates, with Fr Dermott and Catherine, at Flame at Wembley.