With Confirmation season almost completely over and our class masses and other work in the schools nearing an end, the home stretch is in sight. We still have a pilgrimage to Knock and Croagh Patrick up our sleeve, a journey to the Mourne Mountains up north, and this group of Yanks coming over to sing some of their churchy music in our diocese.
Amid the tail ends of things and the highlights yet to come, we’re digging deeper into one of my most significant hopes for the year: a stable and sturdy youth group happening in Clonard.
Kurt has worked closely with people from Our Lady’s Island (a parish just southeast of here) to create an attractive opportunity for secondary school students (equivalent to 7th grade through seniors in high school) to join us and the Folk Choir for a Saturday evening at the church there when the choir is here on tour. The Folk Choir will join the students that come out to Our Lady’s for a short activity based on the rosary pilgrimage walk at Our Lady’s Island – a place of pilgrimage for Marian devotees from around the country to walk the peninsula and pray along the waterfront. They’ll then have a chance to spend some time faith-sharing before dinner and a mass, for which the Folk Choir will lead the music. Kurt and his teammates are working on publicizing the night to students from various secondary schools around the area, and we hope to get a solid number of them to turn up and hang out with the choir.
Meanwhile, at the home base, we’re trying to pilot the start of a faith-based youth club in Clonard Parish. A big challenge that has deterred this effort is the geographic nature of Irish parishes: we are blessed to have two great primary schools in our parish, but all of the Wexford secondary schools – even St. Peter’s College, a 5 minute walk away – fall outside our boundary. This means we have no parish ties to the schools despite the fact that they draw significantly from families within our parish. Once the students move on to secondary school, beside the “Stepping into Secondary School” liturgy to send them on to the next step at the beginning of their First Year, they don’t come back to Clonard for much.
We’ve begun setting up our first youth group evening, drawing from the 6th-class students from both our primary schools who have just been confirmed and are about to move on to secondary school. Molly and Jess are retooling our usual Vigil mass for the first Saturday of June to been more attractive to teens, and they are working with the Family Liturgy Group to recruit the recently confirmed students to do the music with us and lead the ministries at our youth mass. Kurt and I are composing a short program, 45 minutes or so, to follow mass. I am working with an episode of Simpsons to draw out some basic questions and make up a viewing guide. We’ll do some talking to setup the episode and then screen it, after which Kurt and I will lead a conversation with the kids on some of the issues it raises (respect for other religions, what to do with dissent/dissatisfaction for Christianity, the atmosphere of a church/liturgy…). We’re also planning to have some snacks and refreshments there for the kids as well.
It’s all tentative and planning-centric now, but we’re hoping it can be the basis for these sixth-class students – the first students who will have known all three Houses of Brigid from 4th/5th-class masses and 6th-class confirmation – to hang onto their faith during secondary school and stay committed through the support of this new group.
Now if only we could come up with a name for it…