Home Cardinal Statements and Addresses 1999 6 Nov – Catholic Young Men’s Society In Ireland – 150th Anniversary of Its Foundation

6 Nov – Catholic Young Men’s Society In Ireland – 150th Anniversary of Its Foundation



I have been asked to say the traditional “few words at the dinner”. I am happy to do so. I gladly congratulate the Catholic Young Men’s Society of Ireland as it celebrates the 150th anniversary of its foundation in 1849.

As the Society looks back it sees much to be thankful for. It can be proud of what it has done to help and prepare lay people to assume and carry out their responsibilities in the Church and in society. As the constitution approved in 1994 indicates the Society intends to continue to do so. For that constitution presents the challenge of the Gospel of Christ. It shows how the Society helps its members to match that challenge. In a spirit of service it helps and encourages young men, and maybe sometimes not so young men, to strive towards those high ideals.

I am very pleased that so many representatives of so many other voluntary organisations have joined you for this happy occasion. The Young Men’s Christian Association is particularly welcome. CYMS is the oldest Lay Catholic organisation in the country. Dean O’Brien was a man of great vision. The Society spread rapidly throughout Ireland. It was soon set up in Britain, Australia and South Africa and I suppose the secret of its success was that it recognised the abiding needs of young people and tried to meet those needs in a deep, not superficial way.

It has been stated that, since about 1950, CYMS has been in decline in terms of the number of branches. But happily in terms of the activities of those branches the Society is very much alive. It provides a safe, drug free environment where young people can relax. It offers guidance and formation. I know the Society is of great help to the local community in lots of ways.

As the Society looks around it, I believe that it will see that there is today as great a need as ever for the CYMS and for similar societies. Despite the Celtic Tiger there are still some people very short of material goods. Perhaps because of the Celtic Tiger there are plenty of young people whose parents are very short of time to spend with them. There are lots of young people who, for various reasons, are insecure and sometimes depressed and discouraged. There are statistics there to prove that. There are very many parents who, would, I imagine, welcome the kind of help which the CYMS can offer. I know the help is on offer, the problem is getting it accepted. Take the long summer holidays for example, where young people have less to do and greater expectations than ever. The challenge is to devise programmes of activities which will contain elements of formation, maybe of meditation, as well as recreation. There is an undoubted hunger there for spiritual growth. Only societies which have tried to remain faithful to their own spiritual ideals can even begin to think of how to meet that spiritual hunger. Let us never forget the basic needs of the human person are the same today as they were in Dean O’Brien’s day, 150 years ago.

I know that all voluntary organisations are meeting difficulties in recruiting new members and in retaining the loyalty of existing ones. There is a wide range of voluntary organisations here with a proud record of generous service and a wealth of practical experience.

Perhaps you have already come together to discuss your common problems, to see how, in this very individualistic age, you can persuade people of the values of voluntary work undertaken on behalf of the community. If not, I suggest you start to do so. You can persuade them, and only you can do it, of the satisfaction that such work brings to the person concerned. You can get people to look within and find that there are motives pulling them to get involved in such work as well as the motives which tend to attract them to avoid it. I would suggest that the success of this society lies in its fidelity to its ideals.

At the recent Synod in Rome on the Church in Europe, the example of Christ walking with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus was often mentioned. It was pointed out that he did not rebuke them for having abandoned Jerusalem. Rather he walked the road with them. He shared their concerns and was able to lead them to a new faith and to a new hope. Today the Church is called to walk and talk with people of all faiths and of no faith. To bring hope we have to be prepared to go into lots of situations. The often hidden but extremely important example given by Christian men and women in ordinary daily life is invaluable. Without fuss or noise they bring the message of God’s love and mercy to those in need through all kinds of humble and valuable service. I salute the service given by the CYMS over the last 150 years and I wish them a new lease of life, lots of fresh energy and vitality, plenty of creative ideas as they begin another chapter in their existence.