The Directors of Youth Ministry in the 5 Northern Dioceses recently organised a joint thank -you day for the volunteers in each of their diocese who have worked tirelessly with their young people to provide a range of opportunities to enjoy, share and celebrate the faith. These volunteers in collaboration with their Parish Priests, School Principals and their Youth Commissions organise and manage faith-based activities throughout the year, including the Pope John Paul II Award, the parish GIFT programmes, parish folk groups, SEARCH and retreats. The retreat day at Benburb gave the 100 volunteers who attended, the opportunity to meet together, to relax, to take time out to enrich their own faith and to have fun together. The day began with a welcome from Pauline Dowd followed by prayer led by Yvonne Rooney and then moved into an ice-breaker/games session led by Frances Mc Nally.

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Participants then attended workshops which included, Copper Artwork with Trudy Burke, Music and Meditation with Brendan Dowd, Positive Living with Brigid and Drumming with Joe from the Gathering Drum. Following lunch and share of Cara’s birthday cake, Matthew Mc Fadden contextualised the day, acknowledging the work of our volunteers and invited participants to chose a second workshop.

We then gathered to practice the music for Mass with Brendan and Conor. Mass was celebrated by Rev Thomas McHugh and was the highlight of the day with volunteers providing the music, serving Mass, reading, offering prayers of the faithful and leading the offertory procession. During the sermon we were invited to acknowledge the true presence of Christ at Mass and in everyone we meet. Dermot Kelly thanked those in attendance and those who assisted with the organisation of the day.

Volunteers left Benburb in the evening sunshine, refreshed and energised and asking for the date of the next volunteers’ retreat day. Pauline Dowd the Director of Living Youth (Down and Connor) commented “the success of youth ministry is dependent on a number of important elements: the support of our bishops, the guidance and teaching of our priests and the involvement of skilled, experienced and enthusiastic volunteers. At this time of change in our Church, as we acknowledge the importance of co-responsibility as well as striving to better understand and enrich our own faith, we must move forward together focused on passing on the faith to our young people and young adults, the volunteers who participated today are crucial to this plan. “