After a week of inclement weather, with further rain forecast it was certainly both promising and uplifting to see the morning mist rise over Tipperary Racecourse as preparations began for the Family Fun Day, organised by the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly.
In accord with the theme ‘We are family – festival of fun’, this event was organised in this location on Sunday April 29 for families and young people from parishes throughout the archdiocese spanning the counties of Tipperary and Limerick in preparation for the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) which will take place in Dublin next August.
As the crowds began to arrive there was a palpable festival feel to the whole occasion. The atmosphere was one of expectation and welcoming as people mingled and chatted and entered into the spirit of the event while The CJ Kickham Brass and Reed Band added to the atmosphere.
Just before 1pm those attending the Youth Walk, led by Archbishop Kieran O’ Reilly, set off to Tipperary Famine Graveyard. In the words of Emma Dowling, Deirdre Fogarty, Dorrianne Kelly and Ethan Tobin all of whom are members of the Moycarkey/Borris/Littleton Folk Group: “This walk reminded us to be grateful for all that we have.”
In remembering the 1,400 people buried there during famine times Fr Enda Brady, who prepared the walk, encouraged the young people to give thanks for their own families as well as the many and varied opportunities which they enjoy.
Fr Enda is actively involved with young people and it is envisaged that there will be soon a very active Youth Ministry Programme throughout the archdiocese. A ‘Youth Think Tank Group’ has already been established and members Margo Furlong, Parish of Cashel, Josephine Wade, Parish of Boherlahan, and Marie Murray from Parish of Upperchurch worked with Fr Enda in organising the liturgical aspect of the event.
The exhibition hall gave a wonderful insight into the many and varied activities which provide an opportunity for parishioners of all ages to get involved and make a difference throughout the diocese. A highlight of the exhibition was the ‘Family Art Project’.
Families with children from every primary school in the diocese were invited to participate in this project and all of their work was on display. The creative achievements of each family and school will be acknowledged to promote the World Meeting of Families.
Also, a selection of the artwork will be on display in the Cashel and Emly Stand at the WMOF Pastoral Congress Exhibition in the RDS in Dublin from August 22-24.
Frank Macken and Breda Kennedy explained how Thurles and Holycross parish eco-spirituality groups support the message of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’ on care for our common home. Their aim is to raise awareness around the issue of sustainability and encourage everyone to take a small step to protect the environment.
No one left this stand empty handed as shrub or tree plants were available for free, ready for planting.
Colm Hogan at the Trócaire stand explained the Trócaire Romero Award. This is an award for families who would like to begin their spiritual preparation for the World Meeting of Families in August. This is a very affirming award for the many families who strive daily to live out the message of the Gospel in their lives.
Other exhibitions included ACCORD, Amoris/ Parish Conversations staffed by local WMOF Volunteers, Biblical Apostolate, Catholic Grandparents, Godly Play, Diocesan Pastoral Council/ Listening Process 2018, Eucharistic Adoration, Irish institute of Pastoral Studies, the Legion of Mary, Lourdes Pilgrimage, Returned Missionaries, Pioneer total Abstinence Association, Safeguarding, Seinn – Cashel and Emly, St Joseph’s Young Priests Society, Vocations Team, Diocesan Choir, World Meeting of Families – how to get involved, Faith and Light and the Society of St Vincent de Paul.
At each stand information was readily available. The energy and enthusiasm which permeated this room highlighted the level of interest people had in learning more about these organisations. Pro-life had a very informative display and Eileen Fennelly from Ballingarry parish spoke of how this is a human rights issue and the responsibility each individual has to lobby politicians.
At the ‘Parish Cell’ display it was wonderful to meet Mr Paddy Doherty. Paddy was celebrating his 91st birthday with his family in Thurles but because of his commitment to the Parish Cell group he felt the best way to complete the celebration was by travelling with his family to this special event where he would be part of his parish family.
Paddy has been hosting a ‘Cell’ group in his home for the past eleven years. His daughter Catherine spoke of his tremendous Faith and how he and his wife Norah passed on that Faith to her and her siblings. Paddy remains an active Eucharistic Minister in Thurles Cathedral.
Pope Francis’ words “there is no stereotype of the ideal family, but rather a challenging mosaic made up of many different realities with all their joys, hopes and problems” came to mind following a brief chat with Eileen O’ Riordan from Ballybricken Parish.
Eileen explained how “today was a difficult day” as she recalled the recent sad loss of her beautiful daughter Dolores. These few words with Eileen reminded me of how the Pope’s exhortation The Joy of Love, which is central to the World Meeting of Families, is also tinged with great sadness. I also chatted to Mary Heney from Knockavilla Parish. Mary was with her son Padraig and grandson Aiden. Mary thoroughly enjoyed the day and said she would love more days like it. Mary said: “The Church is about bringing people together and if there were more events like this one, then maybe those who felt alienated might return.”
Valarie Hogan who lives in Ballykisteen reiterated these sentiments and said how she and daughter Emma would love more days like this.
When invited to share why his wife and family had come along Shane Hogan from Knockainey said: “It was an invitation we just couldn’t refuse. Faith is upfront and central.” This response was echoed by Tara Stafford from New Inn/Knockkgraffan Parish who also spoke of receiving an invitation from her parish and children’s school to come along to the day.
For the younger family members there was great fun to be had. Activities included, tag archery, face painting, bouncy castles, an obstacle course, a pet farm and the especially popular water zorbing thanks to the generous supply of water from the local Tipperary Co-Op and Donovan Transport. There were shrieks of laughter as children played together – as children do even when they meet as strangers.
A central aspect of the day was the liturgy which commenced once the group of young people had returned from the walk to the Tipperary Famine Graveyard. The liturgy brought together all the themes of the day, and in his address Archbishop Kieran spoke of the importance of coming together as a diocese to celebrate as we look forward to the visit of Pope Francis in August. In reading from the Gospel of St Matthew in which Jesus asks: “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”
Archbishop Kieran reminded us of the larger family to which we all belong.
The members of the combined Youth Choirs led the prayers and Fergus English from New Inn gave a powerful testimony in which he spoke of how he gives back to his community by living his Faith when he visits elderly parishioners or helps with the GAA and Tidy Towns.
A number of youth choirs came together under the direction of Michael Burke and Marie Murray of Upperchurch-Drombane and their music and song in the words of Patrick Kavanagh “was magical”. As the combined choirs (and leaders) from Moycarkey/Borris/Littleton (Lorraine Treacy), Murroe-Boher (Marian Neville), Cashel (Margo Fogarty), Thurles Youth Choir (Deirdre & Ciara Lanigan) and Upperchurch – Drombane, sang the official song for the WMOF, Joy for all the Earth, the sun broke through the clouds and you couldn’t help but feel as the apostles must have had on Mountt Sinai when they exclaimed “it is good for us to be here. “
As people drifted away or sat and chatted while children played, the strains of the Tipperary Ryan Youth Orchestra, under Director Michael John, maintained the relaxed atmosphere which had permeated the entire gathering.
Archbishop Kieran thanked all who had gathered and paid tribute to the great work being done throughout the diocese. In particular, he thanked the Diocesan WMOF Committee who coordinated the entire event with the generous cooperation of Tipperary Racecourse, thanks, in particular, to Perry Power (Track Manager) and his staff.
We have much more to look forward to if this is a taste of what is in store for us next August 22-26 in Dublin.