Giving youth a reason to stay with the Faith

Giving youth a reason to stay with the Faith Francis Keaney, the new Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry in the Diocese of Kilmore.
Personal Profile


Kilmore’s new Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry has his fair share of challenges in a world in which many young people are increasingly moving away from the Church, but he is determined to give them a reason to stay.

Francis Keaney (29) will be spearheading initiatives that aim to encourage the youth of the diocese to use their talents to help and inspire others.

“We do a lot of work with the John Paul II Awards, which works great for the year or the two years that they’re involved in it but I suppose the biggest challenge is trying to hold on to them and giving them projects after that,” he says.

“I know for myself one of the best things I’ve done over the last few years is getting involved in charities like the Special Olympics and the Irish Pilgrimage Trust. It’s just a way of introducing young people into thinking: ‘How I can help other people? What can I do to make a difference in other people’s lives? How can my own talents inspire other people?’”


Supporting young people who leave school and want to proceed to university and their careers is “absolutely our job”, he says, but trying to keep them involved in their parish and community is also important – even if that’s just on a weekend when they return home if they’ve moved away.

“So I think it’s just a matter of giving them the opportunity to do that,” he adds.

A native of Glenfarne parish in Leitrim, where he was an altar server when he was younger, Francis has two siblings, a brother and a sister and grew up in a family who have “a strong faith”.

Throughout the years Francis says Fr John Quinn of his home parish “has kept in contact over the years” and has been a huge support. One of his earliest memories was of his “very good” primary school teacher in St Michael’s NS in Glenfarne who use to read parables from the Bible.

Francis later went into teaching himself, he studied Theology and Philosophy at All Hallows College where he graduated with a BA degree in 2013.

“It really nurtured my faith more than anything else,” Francis says. “I suppose the biggest challenge in first and second year was trying to separate the subject of theology from my own personal belief, to an academic belief.”

He says despite this in third and fourth year, “I really got to grips with it and really started enjoying it”.

From there it was on to Trinity College Dublin where he received a Higher Diploma in Education and then earned a Master’s degree in NUI Galway.

Since then he has taught in a number of schools including St Clare’s Comprehensive in Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim, St Louis’ Community School, Kiltimagh, Co. Mayo and most recently in Roscommon Community College.

Teaching religion in secondary schools, he says his students “reacted to the subject really, really well”.

“Which was surprising because I thought in this day and age they might reject it, but if you make the classes interesting and make it relevant to their lives they really rolled with it which is very encouraging indeed.”

Thinking about faith and what it means to them in their own lives is really what it’s about, he says, “I always say to them, ‘your opinion matters as long as you can back it up with reason or logic’”.

“If you can support your opinion, than absolutely express it, whether you agree with me or not, or agree with the Catholic Church or not, but there has to be a reason behind your opinion.”

With a plethora of practical knowledge of working with teenagers and young adults it’s no wonder he was chosen for the role.

Francis says about his appointment: “I am very much looking forward to the next few months. Getting to work with young people in any way is great opportunity; but to have the advantage of putting the structures in place to help young people develop their faith is a massive bonus. Over the last few years, I have worked away from home a lot so I never really got the chance to work within my own diocese before.

“It will be an amazing to go around the parishes and schools and see a few familiar faces now and then. I have been to a number of secondary schools already and the enthusiasm and ambition is infectious.”

His skills and interests aren’t solely focused on education and youth ministry, he currently plays an active role in his local parish community of Glenfarne where he is a Minister of the Word in his local church, St Mary’s, and is an avid fan of GAA.

His hobbies include musical theatre and acting.  He loves all kinds of music and takes part in local productions as often as possible.

“In my experience, young people are always willing to take on new challenges; so it’s our job to provide opportunities for them to develop personally, spiritually and professionally. I can’t wait for the year ahead and to put my stamp on the Kilmore diocese,” he adds.