Youth ministry is not just an option

Like many other ministries, it’s probably fair to conclude that performance is patchy.

Last week’s edition of The Irish Catholic placed the spotlight on the state of youth ministry in the Church in Ireland. Like many other ministries, it’s probably fair to conclude that performance is patchy. There are examples of great zeal and professionalism and, unfortunately, places where youth ministry is almost entirely absent.

As the demands of maintaining the Church’s existing pastoral commitments become even more of a strain, youth ministry risks becoming viewed as a “luxury we cannot afford” in terms of personnel and resources. Indeed, there is evidence to suggest this has already happened and some would argue it happened decades ago.

As difficult as it may be, a commitment to youth ministry must be maintained or re-established. A vibrant youth ministry is good news for everyone in the faith community; it lifts all boats. I think we all get a little bit of encouragement when we see young people showing an interest in the faith.  

I work with the Presentation Brothers and, despite the prevailing narrative of an ageing and declining membership in Ireland, there has been a renewed focus on youth ministry and evangelisation lately. If an order dedicated to the Christian formation of youth isn’t immersed in this work, the rationale for its existence becomes questionable.

The fundamental goal of this ministry is to help young people deepen their relationship with Christ. To achieve this, a new faith formation programme is now in place for Transition Year students, and a Christian leadership module is also up and running. The young people involved are gradually finding the confidence to speak openly about their faith. During the summer, a busload of teens made the journey from Cork to Croagh Patrick for the Reek Sunday pilgrimage and others participated in the Corpus Christi procession through Cork city centre. In October two dozen teenagers will travel to Rome to pray at the tombs of the apostles and, hopefully, enjoy an audience with Pope Francis.

The success of these little projects demonstrates that a decent number of young people are still interested in the message of Christ.

So we shouldn’t give up. When it comes to youth ministry, where there’s a will there’s always a way.



If you’re ever near Tullow in County Carlow, the Bishop Delany Museum is worth a visit. It’s located at the Brigidine Convent just behind the town’s Holy Rosary church. I wandered in last weekend and was given an informative tour by local man Christopher McQuinn.

Bishop Delany has the notable distinction of founding two religious orders: the Patrician Brothers and Brigidine Sisters, as well as building the fine parish church in which he has been laid to rest.

Both orders were founded at the turn of the 19th century in an effort to address the condition of uneducated children locally. As with Edmund Rice in Waterford, Delany quickly discovered that this work was not simple. His initial efforts were unsuccessful until he observed that the youngsters had an interest in music. He formed a choir and band and from there progressed to formal religious instruction. A lesson for youth ministry in our time, perhaps? 

For access to the museum, just give advance notice to the Tullow Parish Community Centre at 059-9151277 during office hours.



Parking was at a premium in Limerick last Saturday for the All Ireland semi-final, but my friends at the Salesian convent at Dun Õde, close to the cityís Gaelic Grounds, gave me a parking space for the afternoon.

After celebrating a famous Kerry victory, I returned to the convent in high spirits only to find a sombre atmosphere prevailing in the kitchen as several sisters did their best to console a despondent fellow Salesian, Fr PJ Nyland, a native of Ballyvary, near Castlebar.

Killorglin woman Sr Brigid Doona gave me a knowing wink as we kept a respectful silence and listened with a spirit of forbearance to mutterings about poor refereeing decisions.

So, thanks to Sisters Frances, Mary Bridget, Helen, Susan, and Brigid for the tea and scones at the end of a memorable day in the Treaty City.

Our conversation later turned to Syria where Sr Bridie Doody, from Killeedy in west Limerick, is nursing at the Salesian hospital in Damascus, treating civilians maimed by car bombs and mortars.

It certainly puts football in perspective.