John Paul II Award to go Diocese wide after success of Scoil Pól Kilfinane pilot

The Scoil Pól, Kilfinane, Co. Limerick JP11 award candidates are joined by teachers and dignataries present at the ceremony for this photograph, including the Bishop of Limerick, the parish priest, the Knights of Saint Columbanus, officers of the JP11 award and the diocesan and national co-ordinators.
photo Ita West

17 young people received their awards on Friday night
The success of the inaugural, pilot John Paul II Award in Co. Limerick is set to see the programme go Diocese wide this year, organisers stated at last weekend’s awards night in Kilfinane.
The programme, which seeks to foster a sense of civic, community and Christian spirit in parishes, was piloted this year through Scoil Pól in Kilfinane where 17 students aged between 16 and 18 years, received awards at a special and buoyant ceremony on Friday night.
The pilot programme was run by Scoil Pól in conjunction with Limerick Diocese and were initiated by Sr. Patricia Coughlan in Kilfinane. The Knights of St Columbanus sponsored the launch of the initiative. The awards are broken down into four categories – bronze, silver, gold and the Papal Cross – with the individual awards based on the level of activity that students can take on.
Bronze awards went to students who committed up to two hours of activity in social and church based activity for eight weeks; silver required two hours per week for 14 weeks and gold required the same level of weekly activity for 20 weeks. The Papal Cross award is given to students who have completed an additional 26 weeks of activity having already received a gold award.
Started in the Diocese of Derry in 2006, they were created to encourage young people to take an active part in the life of their church and community and to commemorate the late Pope John Paul II for his commitment to young people.
Running the award in Limerick emerged as one of the recommendations from the Limerick Diocesan Synod held last year to reinvigorate church and community across Limerick and face it positively to the future.
Speaking at the awards ceremony in Kilfinane, Bishop of Limerick Brendan Leahy said that such has been their success that the diocese now intends to expand the programme into other parts of the diocese.  “This has been a magnificent start. The principal, teachers and moreover, the students here in Scoil Pól really embraced them and such was the level of energy and enthusiasm for them that I’ve no doubt we will see the programme taken up in many, many other parishes and schools across the  diocese.
“The beauty of these awards is that they really encourage that sense of community. The Church is community and we saw more young people becoming involved in the Church here through becoming Eucharistic Ministers, reading at Mass, etc. But they also got involved in projects such as Tidy Towns, which really espoused Christian values of working together and celebrating what God has given us.”
One of the students, Jack McCarthy, a recipient of the Papal Cross under the John Paul II Award said the award programme was an opportunity to get a greater sense of what community means. “Through the awards you get a sense of belonging to the community. People who participated became Eucharistic Ministers, got involved in the choir and started reading at Mass.”
Said Gold Medal recipient Aine Crowley: “The John Paul II award is a very good award. It’s great to be involved in community as through it you meet so many people. You are bringing generations, ideas and the community spirit together.”
Scoil Pól Kilfinane Principal Michael O’Hara said that the moment he was introduced to the concept, he was interested and paid tribute to Sr. Patricia for her initiative. “The awards came about following an intervention with Sr. Patricia Coughlan in Kilfinane. She intrigued me immediately with regard to the benefits our students could gain by participating in the awards. The intrigue was the simplicity of the awards themselves; involving people in the community, developing their personalities and sharing their experiences. So this very successful pilot was born out of that.”
Parish Priest of Kilfinane, Glenroe/Ballyorgan and Ardpatrick Fr Michael O’Shea commended the students for their com-mitment. “For me, I would say it’s a great thing to get young people involved in Church. I have some of the students involved in the pastoral council for, example, and they bring a different slant that is helpful to all of us involved in the parish,” he said.