John of Michaela Foundation speaks at youth awards night in Raphoe

Monday November 4th 2013

Raphoe youth receive Pope John Paul II Awards


Ninety-four young people from the Diocese of Raphoe received the Pope John Paul II Award during the Raphoe Faith Gathering two weeks ago. This was the fruit of many months of hard yet fulfilling work in their local parishes and communities. The recipients used their various talents to make a difference in their own parish and surrounding area.

The Pope John Paul II Award scheme was created to commemorate the late Pope John Paul II who was committed to young people and had great belief and confidence in their abilities. The award was first launched in the Diocese of Derry in 2006 by the Papal Nuncio to Ireland His Excellency Most Rev Dr Giuseppe Lazzarotto. Since then, the award has gone from strength to strength and is now being offered in eighteen dioceses in Ireland.

There are three different levels of the award- Bronze, Silver and Gold. Those who have received the Gold Award can go on to complete the Papal Cross Award. There are two aspects to the award, Parish Involvement and Social Awareness. Both elements require an hour a week for either eight (Bronze Award), fourteen (Silver Award) or twenty weeks (Gold Award). Parish Involvement may include becoming a Minister of the Word, Minister of the Eucharist or a member of the choir. Social Awareness involves participating more in the local community. Many students volunteer in a charity shop, nursing home or GAA club. On completion, each participant has to present a lengthy written presentation which includes questions such as ‘What does it mean to be a baptised member of the church?’ and ‘How are the teachings of Christ relevant to your chosen activities?’. These types of questions give the award participant the opportunity to reflect on their time spent completing the award and how their various activities affect the people of the parish. Emma Harvey, a student at Loreto Convent Letterkenny, received the Gold Award: “I cleaned the conference room in the Cathedral for my parish involvement and I taught children how to swim for the social awareness aspect. I found the whole process extremely rewarding” she says.

The award has been in existence in the Diocese of Raphoe since 2010. In 2013 alone, 94 students have given 3,200 hours of their time to their parish and local communities through their involvement in the extremely worthwhile scheme. All participants were invited to a Celebration of the Mass by Bishop Philip Boyce as part of the Raphoe Faith Gathering. After Mass, the Pope John Paul II Awards were presented by John McAreavey of the Michaela Foundation. Mr. McAreavey spoke about the importance of love and the presence of God in everyone. He successfully connected with the young people and provided them with food for thought.

It is obvious just how much the participants enjoyed completing the John Paul II Award, or the ‘JP2 Award’ as it is more commonly referred to. “JP2 gave me an opportunity to become involved with things I would have never have done if I didn’t complete the award” says Emma Harvey. “Helping others helps you too in a sense. It gives you self-esteem and pride for taking part in something so special. I really enjoyed myself. It wasn’t all work, I got to meet lots of new people and I made new friends too.”

Each participant gained an insight into the smaller, more important things in life and became aware that they made a difference in their own community.

“Dear young people, let yourselves be taken over by the light of Christ, and spread that light wherever you are.” – Pope John Paul II