The hills were alive with the sound of music, prayer, and praise in the Knockmealdown Mountains, Co. Waterford last week, as more than 350 Transition Year students from across Munster gathered for the Mount Melleray Youth Day 2017.
The event was organised by Máirín Ní Shúilleabháin, a national coordinator of catechism study groups for adults, who was ably assisted by students of the Catechism, the NET Ministry team from Waterford and young adults of Holy Family Mission, Glencomeragh, Co. Waterford.
The sun shone, the abbey was resplendent, the students were in great form, and there was a palpable sense of the joy of the occasion. The event was warmly presided over by Bishop Phonsie Cullinan of Waterford & Lismore, and hosted by the Cistercian monks, who welcomed young people, teachers and guests, with the gracious generosity for which they are renowned. St Teresa of Calcutta’s Sisters of Charity graced the day by their continuous Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and the presence of the Cistercian Sisters of St Mary’s Abbey, Glencairn was an additional blessing.
The Master of Ceremonies for the day was a young nurse from Co. Cork, Eilish Butler, who did a wonderful job of guiding students through the proceedings. She gave a poignant testimony about her faith journey, rejecting and returning to faith while in university, as did Áine Blake, an occupational therapy student from Co. Tipperary.
Áine gave a deeply-moving testimony about her love of God, and her gratitude for how her family and the Church nurtured her faith, and how she has grown in faith and friendship with other young people in prayer groups such as the Catholic Society in UCC.
Fr Denis Luke, Guest Master in Mount Melleray Abbey, gave a fascinating talk on the life of a monk – one of hard work and routine and peace-in-prayer – which gave students a rare insight into a world that is little known in modern Ireland.
The keynote speaker was Bishop Frank Caggiano [pictured] of Bridgeport, Connecticut, who is renowned for his charismatic addresses at World Youth Days, and closer to home, at Youth 2000 events in Ireland.
He has a great love for Ireland and for its young people. Bishop Caggiano electrified students with his deeply-personal and highly-engaging style, challenging students to ask themselves what they want in life, and to consider what God wants for them.
He urged them to question the secular and material values of society, and to seek out instead Truth, and in choosing Christ and the cross, to gain a peace that the world cannot give. He urged students to embrace their baptismal calling, and to consciously follow Christ, one day at a time, one choice at a time.
The high point of Mount Melleray Youth Day was the Mass celebrated by Bishop Caggiano, and assisted by Bishop Cullinan and a group of 12 priests.
Confessions were available throughout the day and students and teachers alike availed of the opportunity to avail of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The choir of Pobalscoil na Trionóide, Youghal, directed by Fr Damien Lynch, sang superbly and contributed to the joyful reverence of the celebration of the Eucharist. All in all, Mount Melleray Youth Day 2017 was a memorable, holy and happy occasion, and one that will, we hope, leave a lasting impression on those who attended.