On Saturday 25th August 40 students from Presentation College Carlow accompanied by 8 teachers travelled to Dublin for the weekend to volunteer at the Papal Mass in the Phoenix Park. They received training from the World Meeting of Families on Saturday and spent Saturday night in St. Joseph’s College Lucan. The next morning, they rose early and travelled to the Phoenix Park to volunteer at the Papal Mass. Below are two accounts of this trip – one from a student and one from a teacher.
Daniel Pender – Head Boy
When we were asked if we wanted to volunteer to help out for the Pope’s visit back in April I was delighted, not only to be asked, but to have so many of my friends and classmates to volunteer with. In total, forty students and ten teachers from Presentation College, Carlow made the journey up to the Papal Mass in the Phoenix Park for the once in a lifetime opportunity.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, except a night on a cold, hard floor of a school gym and the chance to see Pope Francis. On top of this, I got the chance to meet fellow CEIST students from across the country, to make new friends and to be a part of history.
We left on Saturday morning and we were trained in the Phoenix Park that afternoon with thousands of other volunteers. We then went back to our host school for the evening where we mixed with other schools and relaxed. The following morning we had an early start and we were in the Phoenix Park by 6:30am, to say many of us were bleary-eyed was an understatement!
As the day went on we helped to prepare the Eucharist in the sub chapels and we got the chance to roam the Phoenix Park and get our bearings. The time flew by, and before we knew it, people were arriving in droves and we all went to our stations to direct people.
Eventually the Pope himself arrived to great fanfare and it felt as if the crowd were rushing towards him wherever he went. The wait to see him was long but worth it. Not only to see the Pope smiling and waving, but also to see the delight on people’s faces as he passed by was an unparalleled experience.
When the Mass began, from where I was standing, the crowd was massive and was like nothing I had ever seen before. It was awe-inspiring that so many people would brave the rain and the wind just to see one man.
On the morning of the Mass I received great news; I was to be a minister of the Eucharist, I was delighted! It topped the day off for me, that I would be able to carry out such an important task in the Mass. This was on top of meeting people from not only around Ireland, but from around the world.
The World Meeting of Families 2018 for me was about making new friends, creating great memories and having the opportunity to partake in a once in a lifetime spiritual experience with so many of my fellow classmates.
Georgina Maher – RE Teacher
My name is Georgina Maher, and I currently live in Athy, Co. Kildare, but I am originally from Skeoughvosteen, Co. Kilkenny.
I am married 11 years to Stephen and we have 2 children, Niamh (9) and Cian (7). We are a very busy household, as both children are involved in an array of sports and activities. They both play football, along with hurling, camogie, soccer, dance, swimming! We both also help coach and train teams that Niamh and Cian are involved in, so we are constantly on the go, rushing and racing all the time.
I am a secondary school teacher in Presentation College Carlow where I teach Religion, Maths and S.P.H.E. I got my first job there in 2002 and I’ve been part of the furniture ever since! I can hand on heart say I love my job, and am probably the annoying colleague that greets people at 8-30a.m. with a smile!
My family are hugely important to me, and have been a huge influence and support in my life. When I was growing up family life was traditional and simple. I didn’t have any worries about social media, and I think I was about 12 before we had a house phone installed. ( I was 20 years old when I got my first NOKIA mobile!!).I have 2 brothers and 2 sisters and I am the eldest. Life was certainly a slower pace, more simplistic when I was young, but we still argued and fought like most families still do now!
Neither of my parents completed their Leaving Cert, but they always knew the importance of education when we were growing up. We were never put under pressure during exams or to attend college, but we knew how hard they had worked to put us through school and college and as a result we always worked hard and did our best. I think that’s a great value they passed onto us all, to work hard, do you’re very best and that’s the very best you can do. It’s a motto I still continue to pass onto my students in school and my own children as well.
My Grandparents lived close-by and so were heavily involved in our up-bringing. They were included in and part of everything, and I am now fortunate that both my parents and Stephen’s parents are alive and well. I’m so pleased that my children have the opportunity to grow up in their company, creating fond memories and sharing special moments. All of my best childhood memories are of times spent with my grandparents where simple things like nature, walking, laughing, joking, telling stories were always to the fore. I now see those similar activities are one’s that my own children enjoy with their grandparents…spending time together, not rushing, chatting, laughing, singing.
Both my parents have great faith and always did, especially my mother. We were the same as every other household, always Mass at the weekend, good clothes for Sunday etc. But I really witnessed my own mother’s profund faith when my youngest sister was seriously ill with a heart problem, shortly after she was born. It was a very worrying and difficult time for both my parents, and life was tough with trying to rear 4 other children too, along with attending hospital appointments etc. We had great support from our extended family, who were truly amazing with all their help. I always believe it was prayer and faith that got my mother through this experience. I remember often finding my mother in her bedroom on her knees praying the rosary and thinking “Why is she not angry with God that He is allowing this to happen”? In time, I realised it was faith and prayer that got my mother through this time and helped her cope.
When my sister was 2 years old, things weren’t looking so good, and the surgeons/doctors at Crumlin Children’s Hospital were not optimistic or hopeful about finding a cure or any kind of recovery being made. My mother then travelled with my sister to Lourdes as part of a parish pilgrimage. I will always remember how humbled and re-energised she was after returning from that Lourdes trip. I was only 11 years old at the time, but it will always stay with me. She loved telling us stories about their time there and the amazing experience it was. Not long after the Lourdes visit, things started to improve and my sister miraculously got better, survived, and is now a healthy, happy 29 year old!
I suppose, when I reflect back I was 11/12 years of age when that happened, and I always remember my mother saying ”It’s so important to thank God every day”. I learned from her, that with faith and prayer comes a huge sense of peace and gratitude.
Faith is also personally important to me. We don’t always get to attend Mass weekly( matches / training etc ) but I always pray with my children before going to bed. I am trying to encourage them to have gratitude and thanks for all that we have and to pray for those who are sick or might need help.
Personally, if I’m going through a difficult time or something is bothering or worrying me, I often light a candle in the church and take some time there on my own in the silence. I have no shame in saying that I do have great faith, and it gives me great comfort and solace in my life.
When I started college in Maynooth, I was studying Theology and Mathematics. Some family members thought I was very holy and religious, and that I was actually going to be a nun, but I didn’t venture down that path nor was it ever my intention!! I fondly recall Fr. Tom Norris, a lecturer in Maynooth who was from Kilkenny. He always head hunted the fresher’s in first year from Kilkenny and arranged “ A cuppa and a slicea” meetings whereby we would catch up and chat with students from Kilkenny. It was a wonderful way to get to know people, especially those that may have been finding the move away from home difficult or lonely. I will always remember his kindness and compassion throughout my time in Maynooth. One quote he always said and it stuck with me was “Students might not always remember what you taught them, but they will always remember how you made them feel” It is a philosophy I continue to strive to achieve on a daily basis in my career.
My family are very funny, and when we meet up there is non-stop laughing and joking. My aunts and uncles on both sides of the family are full of humour, and I love family occasions when I meet up with my cousins ( there is a lot!! ) We reminisce and recall good times and fond memories over the years. One memory was my Grandfather, who had a tractor and trailer. We loved it when he took us for a spin on the trailer. On one occasion, I remember him having about 12 grandchildren and my Grandmother sitting on the back of the trailer. We set off for the shop ( Health and Safety wasn’t even a thought back then!!!), We would sing, laugh, joke, spend our money in the shop and make the return journey. Now the journey to the shop was easy for the tractor as it was all down-hill, which meant the return journey was up-hill. He would let a roar back and we would jump off the trailer at the foot of the hill as the tractor would never manage to carry us all up the hill. Off we would get and chase the tractor up the hill and hop back on at the top. We thought we were the luckiest children alive, and looking back now we really were. How none of us weren’t killed, I’ll never know!!!!
This year, myself and my colleague Fiona, along with 8 other teachers volunteered for the WMOF’18. We also had 40 students from our school who signed up to volunteer. This gives me great hope and pride in our young people today. Amidst an extremely busy, public, and sometimes complex life, we have teenage boys and girls who wanted to be part of this amazing life event. They were willing to give their time/help others/not be afraid to be who they are/take pride in their own faith and values. As an R.E teacher, I encourage my students to engage in charity work and community / parish volunteering. I have been humbled over the years with the pride that young people have in their own faith, traditions, morals and values. I feel it is wonderful that our young generation are sure of what is important to them and are not afraid of who they want to be.
The WMOF’18 was a wonderful opportunity for us all to feel connected and be part of a community and we really enjoyed the event.
Both articles above were also published in the Irish Catholic magazine. Below is a link to this article