It has been a challenging time for almost everyone since the lockdown was declared on Friday, 27 March 2020, because of Covid-19. According to this reality, our oratory has been moved from physical settings to online space on which various meetings are being held in order to connect with students from St Catherine’s Society, Maynooth Parish Youth Group and the Young Church Dublin Team. Unfortunately, nothing has been going on regarding the School Chaplaincy, as almost ninety percent of our work is based on school timetable. The Zoom application has been a marvellous electronic setting for us to connect with the young through planning meetings, games, mass, reflection, prayer, etc.
Saint Catherine’s Society
We find ourselves in an unprecedented pandemic, the current global conundrum has posed many new challenges for all our friends and family both near and far, with many of our closest friends returning home. Of course, under normal circumstances, our Common Room as part of the St Catherine’s Society in Maynooth University would be a hub of activity, a place where people meet up, to seek refuge from a busy day, to enjoy like-minded company and discuss the various topics of the day. In order to replicate this sense of community we have been partaking in regular online video chats so as to once again experience that feeling of home and normality we miss so dearly.
We decided that Zoom would be the best platform to meet virtually. To test the waters so to speak on Sunday, 5th of April we had our first virtual Common Room meeting and it did not disappoint!! We had 18 participants in 5 different countries, it was great for people to see each other and just chat to see what has been happening. After this we decided that we would need to put more of a structure around the events by playing some games to lift everyone’s spirit. With some further planning we organised a Trivia Night along with a Name the Song game. The students all loved the games and the participation from them was brilliant. It was really nice to hear the laughter and voices of people whom we haven’t seen for some time. This has now become a weekly event. We have also broadcasted mass ceremonies online which have been received with open arms!
During these times when people are at home and the news is full of heavy topics we feel that it is vital to provide a space where students can forget about what stresses they have and what is going on and just relax and take a step out just as they do when they come into the common room seeking a break from college life. This break and space to express ourselves is pivotal in maintaining a good link with our friends and I look forward to it every week as many other students have also told me. Over the coming weeks and months, we as St Catherine’s Society will continue to be creative to help people throughout these times and are looking forward to the day we will all be together in St Catherine’s once again.
Maynooth Parish Youth Group
The Youth Group has been running a couple of activities. Among these are the planning meeting between the leaders, the way of the cross on Good Friday, the prayer and reflective meeting with the teens and the quiz and game, which took place on Friday, 1 May 2020. The quiz was entitled: “Don Bosco Style Quiz” and the game, “A 30 second run; online game – physical life”. It was an uplifting event from both teens’ and leaders’ sides. Nine teens were actively present on the screen, accompanied by six leaders, which gives fifteen in total. Activities are basically run to support the youth during these unexpected days, to help them explore life on other platforms, rather than focusing only on Covid-19 news, which can negatively affect their mental, physical, and spiritual health. The challenge is still quite remarkable. The participation of kids can sometimes be timid, especially when it comes to praying or expressing oneself on the screen. For this reason, we, as leaders, are trying to vary activities, so that joy and fun may be more obvious. Among these activities we are thinking of quizzes, games, joining the Maynooth Community Church Youth Group for some combined games, watching a short movie (butterfly circus or another) and reflect upon it for a few minutes, etc.
Teen Hope Leadership (Young Church Dublin Team)
“Teen Hope is a new parish-based programme for faith outreach to teens. Its aim is to help the young person discover their true value and worth, inspired by Jeremiah 29:11: I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for your peace, not disaster, …”. It is a Dublin Diocese network of garda vetted young adults, whose aim is to work with teenagers and provide them with a safe environment in parishes as a way to bring them into the heart of the Church. This organisation is run by Siobhan and Kirsten who form new volunteers to get involved in local parish youth ministry. The current formation is being offered every Thursday from 12:30 to 01:15 via Zoom. Three meetings have taken place (on 9th, 16th and 23rd), during which a couple of activities were shared: self-presentation, games, prayer directed to those most affected by the virus and all those involved in their care and well-being (local authorities and governments, health workers, frontline workers, etc.). The aim of this weekly programme is to connect with and support each other as well as we are encouraged to do the same for the youth in our local parishes and oratories.
The experience has been successful in almost every undertaken initiative. We are grateful God for the gift of health to each one of us, thanks to which we can get involved in reaching out to others, especially our friends and families, as we support each other during these unexpected days.
Seán Sweeney – President of St. Catherine’s Society, & Bro. Benoît Kufika – Salesian