Youth 2000 Summer Festival- Youth leading youth to the heart of the Church

Time for share-groups!
Photo-Nodlaig Lilis
Last week from the 14th to the 17th of August, between 1000 and 1100 young people gathered on the monastic site of the Cistercian Abbey of Mount Saint Joseph Abbey in Roscrea, Co. Tipperary. The Summer festival is held every year for 4 days beginning on Thursday evening and ending with Holy Mass on Sunday. The theme for the festival was: “I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord!”. The abbot, Dom Richard Purcell, spoke about the event saying: “Mount St Joseph Abbey is part of the living monastic tradition – and during the festival we will be one big faith-community united in our prayer and search for God. We entrust the success of this exciting venture to the intercession of Our Lady and St Joseph”.

I have been involved with Youth 2000 since 1997. My first retreat was the week after I had discerned concretely and made the decision to try out convent life. I went home from the first retreat which was held in Esker possessing something very precious: the renewal of a personal relationship with the living Jesus and a strong confirmation that the convent way was for me. I also came home with some wonderful and like-minded friends, some of which were at the retreat for the final Mass last Sunday with their families and children. We talked about those days back at the beginning of Youth 2000 and the wonderful memories which we carry with us and how the Lord has moulded us throughout these years.

Photo-Nodlaig Lilis

I was blessed to find accommodation in a local convent in Roscrea where I received such heartfelt hospitality and a warm welcome. Although the sisters were quite elderly, they came down to Mount Saint Josephs for the closing Mass on Sunday. Every evening, despite the fact that it was always quite late when I got back, they would be there with the kettle on waiting to hear how the day had gone. Throughout their day they had been praying for the positive outcome of the festival and for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit for all those attending.
The main speaker for the festival was the one and only Fr. John Harris, a Domenican priest who kept the young audience captivated over the days. Not an easy task! But those of you who know Fr. John know that he rose to the challenge and communicated his great love for the Lord and the importance of taking steps to get to know Him .His sense of humour had us in stitches as always! This year, we had a huge presence of 16-18 year old age group which was wonderful. I was on the registration desk for this group and believe me, it was a reality check when I realised that some of these young people could be my children if I had had kids when I was 18! There was such a powerful atmosphere around the place on Thursday evening when the buses started to arrive, filled with familiar and new faces from the four corners of Ireland and even beyond. Thirteen free buses had been provided from all over Ireland to bring the young people to the venue.

Praise and worship
Photo-Nodlaig Lilis

The days were jam-packed with the various events but there was always the freedom to attend or not to attend. That said, to get the full experience of the festival, it is best to immerse oneself completely in it and let the Lord transform hearts which are longing for Him.The festival kicked off energetically, helped by our super-competent and super-confident MC’s Maura Jennings and Cormac Burke. Their service was greatly appreciated as they kept us all on track and make the newcomers feel very much at ease. Elation Music Ministries always bring so much to the festival and indeed any event which they are involved in. It is really a gift to be able to lead people in prayer through song and to keep them focused on Jesus. Afterall, it is all about Him, not us!

After the talks, we all broke into smaller share groups where we discussed the questions which were left with us by the speaker. Shout-out to those who were in my share group 24!Workshops were offered each day and there was a choice of ten different ones which covered a span of topics. Spirt Radio offered a ‘Faith in the Media’ workshop. Other workshops ranged from ‘Dodgy Stuff: the Dangers of New Age’ by Fr Mark Condon to ‘How do I pray’? by Fr John Walsh op or ‘A fresh look at life ‘(Pro-life) by LifeWorks & Human Life International. The abbot Dom Richard offered a guided tour of Roscrea Monastery by Dom Richard Purcell. Other workshops were ‘Band of Brothers: Unpacking male spirituality’ by Pat Reynolds, ‘Love and Relationships’ by Pure in Heart,’ Lectio Divina: Praying the Scriptures by Fr. Aeldred, another Cistercian Monk from the abbey in Portglenone.

Adoration and Benediction

I was privileged to be able to contribute to the workshop on life choices and vocational discernment which was entitled “Discovering your vocation”. In this workshop, myself, a diocesan or religious priest (one each day) and a married couple gave input on the life choice we had made and how we discerned that it was the right thing for us. There was a great turnout for each workshop and it was very humbling to see how many young people are truly searching and seeking out the Lord’s call for them. It was also an opportunity for me to look at how the Lord’s footsteps can be traced throughout my journey, especially as I mark 10 years of religious profession this year. The other workshops were all positively received and I believe that the workshop ‘Flunk the Friar’ lead by Fr. John Harris was quite popular!
Our priests were wonderful and gave us so much to think and reflect on. On Friday, Fr RuairĂ­ O’Domhnaill, a diocesan priest and my co-presenter for the Vocation Workshop, later gave a talk on Mary our Mother, a gift from God to the large group. That same evening, there was time for people to avail of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This part of the retreat is always a huge part of the experience. Over 50 priests were available to act as the mediator of the mercy of Jesus. It is always very edifying to see how the Lord breaks down the walls of guilt, sin, pain so that his children may draw close to Him. The smiles on people’s faces after Confessions bore witness to the graces which flow forth from the Sacrament as well as the wonderful patience and understanding displayed by our priests.
Fr. John Harris, main speaker
Photo- Nodlaig Lilis

On Saturday evening, we all joined the monks in the Abbey for solemn Vespers. It was a beautiful sight to see about 1000 young people joining in the plain chant of the monks in their tradition which can be traced back to the Middle Ages. After evening tea, we had a healing service led by Fr. Emmett O’ Hara, a Pallottine priest which prepared us to spend more time in Adoration and to hand over to Jesus anything which was holding us back from the fullness of life which He wants to give to us. A concert, lead by Elation Ministries was a great way to give praise and thanksgiving to God.
Going home after such an amazing experience is always very hard. So on Sunday morning, the talks weave around the question, where do we go from now? How do we keep the flame burning as we live our faith and reach out to others and introduce them to Jesus? The importance of frequenting the sacraments, praying with the Bible, having like-minded friends, staying close to Mary our Mother were all emphasized. Having a regular prayer life and time-out with God is a must. For many, it was their first experience of praying the Rosary together or staying before the Lord in Eucharistic Adoration, which is a foundation stone of Youth 2000. At midday, our Papal Nuncio Charles Browne joined with us and celebrated the Eucharist. He is a good friend of Youth 2000 and we are always happy to see him and listen to his words for us.

People say that the Catholic Church in Ireland is dying a sad and sorry death. I and 1000 other people beg to differ, big time! I looked around me on Sunday and I saw a Church that is young, alive, vibrant and multi-cultural. Above all, it was joyful. Imagine that, a joyful and youthful Church. I don’t want to be cynical but these are the precious moments missed by our national newspaper and national TV! Heaven forbid that people might think that people were happy and praising the Lord at Mass, young people at that! The message which came out over the weekend is one I hope that every young person brings home. Yes, our young people are the future of the Church but they are also the present! They are the present and this is a gift which needs to be unwrapped and shared with the rest of the Church.
You can see a snippet of the weekend on I-Catholic:
Homily given by Archbishop Eamon Martin
For more about Youth 2000 or to find a Youth 2000 prayer group near you, check out:
Special thanks to Nodlaig Lilis from Youth 2000 Munster for the photographs! She is a gifted photographer.