June 2019 Young Adults' Formation Week

St Patrick’s Academy, Westport, County Mayo

From the 24th- 29th June, a group of twenty committed young Catholics gathered at St Patrick’s Academy in County Mayo for a week-long seminar on the theme:  “Living the Faith in today’s world”. The week involved a broad series of conferences given by the group’s chaplain, Fr Ockerse, and several of the group’s members regarding the crisis in society, its root causes, the crisis in the Church and some effective responses to the crisis. Two Dominican teaching sisters from France, Mère Marie Catherine and Mère Marie de l’ Incarnation, also spent two days with the group, delivering talks on the religious life, marriage, motherhood and the importance of Catholic education. The group benefited from daily Mass, Rosary and Compline.


Monday 24th June

The seminar began on Monday with a brief introductory talk by Fr Ockerse, outlining the purpose of the week as an invaluable support to assist the group’s members to remain faithful to their Faith in an increasingly anti-Catholic world. This was followed by a short silent recollection led by the chaplain, encouraging each one to reflect on the fundamental truths of the Faith, our faithfulness to these truths, and to pray for God’s help and support in order to grow in grace and mature both spiritually and intellectually to become truly living members of the Mystical Body of Christ and thereby become fit to work for the conversion of others. Father also emphasised the importance of developing both the intellect and the spiritual life, particularly through the daily practice of mental prayer. The day wound to a close with an exhilarating game of volley ball, followed by Rosary and night prayers.


Tuesday 25th June

On Tuesday a series of key conferences on the crisis in Society and the Church began. In the morning, Brian O’ Caithnia delivered an interesting assessment of the decline of modern Irish society, with a particular emphasis on the rise of atheism and its links to the growing culture of death and specifically the abortion referendum defeat. This was followed later by a conference by Brighid Walsh 0n the root causes of this crisis, which can be traced back to a progressive abandonment of reality-based, God-centred Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy in favour of man-centred, subjectivist modern thought. The last conference of the day was given by Peadar Walsh and discussed liberalism as one of the chief causes of the crisis in the Church, with a particular focus on the religious liberty of Vatican II. Padraig Beglin delivered a short hot topic on the question of modern music, looking at the different components of music and analysing how they can be combined to produce music which is morally uplifting or downgrading. Activities of the day included a walk to a nearby lake in the afternoon, and a highly competitive game of volleyball and dodgeball in the evening. The day came to an end with night prayers and Rosary, followed by Compline for those who wished.


Wednesday 26th June

Wednesday brought with it glorious sunshine, and after Holy Mass and breakfast the group departed for Achill to cycle the Great Western Greenway. The group took in the spectacular and varied scenery of rugged mountains, fields and coastal views along the route and stopped for a picnic lunch overlooking Clew bay, finishing with a well-deserved ice cream in Newport town. Upon our return to the Academy, Charles Byrne delivered a very interesting hot topic on the New Mass, looking particularly at its roots in the Liturgical Movement and Vatican II’s Sacrosanctum Concilium. The important doctrinal differences existing between the SSPX and (former) Ecclesia Dei communities were also highlighted. This was followed by an enlightening hot topic on Technology and Social Media by Dominic Sherry, where he explained the hidden risks and pitfalls of excessive technology use, including addiction, and the potential dangers it poses to both the intellect and morals. An exciting game of volleyball was played in the evening, followed by the arrival of the two Dominican sisters from France. After a warm Irish welcome for our French visitors, the day wound to a close with night prayers, Rosary and Compline in the chapel.


Thursday 27th June

Thursday ushered in a series of talks regarding our response to the crisis in Society. Fr Ockerse delivered the pivotal conference of the day on the topic of Catholic Action and explained the importance of lay involvement in the apostolate of the Church in order to reach every soul on earth and to bring about the Social Reign of Christ the King in society. Father stressed the duty of each Catholic to perform Catholic Action in order to bring more souls to God for His greater glory, but also explained that those involved in Catholic Action, including simple parish activities such as singing in the church choir or even participating in the group’s study sessions, can avail of many graces because these activities take place under the authority of the Church hierarchy. This was followed by a talk by Bernadette McKeown on the Cristeros movement in Mexico, which served as a practical example of heroic action motivated by a love of Christ the King. Later in the afternoon, the group’s President, Therese McKeown, delivered a talk on Comhaltas Chríost Rí’s specific role in responding to the crisis, through the group’s three aims of prayer, study and apostolate and introduced the newly-established levels of group membership and the attending duties for each level. Singing practice for the sung Mass on Friday followed.

In the evening, the boys did some serving practice for the following day and Sister Marie Catherine spoke to the girls on the topic of Catholic Womanhood, explaining the beautiful and sacred mission of woman as a mother in God’s plan and how she can properly participate in His plan through her growth in virtue and the gift of self. Later, Sister Marie de l’ Incarnation delivered a talk on the beauty of the religious life, and explained that whilst it is a life of great sacrifice and self-denial, God promises one hundred fold in return. She also clarified that, although the religious life is extraordinary, vocations are not rare but require great generosity. Fr Ockerse then delivered a hot topic on the importance of fostering true friendship and explained that the highest form of friendship is that of character because it is based on true love, a love that seeks to give itself rather than to take. His talk was followed by Benediction and Rosary in the chapel. A delicious barbecue was then organised in the evening and afterwards Eoin Cronin set up a challenging and enjoyable quiz for all the seminar participants.


Friday 28th June

Friday brought with it the Feast of the Sacred Heart and following a beautiful sung Mass in honour of the great feast, the group set off to enjoy various outdoor activities: the girls to horse-riding, the boys to paintballing, while the sisters travelled to Kylemore Abbey for a tour of the castle and gardens.  Upon our return, Sr Marie Catherine delivered a talk to the girls on the sacrament of marriage, explaining the three ends of marriage: procreation, conjugal fidelity and sacrament. In addition, Sister stressed the need, when considering a person as a future spouse, to determine whether they truly practice virtue in their daily lives. Later in the afternoon, Matt Keating gave a hot topic on the theme “Persevering as a Catholic in the workplace” where he stressed the need to be an exemplification of Christ, behaving with decorum in speech and dress, being conscientious in serving one’s employer and having a solid understanding of our Faith in order to be able to defend it when it comes under attack. The last conference of the day was given by Sr Marie Catherine and Sr Marie de l’ Incarnation on the topic of Catholic Education. Sr Marie Catherine emphasised the grave duty of parents to educate their children so that they can get to heaven, primarily through the formation of the will to choose the good in all things. In addition, she stressed the importance of the example of parental virtue and the fostering of a united environment in the home which is ordered and peaceful. Sr Marie de l’ Incarnation ended the conference with a short presentation on the history of their Dominican teaching order and an outline of the great work they do in their girls’ schools in France and Argentina. The day ended with an impromptu game of volleyball, followed by a bonfire and a rousing sing-along around the campfire. The group gathered one last time in the chapel for night prayers, Rosary and Compline.


Saturday 29th June

The last day of the event began with Holy Mass and, after a hearty breakfast, ended with some concluding comments from Fr Ockerse. The participants bade each other fond farewell and parted company, looking forward to the many events that will bring them together once more over the course of the year.

Sincere thanks are due to all those who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make the week such a success. We would like to extend special thanks to the group’s chaplain, Fr Ockerse and all the members of the YAG committee for putting together a fantastic week of formation and fun. We would also like to express our sincere gratitude to all our benefactors for their generous donations and prayers, practical help and support of our fundraising initiatives throughout the year- without their assistance, the seminar would not have been possible. God willing similar events will take place next year.


Written by Brighid Walsh and Pádraig Beglín.