Over the past week, the Midland Youth Camps have been taking place in Avoca Co Wicklow. Over 80 young people and 12 Parish Youth Leaders took part in the week with the young people from the parishes of Tullamore, Ferbane, Collinstown, Fore and Mount Temple. This is the third annual gathering of young people from Midland Parishes during the February mid-term, where they shared fun, faith and friendship.

The senior camp took place on Sunday 15 – 17 February. Young people took part in a variety of activities from the ‘leap of faith’ rock climbing and a variety of other activities. The main speaker at the event was Scott Evans who describes himself as a Christian author, blogger, speaker and hobo! He really engaged with the young people.                                                                    

Shaunagh Maher summed up the camp:  Our first task on arrival was to make our own beds which proved to be challenging to more than one! The three talks were based on the Parable of the Sower. Scott taught us about “Surface and Substance” and which is more important. From this we now understand the “surface” i.e. what we look like on the outside and our appearance to others is not the most important thing but that our “substance’’- what’s inside each and everyone one of us is what’s most important! Our feelings, our thoughts, our emotions are all important things that sometimes we don’t allow to reach our “surface”. Going  away from Scott’s talks he has asked us to let our roots grow deep within us and for us to be happy with who we are!’

This year, for the first time saw a separate camp for young people from 6th class who gathered on Thursday 19 and Friday 20 February. Again the camp was packed with inspirational talks, adventure and time to focus on faith. The speakers were Jonny Somerville (Alpha – Youth Co-ordinator for Ireland) and Grace Deegan (Scripture Union). The talks centred on preparation for the Sacrament of Confirmation and transition from primary school to secondary school. Shauna Cribbon from 6th class in Collinstown + Fore Parish commented that “it was all an enjoyable experience I would definitely go again. There were loads of activities and great talks so you were never bored. The Midland Youth Camp was the best trip I have ever been on!”

One of the organisers of the event, Fr Patrick Donnelly, believes such gatherings are important in supporting young people in their faith. “Contrary to what some sections in society believe, young people do have a strong faith, they just need support and people of faith to help them navigate through their teenage years and to help them explore the big questions of life and faith”.

Fr Donnelly explains that most of the young people involved in the camps gather every Sunday evening for their own ‘church experience’ – which involves gathering for an hour to explore the Sunday gospel in a way that is relevant to them, drink hot chocolate,  chat about life, play games, pray and explore their faith alongside their peers. “If we want to engage young people with their faith, we can’t just expect them to come to Mass which they find boring. New ways have to be explored to support young people in their faith while remaining faithful to the Good News of Jesus Christ even if that means sitting on a bean bag in a church drinking hot chocolate and listening to young people explore their faith or even doing the ‘leap of faith’!”