A Catholic Derry woman who has just graduated with a degree in theology from a predominantly Protestant religious college in Belfast is hoping to get more young people here interested in faith and diversity.
Paula Moore, from Creggan, specialised in youth work and applied theology during her three years at the Centre for Youth Ministry at the Bible College in Dunmurry.
A member of the faith based ‘Search’ youth group, 25-years-old Paula decided she wanted to combine her two passions of religion and youth work and after graduating last week said her experience of studying alongside people of different religions had been “completely eye opening.”
“Myself and my friend Paul were the only two Catholics to graduate and obviously, when your course is about religion that meant that we were coming from very different perspectives to most of the people around us,” said Paula.
“In the beginning, during the first year or so I have to admit I found it difficult to open up about my faith because we had a lot of discussion and my experience of faith was so different to everyone else. But as time went on I got more comfortable and I felt then that I was able to express my points of view from a Catholic perspective.
“The one thing I really noticed was how involved young people are from day one in the Protestant churches, there are Sunday schools for example and so many other practical ways that allows them to play an active part and the Catholic church is very different.”
Paula said she also believes there’s a need for more faith based organisations for young people in the North West after struggling to find a placement here.
“I’ve been involved with Search for so many years and they do great work but they get no funding at all and I think it would be brilliant to have a funded organisation in the city where young people can learn more about their faith together.”
In the meantime, Paula is working as a youth officer with the Creggan Neighbourhood Partnership and St Mary’s Youth Club.
“I have Tony Doherty to thank for that and I absolutely love the work. I’m really grateful for everything that I’m learning there. I’m also grateful for the support of my family and my husband Colm. Ultimately I want to write my own faith based programme so that young people here can learn more about religion and diversity, just like I did at college. In the end it was a great experience that challenged my values and beliefs and I’m really excited about working with more young people here in Derry around those same issues.”