The mass was held for all the children in the diocese who recieved the sacrament of Confirmation this year. The Mass also marks the end of the primary education of these young people, an important milestone in their lives.
The young people had been busy preparing for the Mass back in their own schools, making their own flags , completing a Reflective Journal and designing T-Shirts reflecting the gift of the Holy Spirit in their lives and focusing this year on the theme, ‘Blessed are the Peacemakers.’ The choir from Holy Family Primary School provided a beautiful video of the ‘Fan the Flame Anthem’, composed some years ago by Mr Brendan McGinn, Principal of Saint Mary’s College, Derry.
Mr John Keenan, Chairperson of Doire GAA, welcomed everyone to Celtic Park and brought along a ‘special visitor’ – the Anglo-Celt Cup - won recently by the Derry Senior Football Team.
Long Tower Folk Group led the music, opening with the ‘Fan the Flame Anthem’ and pupils from different schools assisted in the Liturgy of the Word and the Offertory Procession. Every school brought a banner which formed part of the entrance and recessional procession.
In his homily, Bishop McKeown, acknowledged the disruption the young people had experienced in their lives over the last two years. He encouraged them to look back honestly at what they had experienced, not to complain, but to look back as the Holy Spirit would want them to and think of the things that were positive, what they have learned and what they have come to appreciate.
Bishop McKeown also encouraged them to be peacemakers, because ‘peacemakers are children of God and a great blessing on everybody.’ He reminded the children that, “those who have an attitude of gratitude, can dream great things in the future and can feel able to face whatever the future may throw at them.”
After Communion, in a time of silence to help the young people reflect on being peacemakers, Anne Marie Hickey sang a beautiful rendition of the prayer of Saint Francis, ‘Make me a Channel of Your Peace.’
After the final blessing the pupils from schools in the Parish of Three Patrons, Derry City led everyone in the hymn, ‘He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.’ The hymn to Saint Columba was sung as the final hymn.
This is the sixteenth year that the ‘Fan the Flame’ Mass has been celebrated. The event was made possible by the many people who generously give of their time and talents to ensure that the Mass is an uplifting experience that will remain with the young people for many years.
Pictures by Stephen Latimer