‘Too many young people dying for want of a reason for living’: Bishop

Bishop Donal McKeown.
Bishop Donal McKeown.

Derry’s Catholic Bishop has warned that too many young people in Ireland are “dying for want of a reason for living”.

Dr Donal McKeown, speaking at a conference at St Columb’s College this week, warned that the “big killer” in this country was not political violence but rather the “hopelessness and meaninglessness that come from the ludicrous message that more freedom alone will make for a happy and wholesome society.”

The Bishop said schools have a key role to play in helping young people “cope with the tough realities of life” and work to change a “dominant culture” that, he said, “crushes too many people all around the world and in this diocese.”

The purpose of education, the Bishop told the conference, was that the next generation will be “equipped to bring God’s love and mercy into an often harsh and dangerous world”.

He added: “The antagonistic approach of many politicians, the unsustainable depredation of the physical environment and the fragmentation of the human environment – all of these can be changed if young people can be helped by inspiring schools to be architects of a better future and not just prisoners of a painful past.

“That involves a formation to the responsible use of freedom and cultivation of the virtues that call people to heroism and not just to the lowest common denominator.

“It means campaigning for the value of learning for its own sake. It means modelling a way of education where learning is not a commodity to be fought over but a journey to be savoured, a journey where none of us is as smart as all of us.”

Dr McKeown insisted faith-based schools were “educational leaders here and all around the world”.

“Working together, we can build on what we have and face whatever challenges the future will throw at us.

“In a society where too many young people are dying for want of a reason for living, there is a greater need than ever for an education system that offers them not just the means by which to live but a meaning for which to live.”

The Bishop added that criticism of Catholic education would continue to grow - “not because we are doing a bad job but because we are doing such a good job of daring to speak a counter-cultural message into our society.”

“We will increasingly be condemned for being heretics if we are crazy enough to speak openly about love, community, forgiveness, virtue, family and responsibility rather than just grades and famous past pupils.”