Welcome, freedom and acceptance are not words your average 18-25 year old associates with the Church in Ireland today. However, these are words commonly used by young people describing their experiences of Muintearas Íosa weekends.
From initial beginnings in West Kerry, the Muintearas Íosa movement has spread across the country. It's biggest impact has been in the Limerick Diocese due to its close ties with Baile Mhuire in Foynes. Over the last fifteen years thousands of young people from all over the country have come and enjoyed the experiences of Failte, Foghlaim and Gui. These three pillars on which the movement is built play an essential part in each weekend.
Fáilte means welcome and involves welcoming everyone to the weekend, irrespective of background. It means having a welcome for their abilities and talents as well as a welcome for yourself and what you can bring to the weekend. Fáilte also means having a welcome for learning and a welcome for God.
Foghlaim means learning. This can range from learning about yourself, about others and learning through others. It can also be through formal learning workshops which in the past have covered areas like the environment, travellers, spirituality, creative art and dance. Workshops often generate lively debate and increased awareness.
Participants in the weekends also learn about God through Guí-meaning prayer. This involves recognising and honouring God within you and in others and in all aspects of life. This can come about by taking the time to sense life all around us, by silent prayer, by singing or by taking part in mass. The mass is special as it depends on the involvement of the people on the weekend. Everyone has an invaluable part to play and this helps to bring the mass alive in a way which most would not have thought possible. Many discover for the first time that there is a god who relates to them.
Other activities on a weekend could include football, walking, poetry sessions, a céilí or sing-songs around the fire. The success of each weekend depends on the active involvement of those present. While this can prove very challenging, the rewards can be great, new friends, self-growth and a sense of God that is real.