Fifty students from schools in the diocese of Limerick are this weeks attending a residential course in St Patrick’s College in Thurles as part of the very successful Anois programme.
This is the second week of the programme which saw fifty other students live in the state-of-the-art facility last week, and organisers have been lavish in their praise for the warmth of the reception received and for all of the facilities which have been put at their disposal.
Anois is a programme sponsored and run by the Diocese of Limerick ( it also takes in the outreach of Cashel and Emly with Doon taking part as well). It has been running for close to twenty five years and involves the diocese taking groups of sixteen year olds away for a week to help them develop their leadership skills through a holistic approach.
The week long programme involves personal development through physical, emotional, mental and spiritual attention and has been lauded by some of those who took part as ‘life changing.’
The emphasis is not on faith but rather focuses on a sense of spirituality and where this fits into the packed demands of life and leadership. The workshops and teamwork projects are designed and facilitated to allow for those participating to find a level of trust in themselves and each other, which ultimately results in them being better leaders in their community in many ways.
One of the leaders in this years programme has strong Thurles connections - Brian Curtin, grandson of Pauline and Denis Dwan was one of the seven leaders facilitating the programme and he was thrilled to be in Thurles where he caught up with his grandparents during some spare time. Brian is son of Collete Dwan and is from Patrickswell in Limerick.
Fr Chris O’Donnell of the Limerick Diocesan Pastoral Centre who heads up the programme told The Tipperary Star this week, that it has been another major success this year. And, much of that success is down to the space and privacy of St Patrick’s College where the students can grown and learn in each others company.
“We have been here in St Patrick’s College now for eight years and it is just a perfect fit. There is ample space and accommodation and the staff could not be more helpful to us. We have all our meals here and can avail of all the facilities in this fabulous college. We also use the Ursuline facilities and are very grateful for their help - we have, what we call the ‘Anois Olympics’ in their superb hall and we are very touched always, by the warmth of the welcome we receive,” he said.
The Anois programme is going form strength to strength but strangely only two other diocese in the country run similar ones - Cork and Kildare and Leighlin where Scala and Meitheal are run respectively. The up-take with Anois has been phenomenal with almost 250 students from transition year and some fifth years, having been interviewed for the 100 posiitons on the course ( eight from each school in the diocese, more or less). The students are picked and are taken away for the week, and such has been the response to it that each year is more and more over-subscribed, both with students and with leaders - many of the leaders in fact, had attended the Anois programme as students, but this was not the case with Brian Curtin. He had been involved in other diocesan work including having travelled to Lourdes as a helper on the annual pilgrimage.
“There are a number of ways in which leaders get involved with us and I think it is probably true to say that the reputation of the course is such that more and more people are wanting to get involved. That’s great for us and long may that continue. We work very hard to ensure that the week is of benefit, fruitful and also fun. We have great fun doing what we are doing and I think the inter action between students and leaders is really healthy and allows for personal development. It’s a lot of work during the two weeks but the leaders get as much, if not more, out of it, as the students do,” Fr Chris said.
Programme Co-Ordinator is Aoife Walsh and she too has been involved for many years and has seen the project evolve into one of the best initiatives for the diocese.
So, could this kind of programme be run in all diocese?
“Limerick has invested in this programme and has put the people in place to carry it off. Not every diocese would be in a position to do this, but certainly from what we are seeing every year and from what we witness, it is very worthwhile. Of course having a facility like St Pat’s is a major plus too and really helps to see the programme through with ease,” Fr Chris said.