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The 2014 Christmas Mass was celebrated by Very Rev. Laurence O’Connor, P.P., on Thursday, December 18th, in the Church of the Most Holy Trinity Bunclody.   Following the Mass the principal, Ms. Frances Threadgold, addressed the congregation.

“To begin with I would like to formally acknowledge our newly elected Student Council by calling them to the altar now to receive their badge and certificate in front of the whole school. I will ask Ms. McIvor to assist with the presentation.

1st year – Moya Rothwell, Michael Malcolmson & Alannah Timmins

2nd year – Eoin O’Leary, Liam Ascott & Chloe Kavanagh

3rd Year – Caitlin Davis, Kira Kamateras

4th Year – Aoife Murphy, Michaela McDonald

5thYear – Roisin Kelly, Aine O’Neill & Chantel Roberts

6th Year – Katie Nolan, Aaron Howlin

The theme for Mass today is Peace and Hope and when I began to think about it I remembered that the theme for last year was Hope and Joy. So immediately I had a problem on my hands. How was I going to stand up here and deliver a message that was the same in its meaning but still different in its content? I was reassured in my head that most of you have NO recollection of much of I said or indeed what the theme was so I could just happily copy and paste and away we go.

Oh no! Not so easy. It was then I remembered a conversation I had with a certain 4th year boy who is here today. He evaluated my Christmas Address very directly by telling me that there was no problem if he missed Mass today cos he knew that I would be saying the same as I always say which according to him was “Don’t be asking for expensive Christmas presents at home cos Christmas is a hard time for parents”!! That – he believed – was the speech in one sentence. That sorted me.    So today, for you, young man, I will try to vary the content, even just a little!!    Mind you I take heart from that exchange because that was indeed a message I had been trying to drum home and it just goes to show if you say something often enough it does go in!! Thank you for that pearl of wisdom Cathal Doyle!!

The theme for today’s Mass is Peace and Hope in this time of Advent.    First to Peace:  Our communion reflection captures that theme perfectly. It is hard for us to imagine what it was like for those soldiers in the trenches 100 years ago. The cold, the hunger, the damp, the fear, the loneliness, the dying – the futilities of war. And then, in the midst of it all there was a moment of “Peace on earth and goodwill toward men” when the Spirit of Christmas overpowered the hostilities of war. The spontaneous truce that resulted was one of the most unusual events in human history. It is a very moving story.

It taps into the positive side of our human nature. It allowed the troops an opportunity to see their enemies as real people, the same as them. We can all learn from that by trying to see another’s point of view or by realizing that although we may look and act differently, we all experience hurt, upset, loneliness and fear – just like the soldiers in 1914 and that together we can create a better place for all of us as they did on that Silent Christmas night.

What brought Peace that day was the shared belief in Christmas and in that story of a silent night, a holy night, when shepherds quaked at the sight and heavenly hosts sang Alleluia all because Christ the Saviour was born. We would do well this year to let that same Spirit of Christmas overpower us and bring peace and happiness to ourselves and those around us. How would we do that?

Well I could go back to the mantra of “Don’t ask for the expensive presents” ……. But maybe instead if we remembered that sometimes the best gifts of all are the spontaneous ones like that famous Christmas Truce that happened without much thought but that can’t ever be bought in a shop – gifts like a helping hand or a neighbourly visit or even a friendly word. I hope you will use the opportunity over Christmas to create a spontaneous truce in your house when the battles break out as they may well do.

And what about Hope??   At the heart of advent is Hope. If we had nothing to hope for there would be no point to the season. The original hope was for a child to be born who would bring peace to the world. That larger hope is filled with smaller hopes – everyday hopes that can shape us as people, hopes that see the good in others, that is patient with others and always looks to the good in each one of us. Hope can help us to be more positive and cheerful, to be less angry. Hope can drive us on and keep us going, even when the going gets tough. I have seen that in some of our own students in recent times. Some have faced serious illness, others loss and sadness. They have shown great courage in the face of real adversity and I admire them for it.

For some people the going can get really tough. The homeless man who died in a doorway on the streets of Dublin earlier in the month brings that point to light very clearly. He was lost to addiction and had cut off all ties with his family in Kilkenny. In fact in the days leading up to his death he had begun to despair at what lay ahead for him. He saw no future for himself – all hope was gone. And without hope we are soulless, aimless ….. lost.   That is not in any way a judgement on that man. It is very easy to see how and why he felt that way but the message for us is to appreciate the opportunity hope brings for us and to take time, especially during the weeks of Advent, to pause and reflect on all we can be thankful and hopeful for. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves and Advent gives us the time and space to do that.

We can all get a little lost and aimless at times but it is remembering that there IS a way back, that things will improve, and that we have a responsibility to ourselves to make it happen – that’s the key. You may be aware that Bressie has recently spoken openly about his mental health, his battle with anxiety attacks and depression. Now THAT certainly gave ME hope to think that as a society we are finally beginning to break down the barriers surrounding mental health issues and we are slowly beginning to give hope to those who do speak up about it. They can believe that help is available, that again it can be sorted and that we all have a role to play in that.

As young people you have a responsibility to look after yourselves both physically and mentally and in FCJ we are working hard at give you the tools to do just that – with our Healthy Eating and Fitness campaign and our strong proactive approach to anti-bullying where speaking up and believing in every students’ right to be safe healthy and happy in school turns hope into reality.

You have given hope to many, many children who will receive a shoebox of gifts sent by you and coordinated by Ms. Osborne and our Transition Years to the four corners of the globe. 1041 shoe boxes were collected from 20 primary schools. Think too closer to home of your response to the Bunclody Lions Club Christmas Appeal. The €2 you have each been asked to give will buy very little on its own but when we all pull together it quickly adds up. I would like to thank Mr. Hennessy, Mr. Daly and all the students who are going Carol Singing after Mass this evening to raise further funds for the local Lions Club. I would also like to thank our Student Council and Ms. McIvor who are running a Christmas raffle which will bring more good news to a local charity.

In our school over this term we have had many successes among our students, past and present.   Some of our past students have been awarded scholarships for their excellent Leaving Cert results.

2 students – Entrance Scholarships (NUI Maynooth)

2 students – Naughton Scholarship of €20,000 each

1 student – All-Ireland 3rd level Scholarship of €25,000

3 students – Entrance Exhibition (Trinity College)

3 students – UCD Entrance scholarships

Also Chris Cassidy came 2nd overall in the national award for the best overall Technology project in Ireland at higher level in the 2014 Leaving Cert.

So congratulations to those students who continue to fly the flag for FCJ and be wonderful ambassadors for our school.   Success of students in the school must be recognized.

On the sports field –
The Senior basketball team are through to the All Ireland playoffs
Junior basketball team are in the preliminary playoffs in Dingle in January
U 16 ladies football team are heading to a Leinster semi-final
U16 Caomige Girls through to the Leinster Semi-Final
And for the boys – the U 16 footballers will play Portarlington in a Sth Leinster Semi Final

So it will be a busy and hopefully a successful spring term for our teams.

On the academic side we have had success when again this year 6 Business Studies students were selected for their excellent Junior Cert results and were awarded by WIT. So well done Josh Byrne, Alice O’Dowd, Ryan Hollick, Katie Byrne, Orlagh Hickey & Michaela McDonald.

Joy has come too to Mr. Mernagh on the birth in late September of a second baby boy, Donnacha, a brother for Cillian. It will indeed be a very busy Christmas for you Mr. Mernagh that you will be able to enjoy it if Brian Hancock doesn’t inflict too much damage on you tomorrow in the Boxing Ring!!!

There are a couple of people who I want to remember in a special way. Firstly Mrs. Eileen Martin who is recovering from her illness, making slow and steady progress but whom we all miss in school and we look forward to her returning to us in the New Year.     Secondly a very brave, courageous and hopeful young lady Abby Rynhart. Abby graduated from FCJ in this church last May and she is currently receiving treatment for cancer in Dublin. While Abby will have to remain in hospital for Christmas, she was very upbeat when I visited her recently as she is now in remission and clearly winning the battle with her illness. Abby is a sister to Zac in 4th year and Sebastian in 1st year.

Formally, I would like to thank the Meitheal Leaders under the guidance of Mr. Quilter for all they have done to help our first years settle in. You have done a great job in being faithful companions and I hope the 1st years showed their appreciation yesterday for the wonderful surprise you gave them in the afternoon.

As always I also would like to thank the teachers, supervisors, SNAs, secretarial and accounts staff, caretaker and gardener, the tuck shop team and the women who clean the school for all their hard work and dedication. Also Sr. Mde Hayes and Sr. Mde Ryan for Saturday Study and for the care of the school inside and out.

For today’s celebration I would like to thank

-FR. O’CONNOR who celebrated the Mass for us here today

– all the R.E. TEACHERS who assisted in the preparation of the mass, ESPECIALLY Ms. Grufferty and Ms. O’Neill

– MR. HENNESSY, and all those who sang especially Ciara Ryan 4th Yr, Chloe Moulds 5th Yr, Aoife Doyle, Emma Tobin, Lizzie Breen, AARON ROONEY, LAURENCE DUNNE

-THE STUDENTS who read or were involved in the offertory procession

-, MR PAT O’GORMAN for that wonderful solo and for all his help with the sound

Ms. Nicola CARR who produced the Mass sheets.
MS GENEIEVE PERRY for her artwork on the Mass booklet

– all the STAFF especially Mr. Daly who worked hard this afternoon.

– to George and David and the students and teachers who helped them set up the Church

Finally, I wish you and your families every blessing for Christmas. I ask you to recognise within yourselves the gift of peace and of hope. I invite you to let the spirit of Christmas overpower your hearts and homes so that your Christmas is filled with love and gratitude.    HAPPY CHRISTMAS!


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FCJ Secondary School,
Co. Wexford
Tel: (+353)53-9377308
App: FCJ Bunclody