The webpage of the Youth Ministry of the Irish Province of Augustinians

Reflection on the experience of the International Augustinian Youth Encounter (AYE), Niall, Drogheda


Now that the Dust has Settled
I was just setting up to play the 7 o’clock mass in Drogheda when I saw father Iggy making his way over to me. There was nothing unusual about this as he often pops over for a chat but on this particular occasion, instead of asking about college or if I’d seen the hurling he asked me if I’d ever heard of the A.Y.E gatherings and if I’d be interested in attending the next one in London. I hadn’t as it turned out yet the mention of a trip to London did pique my interest! Needless to say I asked him what it was, which is when he uttered the words religious youth gathering. Trepidation began to rise within me. Call me too modern, but the idea of religious youth gatherings, to me anyway, has always seemed, despite their best intentions, pointless, cheesy and just plain annoying events full of fanatical people who only seem to know kumbaya on the guitar yet insist on playing it at every given opportunity. Despite all of these misgivings, and also because as a member of the core team I ended up organising the Irish involvement in the event, I agreed to go.
A whole year later and the morning of departure had arrived. I remember meeting Noel at the airport. We were both more than a little apprehensive about going. Our grand plans for the Irish group hadn’t taken off and instead of a bus load of 50 eager and excited youths that we had hoped would be making the journey with us, only 5 greeted us at the departure gate. So along with Noel and Father Niall, our little group of 8 embarked on our “pilgrimage” to St Albans outside London. 
As we drove down the impressive entrance way to the Spec centre, where the gathering was being housed, I remember offering a small prayer to the man upstairs to give me the strength to get through the next week. Within minutes of stepping off the bus I quickly realised that I could not have been more naïve or wholly inaccurate about what these gatherings were all about. We were greeted by some of the friendliest, down to earth people who had come from all walks of life and had travelled in their hundreds from every corner of the world just to be there. The sense of community, unity and open friendliness engulfed me and sent me on a high for the week. Instead of kumbaya and marshmallows, what followed was a week of debate, intense discussion on the church and what It means to be a young Augustinian, day trips and games, football matches and midnight music sessions, talks on the challenges that we face every day and will face in the near future and what we can do to move forwards and encourage even more like minded young Augustinians to get involved. 
I cannot even begin to describe to you all the different emotions that were conjured up during that amazing week in a field outside London. The joy at scoring the winning goal in the Europe vs Usa/Australia grudge football match (!), the sense of inner peace at morning and evening prayer, indignation when I learned of the difficulties the Kenyan province faces on a daily basis and much much more besides. A few moments do stand out for me though. Night times in the makeshift t bar were a highlight of every day as the craic that was had was mighty. The music flowed and voices sang until well into the early morning. The Taize mass was incredibly powerful and I could almost feel my very soul being lifted up to the heavens as we chanted the hymns under candle light.
But the biggest highlight of all was obtaining the knowledge that as a young Augustinian I am not alone. That there are thousands of young people exactly like me all around the world. That to me changed my perspective a lot. Instead of feeling like I was on my own, facing up against a brick wall, I now had a worldwide community that embraced me with open arms.
I was also filled with a renewed sense of vigour and determination to kick start the Augustinian youth initiative here in Ireland and make sure that instead of 8 heading to Argentina in two years time for the next gathering, we’ll have an army of 80!


Article posted on 13th of November 2010

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