Cathedral Church of St Mary Newcastle upon Tyne

Pope John Paul II Award at St Mary's Cathedral

Catherine Armstrong, Pope John Paul II Award Parish Coordinator at the Cathedral writes about the Award:

Supporting Our Young People on Their Faith Journey

“Are you capable of giving of yourself, your time, your energies, your talents, for the good of others? Are you capable of love? If you are, the Church and society can expect great things from each one of you.” Pope John Paul II, World Youth Day, Manila, 1995.

On 8th October 2015, in a packed out St Mary’s Cathedral, our young people came together for the launch of the Pope John Paul II Award, with special guest Archbishop Antonio Mennini, Papal Nuncio to Great Britain.

Founded in the Diocese of Derry, the Award, which aimed to support and celebrate the commitment and enthusiasm of young people, was widely adopted. The Award encourages young people to become actively involved in their church and local communities and to receive the benefits that come from living out their faith in a real and tangible way.

Cathedral John Paul II Award Participants with Award Coordinator Catherine Armstrong

Designed for those aged 16 -17 years, commitment to the Award is for 16 months, from the start of the academic year, during which each young person registers 8, 14 or 20 sessions in their parish and 8, 14 or 20 sessions in their community.

Awards are earned by taking part in parish and social activities, for one hour a week and a written presentation is submitted after all the sessions. Once completed, a ‘Gold, Silver or Bronze’ status is awarded at the end of the programme. Those that have completed the Gold Award have a further option of completing the Papal Cross Award over a further 26 weeks.

Here at our Cathedral we currently have 11 of our young people actively involved as welcomers or altar servers at all of the four Sunday Masses, with 3 of those working towards their Papal Cross Award having merited the Gold Award last year. The local community part of their award is carried out at The Little Sisters of The Poor, St Joseph’s Home, where they serve meals to the residents. All of our award participants were actively involved at all of the Masses on Youth Sunday, sharing their own personal faith stories through drama and in their own words. 



With the ongoing encouragement and support of Bishop Seamus, the Youth Ministry Team, the Cathedral Dean/Head of Diocesan Youth Services Fr. Dermott and Fr. Shaun, our young people have become more aware of the teaching and role of the Catholic Church in the world and are becoming more engaged at a deeper level with Christ. All of the participants are travelling down to Wembley arena on 11th March for the ‘Flame 2017’ Congress, joined by 1000 others from the diocese to meet up with 9000 people for a day of music, reflections and guest speakers.

As Award Parish Coordinator my role is primarily one of support, seeing that the young people have all the necessary paperwork and liaising with the clergy, cathedral volunteers and the Sisters at St. Joseph’s Home, to ensure the smooth week-to-week running of the Award. I am also there to assist with any problems that may arise and I am the first point of contact if the young people have any questions or concerns.

 Since my involvement with the Award, I have realised that this is an exciting time to be involved in Youth Ministry, especially since the election of Pope Francis whose humility, simplicity and example is prompting the world and particularly young people to give the church ‘a second look’.

The Cathedral is a vibrant and youth-friendly parish, helping to foster spiritual growth in adolescents. The Cathedral volunteers have welcomed the young people into the parish community enjoying serving the parish alongside them and enabling our youth to identify as community members. The energy, the commitment, the dedication and the vibrancy that young people bring has been fantastic to see and to be a part of. 

Finally to quote Pope Francis, “Dear young people, do not bury your talents, the gifts that God has given you! Do not be afraid to dream of great things!”  Ultimately this highlights the need to encourage our young people to use their gifts and talents and become actively involved in parish life, at a time when we are facing changes in our diocese, going ‘Forward Together in Hope’.