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Everything that should be said about our present pandemic situation has been very fluently expressed – fears around the reality of the days we are living through and anxieties about the immediate future. All aspects of life have been unhinged and to an extent we find ourselves floundering around trying to stay above water – financially, commercially, socially, spiritually, educationally. It is important for us individually, nationally, locally and as Church to acknowledge the real pain people are experiencing; only then will we develop a proper empathy that can lead to healing , recovery and renewed confidence.

One important group that may not be receiving that required level of empathy is this year’s Leaving Certificate Students. Their school year was trundling alone its normal path until mid March. Then commenced a very stressful period of uncertainty; weeks of wondering would the exams be held, postponed, cancelled or replaced. Now that a decision has been taken, further doubts arise in pupils’ minds as to the standing of their results; all very unsettling on the students, their parents and teachers in a situation that is stressful in normal circumstances.

I hope the following will be some consolation and encouragement.

The students are well accustomed to the notion of a TRANSITIONAL YEAR; many will have availed of it . I believe 2020 will be seen as a Traditional year in the history of the Leaving Certificate Examinations. The present system of evaluating two years study in

any subject by means of a three hour written examination has long been abandoned by many Third Level Institutions in favour of a modular approach and continuous assessment. The change will be gradual but its approach has be hastened by Covid 19. Steps will now be taken to ensure that such a major disruption in the lives of so many young people will never happen again. The 2020 Class will be forever remembered as the group that made the first historic step into a new revised system; truly an historic TRANSITIONAL YEAR. Be certain your results will be afforded equal status with those of former years . You are the pioneers of a new era of change.

Change of course is seldom welcomed and the unknown gives rise to understandable anxiety. Today’s Feast- THE ASCENSION- reminds us of an equally worrying time for the followers of Jesus. While telling them that He was about to leave them, He clearly appreciates their unease and fear and repeats His cast-iron guarantee “ I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS”.

He is equally aware today of your anxiety, as He is of the unease of society generally. Full understanding and support are needed by all as we face an uncertain future together . Your particular situation will be to the fore in our thoughts and prayers over the coming months.

God too will be with you every step of the way. It may not be cool to admit that fact, while some will encourage you to seek help in other remedies. Parents, teachers, friends, family and neighbours offer positive support as always. Be sure to add God to that list!

Pope St. John Paul was born 100 years ago this week. Forty years ago on a visit to Ireland, he addressed thousands of young people in Galway racecourse. His message to them that day would be his message to you today. He spoke prophetically of the many changes

likely to occur in Ireland in the years ahead. He listed the dangers of being led astray into falses searches for solutions and happiness. He said “ Something else is needed: something you will find only in Jesus Christ”.

On Ascension Day Jesus left His friends but He did not leave them alone. He will not leave you alone either as you and we make our way together through these difficult times.

He is your forever friend; place your trust in Him

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