‘I speak so that my past does not become somebody’s future.’ Elie Wiesel
Tomi Reichental was born in Slovakia in 1935 and had a typical rural childhood until the ugly existence of antisemitism began to impact on his life. Liberties we all take for granted were stolen from him and he was treated with ever increasing hostility. Eventually he was captured by the Nazis and incarcerated in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
As the number of Holocaust survivors diminishes, Tomi is acutely aware that he is one of the final witnesses. He feels compelled to tell his story to young people so that they will know what happened in the Holocaust. Tomi believes he owes it to the victims and he owes it to the survivors to ensure that this horrendous episode in European history is never forgotten.
It was a privilege and an honour for our senior level students to hear Tomi’s story for themselves today in Franciscan College Gormanston. He told us the story of how it happened that 35 members of his family were murdered and what became of those who were lucky enough to survive. The students were shocked by the inhumanity of the situation and saddened by the profound effect it had on Tomi himself – he could not speak about these events for more than 50 years.
We are indebted to him for giving so generously of his time and energy today. He spoke individually with many students, signed copies of his book and allowed us to take photos as a memento of his visit.
As the class of 2014 leave their school days behind and go their separate ways, may they find joy and fulfillment in the different paths they choose. May they seek and offer help whenever it is needed. May they find strength to allow them to weather the storms of life. May they contribute to the greatness of the world around them. May they find happiness in their pursuits and their relationships.
Here are two wishes that also offer advice on how to be happy and strong in the world: ‘Desiderata’:
Also ‘Forever Young’ by Bob Dylan (Here’s the cover by The Pretenders):
These two pieces sum up the best of everything that will help these past pupils find true meaning and joy in life.
On 10th April 2014, six brave students from Gormanston College arrived in Spain to undertake the challenge of walking 165km to Santiago de Compostela along the Camino Frances.
The walk began from O’Cebreiro early on Friday 11th in the cool, misty hills of Galicia in Northern Spain. That day the students saw beautiful scenery and well-earned views after a number of steep and arduous up-hill climbs. On arrival into Triacastela, everyone settled into the dormitory, freshened up, did some laundry, checked and managed their blisters, and explored the town. Dinner that evening was the wonderful creation of the boys themselves.
Each day followed a similar pattern. The weather was glorious and the students took every opportunity to get a tan. Some of the highlights of the days included the wide variety of wonderful pilgrims they encountered along the way. The Gormanston boys made a great impression on everyone they met. People of all ages and nationalities complimented the boys on their kindness, friendliness and courage on the Camino. The spirit in which each student undertook the walk was admirable. They were sociable, mature and very considerate of others. They made the trip most enjoyable and worthwhile for the accompanying teachers. The evening meal was also a great opportunity to share stories and have some fun after the hard day’s trekking. Some of the difficulties faced were the physical ones. Blisters, muscle ache and a bit of sunburn made the pilgrimage tough. But the boys never complained or showed any signs of giving up. They remained positive and grateful at all times.
As the students walked the way, they carried an Irish flag. As a wonderful souvenir of the trip, they asked every person they met to sign it and got it stamped in every coffee shop along the way. What a lovely idea. On reaching the Cathedral in Santiago, they stormed into the square full of joy, raising the flag high over their heads. With pride each one received their Certificate or Compostela for their great achievement and then visited the Cathedral to give praise and thanks to God. Each of the boys showed great appreciation for the huge accomplishment they had successfully completed and all are eager to return and travel an extended part of the Camino. Well done to Thomas Keane, Cillian O’Connor Barry, Richard Donnelly Devine, Tristan Parker, Evan Murphy and Luke O’Neill. They are superstars. May they continue to reap the rewards of this journey for many years to come.
Here’s a slideshow of the inspirational students of Franciscan College Gormanston, who walked 165km from O Cebreiro to Santiago de Compostela during the Easter holidays. A full blog report will be posted soon, but here are some photos for now! Well done to those brilliant boys.
Third year students went on a visit to the Islamic Cultural Centre and Mosque in Clonskeagh.
Mr Ali Selim showed them photographs of three holy Muslim shrines – the Ka’aba, the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina and Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
He then took our students into the Mosque itself where he explained about the religious beliefs and practices of Islam. His talk included an explanation of the Five Pillars of Islam, a history of the prophets and an explanation of the importance of prayer and pilgrimage in the lives of Muslim people. Mr Selim explained the significance of various items in the mosque, such as the set of clocks and the mihrab in the kiblah wall.
He took our students to watch a short video about the contribution of arabic culture to society in the dark ages which still impacts society today.
Mr Selim was very generous with his time and answered any questions that the students had.
This visit will be of great benefit to the students in the writing up of their journal and in their revision for the Junior Certificate examinations.
Megan, Hannah, Aoife, Kieva and Lydia
The whole group outside the mosque
Michael, Adam, Conor, Steven, Jens, Tom and Christy
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. It is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ’s Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption.
Why we receive the ashes
Following the example of the Nine vites, who did penance in sackcloth and ashes, our foreheads are marked with ashes to humble our hearts and reminds us that life passes away on Earth. We remember this when we are told
“Remember, Man is dust, and unto dust you shall return.”
Ashes are a symbol of penance made sacramental by the blessing of the Church, and they help us develop a spirit of humility and sacrifice.
The distribution of ashes comes from a ceremony of ages past. Christians who had committed grave faults performed public penance. On Ash Wednesday, the Bishop blessed the hair shirts which they were to wear during the forty days of penance, and sprinkled over them ashes made from the palms from the previous year. Then, while the faithful recited the Seven Penitential Psalms, the penitents were turned out of the church because of their sins — just as Adam, the first man, was turned out of Paradise because of his disobedience. The penitents did not enter the church again until Maundy Thursday after having won reconciliation by the toil of forty days’ penance and sacramental absolution. Later, all Christians, whether public or secret penitents, came to receive ashes out of devotion. In earlier times, the distribution of ashes was followed by a penitential procession.
The ashes are made from the blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. The ashes are christened with Holy Water and are scented by exposure to incense. While the ashes symbolize penance and contrition, they are also a reminder that God is gracious and merciful to those who call on Him with repentant hearts. His Divine mercy is of utmost importance during the season of Lent, and the Church calls on us to seek that mercy during the entire Lenten season with reflection, prayer and penance.
It’s been a year since the passing of the most beloved Fr Eamonn Newell OFM. He passed away on the day of the year he claimed to be his favourite – the first day of spring. Memories and thoughts of this wise and inspirational man come flooding back to all those who knew him well. His smile, his clever insights, his shyness, his kindness, his genuine interest in others, his sense of humour, his brilliant teaching, his commitment to Clann Phadraig and his personal generosity are what I remember about him most.
When the other Friars had to leave the Castle in September 2012, Fr Eamonn good-heartedly (and admirably) refused to move. He was known as the ‘King of the Castle’. It is sad and fitting that the Castle was where he passed away. He is buried in a private plot with other Franciscans, past pupils and former staff of the college as well as a number of infants.
Fr Eamonn will always be remembered and loved; we are comforted to know that he is the presence of the Lord.
The national Holocaust Memorial Day commemoration takes place on the Sunday nearest to 27 January every year.
The event honours the memory of all of the victims of the Holocaust: six million Jews as well as over five million other victims, persecuted because of their nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, religious beliefs or political affiliations. The inclusion of all of the victim groups is essential to the commemoration, highlighting the importance of education about anti-Semitism and all forms of intolerance.
On Sunday 26th January three students from Franciscan College Gormanston took part in the commemoration in the Mansion House, Dublin.
Head Girl and College Prefects
Head Girl – Niamh Kelly-Whyte, and College Prefects – Kate Brennan and Darragh Clarke read out names of Holocaust victims who had any Irish connections. They did the college proud! It was a solemn and dignified occasion leaving the 700 attendees with the message that we should never forget and that we should teach our children so that nothing like this ever happens again.
Participants in the occasion included Alan Shatter (Minister for Justice), Jennifer Johnston (novelist), Tommy Reichental (survivor living in Ireland), Sr Stanislaus Kennedy (founder of Focus Ireland), Brendan O’Connor (RTE presenter). The other schools reading out names were Drimnagh Castle, Fingal Community College and Stratford High School. Gormanston was invited to take part because of Ms Meighan’s connection due to her course in Holocaust Studies this year.