Changing Times with Pope Francis

Pope Francis is a new kind of pope. He is causing a stir because he is moving away from many of the conventional trappings that have long been associated with the papacy. From the outset he has made some changes that represent his new approach to his role of leadership. Take a look at these images showing the changes to the papal throne and papal clothing:

A simpler throne

A simpler throneSimpler ClothingSimpler clothing

These changes indicate Pope Francis’s desire to move away from ostentatious and superficial trimmings.

The pope is also gaining a wonderful reputation as a ‘man of the people’. This is clear by his involvement with young and old, his willingness to be of service and most notably the millions that he inspired at the Papal Mass in Rio last July during World Youth Week. These images are representative of the great humanity of Pope Francis:

A selfie with the Pope

A selfie with the Pope

Washing Feet - True Service

Washing feet – true service

Three Million Attend mass

Three million attend mass

In a recent controversial statement, Pope Francis claimed that he could not judge gay people. This was widely welcomed by many Irish and international groups. And finally, Pope Francis has recently gained attention by changing the traditional ‘pope-mobile’. He is taking on a 30-year old vehicle similar to one he drove in Argentina and says he will drive it himself. Let’s see the old and the new (which is in fact older than the old)!

Old Popemobile

Old popemobile

'New' Popemobile (1984 Renault)

‘New’ popemobile (1984 Renault)

Our thoughts, prayers and best wishes are with Pope Francis as he guides his followers through the changing times of the 21st century. You can follow some of the inspiring words of Pope Francis on twitter: @Pontifex


The Holocaust (Learning about and from it)

Senior Religion this year will see students and teachers engaging in a deeply sensitive and eye-opening topic – The Holocaust. Some of our approaches will involve looking at historical facts and personal stories. An understanding of the roles played by all people associated with the Holocaust – perpetrators, victims, rescuers and bystanders will also be a big feature of our studies. We will question how such an atrocity could ever have happened, and how it is possible to go from bias (non-criminal) to the annihilation of an ethnic group – genocide.

The Pyramid of Hate

The Pyramid of Hate

As the course continues students will read stories based on fact, research the events and look at a film portraying a viewpoint of the Holocaust. One of the key aims is to examine our own behaviour as non-criminal people, but still to identify our role in preventing any level of individual prejudice and combatting systematic discrimination. Here is the reading list that will be furnished to students:

Reading List:

‘If This is Man’ and ‘The Truce’ by Primo Levi

‘The Reader’ by Bernard Schlink

Neighbours’ by Jan T Gross

‘The Diary of a Young Girl’ by Anne Frank

‘Fateless’ by Imre Kertesz

‘Beyond These Walls: Escaping the Warsaw Ghetto’ by Janina Bauman

‘The Book Thief’ by Markus Zusak

‘Nine Suitcases’ by Bela Zsolt

‘Hanna’s Suitcase’ by Karen Levine

‘Faraway Home’ by Marilyn Taylor

‘Sophie Scholl and the White Rose’ by Annette Dumbac and Jud Newborn


Schindler’s List

Life is Beautiful

The Pianist


The Counterfeiters


From an academic point of view, this aspect of the Senior Religion course will be advantageous due to its cross-curricular nature. Current history, English and future psychology, philosophy students will derive countless benefits from this in-depth study. These lessons will encompass some of the characteristics at the core of human nature – survival, fear, aggression, struggle, protection, indifference, compassion, hope, love to name but a few.

By way of introduction, we will look at an artefact found at Auschwitz-Birkenau – a shoe – in order to gain an understanding of the person (a child) behind that artefact. Have a look at this profound examination of such a shoe:

Fundraising from the Camino – the Gary Kelly Centre

What a delight it was to meet Ann Tracey from the Gary Kelly Centre in Drogheda on Wednesday. As Director of Fundraising she came to Gormanston to officially receive the cheque for 1,350Euro gathered by the students who walked the Camino last March. Nine students walked and five of them – Sean Brennan, Kate Brennan, Jake Malone, Robert Tully and Sean Hayes raised money for the centre. What a whopping sum between them. The walk itself was a major challenge, so the additional effort of asking friends, family, neighbours, teachers and more is highly commendable.

A Fantastic Donation

A Fantastic Donation

Franciscan College Gormanston Run for Pieta House

Darkness into Light 5km Run/Walk

Calling 5th/6th Year Runners/Walkers

What: 5km run/walk

When: 4am Sat 11th May 2013

Where: Newbridge House, Donabate

Why: In aid of Pieta House: Suicide and Self-Harm Crisis Centre

How much: 15euro

(Starts at 4am in order to cross the line just as dawn is breaking.)

Darkness into Light is the flagship fundraising and awareness event for Pieta House, and without support, they could not have helped over 7,300 people in distress over the last 7 years.

The Pieta House Vision

Its vision is to provide suicide and self-harm support services within 100 kilometres of everyone in Ireland.

Its mission statement

Pieta House wants to:

  • reduce the number of deaths by suicide
  • reduce the number of people engaging in self-harm
  • bring about social change

For more details, and to join the Gormanston Team, see Miss Ryan, Miss Meighan or Mr Black. And get out there training!

5th Years Walk to Santiago de Compostela

Snow, Sunshine, Smiles

WELL DONE to the Franciscan College Gormanston 5th Years. After 8 days and 160 km + of walking, they reached Santiago Cathedral on March 28th along the Camino de Santiago. Fantastic!! Physically, spiritually, socially it was a very demanding and challenging experience, but at the same time very rewarding and worthwhile.

Friends, Food, Fun

Here is a slideshow of their amazing achievement. The captions on the pictures refer to lyrics from the following songs used in the presentation: “You Get What You Give” (New Radicals), “Feeling Good” (Muse), “Forever Young” (Alphaville), and “In the Sun” (Michael Stipe and Chris Martin). A full write-up will follow shortly but pictures first!!

Gormanston Camino 2013 by MissKRyan

Camino Prep Hike 3 – Slieve Donard Again

What a tough but thoroughly rewarding hike on Saturday 9 February. It was the second time for the Camino group to take on Slieve Donard, but this time a more challenging route was taken. The starting point was Bloody Bridge and the hike continued along the course of the river with the same name. Bloody Bridge River is a spate river – meaning in dry weather it is just a trickle and easy to cross, but in rainy conditions it can be a torrent. Crossing over the boulders was a bit tricky indeed as the river flooded around them.

It was onwards and upwards through the mist and muck. As we rose higher, spatterings of snow were all around and it was hard to resist throwing snowballs. The mist lifted briefly for everyone to enjoy crossing through a stone quarry with a gushing (but small) waterfall. The hike up was tough among the stones and heavy muck. Even the most experienced hikers in the group could not avoid a slip or two.

Reaching the Mourne Wall was a relief, but only because no-one had a clue of the mossy, stony, and horrendously steep trek to the summit. There were sandwiches and snowballs before the gruelling ascent began. Despite the exhaustion, a great sense of achievement was felt by all to finally reach the 850m peak of Donard. It was just barely possible to see the sea from the top.

Downhill might be pleasing to the mind, but was in fact quite tricky on the body with a few more slips by some. At the saddle between Donard and its neighbouring peak Commedagh a major snowball attack took place. Liam and Sean H on one side of the wall were a strong match for everyone else! After that the group headed down the valley of the Glen River in more rocky and rather slippy conditions.

Fair play to all the students on the hike and to Adam’s mam for coming along too. Despite the wet, cold and mucky day, everyone was in good spirits and certainly enjoyed the challenge of the hike.

One guarantee – the 155km trek along the Camino will be a walk in the park compared to the preparation hikes undertaken by the best bunch of students ever! Here’s a slideshow of that difficult hike:

Slieve Donard 9.2.13 by MissKRyan

Camino Prep Hike 2: Djouce

What a great achievement by some brave 5th years today. Glorious weather conditions added to a fantastic day hiking along the Wicklow Way.

Sean Hayes, Sean Brennan, Kate, Matthew, Chris, Joe, Robert, Jake and Eoin should all be very proud of conquering the daunting and challenging Djouce. After 5 hours and nearly 18 kms, leg and back muscles were starting to ache. But sunshine, good spirits, breathtaking views of lakes and forests kept everyone going strong. A bowl of soup in Roundwood was greatly appreciated to revive the body and soul. How wonderful that Mr Hayes joined us for the last leg of the hike – thanks! Super day but it’s good to put the feet up now. Watch this space for the next Camino prep hike.

Here’s a slideshow of today’s highlights:

Djouce 4.1.13

Camino Prep Hike 1: Slieve Donard

Robert, Kate, Jake, Joe, Adam and Eoin turned up bright and early for the first Camino practice hike today. Meeting in Gormanston at 9am, unsure of the weather conditions that lay ahead, we hopped on the bus and arrived at Donard Park Newcastle Co Down just before 11am. In wet and drizzly conditions we wrapped up and began the steep but varied ascent. The first section of the climb was tricky underfoot as we crossed over the river Glen a couple of times amidst beautiful spruce and pine forest. We then reached an open stretch with the river on our left, the forest on our right, an ocean view behind us and Slieve Donard hidden from sight, but lying in wait ahead of us. We crossed over the river again using delightful stepping stones and the ascent to the saddle between Donard and Commedagh was steep and rocky. Nothing could stop those superhuman fifth years who made it to the saddle as a mere mortal huffed and puffed twenty minutes behind. At the saddle where the Mourne Wall stretches right and left, we met some hikers on their descent who tipped us off to the snow that covered the summit. Mist and fog rolled around us making it difficult to know how far the summit was from us. The intrepid Gormo hikers zoomed up to the top and waited for the last member of the party to arrive. The snow was glistening and the wind was both freezing and forceful so even though it was a fun and exhilarating experience, we did not hang around. The descent was far easier on the lungs and the muscles than the uphill climb had been. Robert and Eoin reached Donard Park first but still came back without any seeming effort to meet the stragglers.

These students are well on their way to being more than mentally and physically prepared for the Camino Pilgrimage next March. To be fair, their physical fitness was never in question (not like that of the organiser of the hike!!)

Here’s a slideshow with some photos from a great day with very cheerful and happy hikers:

Slieve Donard 2.11.12

6th Year Retreat 2012

“Our hearts are restless until they rest in you”. St Augustine of Hippo

We live in a world when being busy has become a pervasive theme in our lives. There is often very little time to relax, reflect and refresh ourselves. Sometimes we are caught up in the daily routine and go about business under the pressure of assignments, meetings, deadlines, exams and the general demands of daily life. Oftentimes the heaviest casualties of our tight schedules are ourselves and our relationships. Because our busy lives can put us under stress, which can be physically and emotionally exhausting, we can fall into the trap of rewarding ourselves with material goods and pleasures. As a result, we can end up ignoring the fact that the best things in life are free and the most satisfying rewards can sometimes be in the form of time alone or spent with another.

In the words of Bono, it might be true to say that ‘we still haven’t found what we are looking for. Hectic schedules, material comforts, multi-media devices and various forms of addictions are all distracting us from the inner peace and contentment that we are looking for. That is why I turn to the words of St Augustine. We will only find peace when we put our trust in God.

One step on the way to trusting God is to take time out. The 6th years have this opportunity coming soon. On November 19th they will hop on a bus and drive away from the stress and pressure of their final year at school. They will have a whole day to leave their troubles behind them and reflect on some of the deeper issues in life. Part of the day will be fun activities, small group discussions and some meditation.

This day for the sixth years would normally cost each student, but thanks to the generosity of the Franciscan Community, the students will not be charged anything. This a very kind gift and we are most grateful to the Friars.


Camino Pilgrimage has the Green Light

Great news for the fifth year adventure-seekers – the Camino trip has got the go-ahead from the Board of Management. Excellent! Ten brave students have signed up for this challenging journey. We’ll be heading off at the end of March so there’s plenty of time to get all the right gear and to do lots of physical training for the 157km that we will walk in 6 days.

There’s one song that seems to sum up some of the values and ideals of the Camino – being pilgrims together on the journey (both of the Camino and of life) and being servants to one another along the way. Have a listen to it: