Early on Sunday morning 25th June, 23 young people in Transition Year to Leaving Cert school years from throughout the Diocese of Ossory accompanied by leaders, Patrick Bookle, Sharon Phelan, Moya O Sullivan and Alan Dowling set out from Ossory Youth in Kilkenny on a long journey to Taizé in eastern France. Amazingly, at the same time, in common with most weeks of the year, about 2,000 other young people from throughout most countries in Europe ranging from England to Germany and Spain to Sweden were also travelling to Taizé, and all about to spend the next week together.
What drew them all to a small village on a hill in the depths of rural Burgundy in eastern France was the Taizé Community. The Taizé story began in 1940 when Brother Roger Schutz, then aged 25, came to live in the small village of Taizé, a village that was almost empty due to the Second World War raging throughout Europe. He began to quietly welcome refugees fleeing the war and by 1944 was joined by three other brothers. In the course of the following years, a few other young men joined, and at Easter 1949, seven of them made a commitment to live a community life and to follow Jesus Christ. Today, the Taizé community is an ecumenical monastic order composed of about one hundred brothers, from Protestant and Catholic traditions, who originate from around 30 countries across the world.
The eight days spent there followed a similar pattern, three times a day everything stops, the iconic Taize bells ring, and the thousands of young people gather in the church for prayer, bible texts read in several languages, a period of silent reflection and all adorned by the famous Taizé chants. The church is like no other with everyone sitting on the floor and the services overflowing with music. The rest of the day consisted of taking part in smaller groups such as bible study, choir practice, assisting with serving meals, cleaning duties, having time for some reflection in the ‘silent garden’, never having as much fun queuing for food while all the time meeting and getting to know young people from throughout Europe in a week of gorgeous sunshine and a few showers.
The feedback from the group was hugely positive with clear agreement that everyone would get something unique to them from Taizé. According to Rebecca Bourke ‘Taizé was such a really good experience, everyone is there for the same thing so no one feels awkward or self-conscious during the church ceremonies and bible study groups.
Similarly, Jake Nolan said ‘No matter what you read or hear about Taizé nothing really prepares you for the experience until you go for yourself, and it is amazing being with thousands of young people from so many different countries’. Erika Roche said that ‘it was lovely to find time to be on your own but never to feel alone there, and we were all energised by Taizé and wanted it to continue it in some way when we got home.
They group came home saying that the Taizé ‘experience’ was indescribable as no words adequately captured the essence of the place. The conclusion was that it had been a never to be forgotten experience and they have now joined the ranks of over 100,000 young people from around the world who make a pilgrimage to Taizé each year
The group of 23 young people came from the following parishes: Callan, Inistioge, Tullaroan, Dunnamaggin, Ballyragget, Gowran, Lisdowney, Freshford and all Kilkenny city parishes. The ‘Journey to Taizé’ programme is organised by Ossory Youth and supported by the Diocese of Ossory. the overall ‘Journey to Taize’ programme runs from November to June with regular group meetings and fundraising events taking place at approximately two weekly intervals. The cost is €550 with the young people required to pay €250 in instalments and the balance raised through group fundraising initiatives. This cost includes flights (Dublin to Geneva) and coach transfers to/from Taizé. It also includes all accommodation and meals in Taizé.
For additional information, contact Patrick Bookle, Ossory Youth at (056) 7761200, (087) 2129006 or firstname.lastname@example.org