Monsignor Liam Kelly’s Homily at Diocesan Mass for Leaving Certificate Students in the Cathedral of SS. Patrick & Felim in Cavan on Wednesday 3 June 2020

Do not be afraid, I have called you by your name … You are precious in my eyes … I am with you always.

Today is D day. Today is not D Day 6 June 1944 when the allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy. No, it is not that D Day. Instead it is D Day 3 June 2020 when you, and so many other young people, were due to sit your first papers in the Leaving Cert examinations. You have made history because for the first time since the Leaving Cert was established in 1925, for the first time in ninety five years, no Leaving Certificate examination will be taking place at this time of the year. The coronavirus pandemic has changed all that. So instead of sitting your exams today we celebrate the Eucharist this evening to pray with you and for you. We offer this Mass praying that your lives and your careers will prosper, despite the uncertainty, despite the trauma that you have gone through.

These past few months have been a difficult time, a real rollercoaster for you. Yet,  I think it is important that you realise that you, the Leaving Cert students of 2020, have been blessed in many ways not least in your parents and families. And so this evening we thank God for your parents who have made so many sacrifices for you, who have loved you and cared for you and given you all that you have. Without the support of your parents and extended family, you would not be where you are today, young people on the threshold of adult life, young people ready to branch out into the world and to start your separate lives. So this evening we thank God for the generosity of your parents and family and the love, support and care they have given to you since you were born. May they be rewarded for their unselfish ways and for all they have given to you. And my hope is that you young people will, over the coming weeks, find an opportunity to tell your parents how grateful you are for what they have done for you, how much they are appreciated, how much they are loved. It is important that we put words on things.

We thank God too for your teachers and all the staff in your school who have journeyed with you over the past five or six years. You might not always have seen eye to eye with them, but the truth is that they have helped you grow in wisdom and knowledge. They have helped you to learn not just about the various subjects that they have taught you, but also to learn about life and how best to live it. And the staff of your school have, through their hard work and commitment, through their dedication and human kindness – they have helped you to develop and grow into the fine confident and capable young people that you are. Their willingness to go the extra mile, to give of their free time and expertise, that willingness has enriched the life of your school and enriched your own lives. The emphasis not just on the exam subjects but also on respect for one another, the emphasis on sport, on spirituality, on art, music, and other cultural activities which is to be found in your school  creates an atmosphere where you can develop your talents and skills, qualities  that will stand  you in good stead all of your lives. So this evening we give thanks to God for the teachers and the staff of your school and I am sure that you will, despite the restrictions in place, get a chance over the coming weeks to say thanks to the members of staff that helped you in any way during your years in secondary school. As I said it is important that we say what needs to be said, that we put words on things.

So at the end of this school year we thank God for your parents and families and we thank God for your teachers. But there is another group we need to give thanks for too and that is you, the Leaving Certificate class of 2020.  We need to thank God for you all because you have by your good humour, your talents, your energy and hard work and your friendship , your willingness to help – you have contributed greatly to the academic, cultural, social, spiritual and sporting life of your school over the past five or six years. And you will be missed now as you leave your school. So we thank God for you and we ask God to continue to bless you, to watch over and guide your whole life through.

So all you young people who have joined us for Mass this evening have every reason to be confident in yourself in who you are and what you are. Each one of you is special, gifted and unique. There is no one quite like you. So be confident in who you are and do not compare yourself with anyone else. God has created you and loves you just the way you are so you too should value and love yourself too. And so you don’t have to pretend to be someone different either in person in your on-line profile. As Shakespeare put it. To thine own self be true. Be yourself. And become the best possible person you can be, become the person God wants you to be. Take care of yourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually. You are gifted and great young people and do not let anyone tell you otherwise. Do not let anyone, either on line or in person, put you down. You are as St Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians you are ‘God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus, to live the good life God has meant you to live.

There is no doubt but that the past few months have been stressful and traumatic for you. But you have worked away, you have coped well with the uncertainty – and these are qualities will stand to you well as you live out the rest of your lives. Because the truth is that all of life is uncertain and we are never in complete control of it. Your future and my future are in God’s hands. But we must not worry about our future. The Lord reassures us about this in the first reading from the Prophet Isaiah. He says:  Do not be afraid, I have called you by your name … You are precious in my eyes … I am with you always. So take care of your inner life, develop your spiritual self. Continue to learn and grow throughout your life. God loves you more than you will ever know and if you ask Him he will take you by the hand and lead you your whole life through.

Do not be afraid, I have called you by your name … You are precious in my eyes …I am with you always.

A recording of the Mass can be accessed from the following link: