The event was the first Youth 2000 festival to be held at Clonmacnoise and its combination of music, camping, prayer and reconciliation led to it being described as a “Rock’n’Rosary” weekend in one press release.
Indeed, the mud which engulfed the campsite after the recent spell of bad weather was like something from Glastonbury or Oxegen, but according to one festival-goer the trying conditions were a blessing in disguise.
“All of us there were in the same boat when it came to dealing with the weather so it actually brought us together as a group,” said Fionnula Lynam from Mullingar. “It wet and soggy but the atmosphere was just fantastic. In spite of getting soaked, people were filled with joy, hope and radiance at the end of the weekend.”
Afterwards, Youth 2000 praised the contribution made by local residents - and by the 4th Western Brigade from Custume Barracks, Athlone - to the event’s success.
Some locals offered their fields for car-parking, made sandwiches, and helped with the preparatory construction work.
“We were blown away by the generous response to our call for help. We had hundreds of skilled volunteers appear on the scene for every task,” said Sean Ascough of Youth 2000.
“As well as getting help locally, the Western Brigade of the Irish Army from the Custume Barracks in Athlone erected tents and gave us beds and tables for the weekend. Everyone has been fantastic to us and we are deeply indebted to them,” he said.
A four-acre field, overlooked by the ancient ruins, was transformed with four army tents and 14 marquees housing a make-shift church and sleeping accommodation for the attendees, who travelled from all parts of Ireland. In addition, a canteen serving breakfast, dinner and supper, was set-up across the field. The festival was staged at Clonmacnoise as a result of the visit there by Pope John Paul II in 1979.
“When he was in Clonmacnoise, Pope John Paul II said ‘the walls of these ruins are charged with a great mission’. He wanted to encourage a renewal of the faith in this area and perhaps we saw the start of that last weekend,” said Fionnula Lynam.
Fionnula stated that a highlight of the weekend was a service of reconciliation on Saturday evening, while Friday’s performance by Christian folk-rock group Elation was also very well-received. “The band really added to the atmosphere,” she said.
Fionnula has been attending Youth 2000 meetings for the last four years. “I’ve made wonderful friends through Youth 2000 and I’ve found that it’s a fantastic way to meet other young people. If anyone’s curious about it I’d say that they should come along to a meeting. There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
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