The 40th anniversary of the founding of Carrick-on-Suir’s St Colman’s St Vincent de Paul Youth Conference was celebrated by the town’s mayor and the Town Council last Saturday.
The mayoral reception honouring the St Vincent de Paul group was hosted by Mayor Cllr. Patsy Fitzgerald Carrick-on-Suir Town Hall on the exact date of the youth conference’s 40th birthday.
St Colman’s Conference was founded on November 26, 1971 in the Christian Brothers Secondary School on the initiative of the school’s religion teacher Noel Casey.
Cllr Fitzgerald paid tribute to Noel for his vigour, drive and vision in setting up the Conference and noted that he was the superglue holding the Conference together through the past 40 years.
The first elected officers were President, Pat Landy; Vice President, Jim Butler; Secretary, Eamon Keogh and Treasurer, Pat Fitzgerald.
In the first few years the membership consisted of boys only but soon attracted girls from the neighbouring Scoil Mhuire Secondary School and its first female president was elected in 1975.
Over the forty years Pat Landy was followed as conference president by Paul Hurley, Donal Brennan, Bernadette Bartley, Maura Babington, Kevin Nolan, Eugene O’Keeffe, Eddie Barry, Barry Lonergan and the current President Brendan McCarthy.
The Conference was established to give young people the scope to exercise their social, charitable and interpersonal strong points, and to provide extra support to those already helping in the community.
From the beginning it was considered a must that the Youth Conference had complete independence from the two Senior Conferences already established in the town.
Its main work consists of organising parties and summer outings for senior citizens, arranging an appeal for toys and a Toy Mass at Christmas for distribution to needy families, distribution of Meals-on-Wheels, hospital visitation and helping those who need some work in their homes.
The Mayor said the Conference’ members had shown what can be achieved by young people when they are allowed and facilitated to use their initiative and talents to make their town a better, happier and fairer place to live.
“Volunteers are destined never to be unemployed never to be paid, not because you are worthless but because you are priceless and the future of our community is safe in your hands,” he told them.
The Council’s other elected members along with county councillor Bobby Fitzgerald, deputising for Sen. Denis Landy, joined in the tributes. Cllr. Sarah Dunne who is a Youth Conference member, said she was happy to see so many former members present.
The Conference’s 1st Vice President Jim Butler thanked Noel Casey for all the joy he gave the members, saying he made school a happier place for students.
Kieran Stafford, St. Vincent de Paul Society Regional President, congratulated St Colman’s Youth Conference members saying youth is our future and throughout the country youth conferences are doing tremendous work.
In reply, the current St. Colman’s Youth Conference President Brendan McCarthy said he, like most members, was encouraged to join the Conference by Noel Casey and he thanked Noel for all his support and encouragement.
Brendan, who was presented with a framed scroll by the Mayor, said he joined in 2003 and looking back it was amazing how the Conference has progressed since 1971.
Noel Casey, who is now retired, said in preparation for the mayoral reception, he looked back over the minutes of the Youth Conference and gave an amusing account of what he discovered, including some idiosyncrasies of the various secretaries.
He said the minutes represented a history of the town as seen by young people.
He also spoke of the changing membership over the years, many of whom keep in touch after leaving school.
It was announced at the reception that one of the current members, Jamie Torpey, had won the annual Lions Club Youth Award and will go forward to represent Carrick-on-Suir in the regional competition.
The celebrations continued in the Carraig Hotel late into the night and a video of the Conference’s activities over the years was shown.