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Class projects help hundreds of children get ready for the IEC

MORE than 1,200 schoolchildren will attend special events in the RDS and nearby churches during the International Eucharistic Congress (IEC).

Most will be very familiar with what happens in Congress, having worked hard for the past year on special projects to help them understand what it's all about.

Programmes for primary and post-primary schools were produced and available to download from the internet.

They included suggested projects and lessons to help pupils better understand what happens in the IEC.

Among the suggestions was that younger children would create a 'sacred space' in their school, compose songs and poems to commemorate the IEC celebrations and create quilts and blankets.

Pupils were also encouraged to draw on the experience of their elders, interviewing their parents and grandparents about Holy Communion, and to bring together pictures and videos to make colourful displays for their classrooms.

Pen friends were made with pupils in other schools, and contacts made with missionary orders across the globe to find out what work they do.

The 1932 Congress was used as a history project and pupils were also encouraged to research the history of their parish, to visit and help clean up local religious sites and, of course, to pray.

Ger Gallagher is chair of the Pastoral, Liturgy and Programme Committee which has devised the youth programme.

"The children's programme kicked off about a year ago," he said.

"We established a committee of teachers and people who worked in education which produced a series of downloads which included a class plan of which some was religious, some historic and some creative.

"It went out to the 26 dioceses and was online but we can't quantify how many did it. That led us to discuss how schools could participate.

"We prepared a two-hour programme in the RDS which includes music and creative fun, but also prayer and a mass -- it's like a mini-children's congress.

"A group called Kisi Kids from Austria is coming which does song, dance and stories for the children, which gives quite an international flavour. Schools' choirs and performing groups will also take part.

"The tickets went very quickly. We have capacity for about 400 children a day -- or 25 to 30 schools. Over the three days about 1,200 children will attend and each will receive a certificate."

Secondary school pupils had a more in-depth programme, which uses sport to show young people how to live an "authentic" Christian life though its Run4Unity project.

It's an international sports marathon which took place in 2005 and 2008.

Previous marathons involved more than 100,000 young people of all races, religions and cultures in 182 cities.

Post-primary pupils were also encouraged to raise money to help educate children in third-world countries, and to link in with classes from developing nations.

Other exhibitions at the RDS include 'Through the Eyes of the Apostles: Capernaum at the time of Jesus'; the Army Chaplaincy prayer tent which has an exhibition on UN peacekeeping missions and the Rosary Garden in the Poor Clare Monastery on Simmonscourt Road.

Irish Independent Supplement