Young people are the future

Inspire them to shine!

New Beginnings

Good morning on this beautiful Spring day from Shekinah. My name is Yvonne Joye and in this season of new beginnings it is apt that I too am beginning something new; namely this weekly “Shekinah Blog” and overall promotion of what Shekinah does.

So, what exactly does Shekinah do?

Shekinah is a training programme for adults, teachers, parents, youth workers or anyone who wishes to work with young people; it is for individuals who wish to facilitate youth retreats, wellness days, days of affirmation and overall youth ministry. It is for those of us who wish to learn and achieve new levels of awareness of young people so as to engage with them in a meaningful and relevant way.

We can talk about youth in the generic but our youth is not generic; it is made up of individuals, each with their unique talents, ambitions, worries and fears. There is no one formula that reaches everyone and the courses at Shekinah recognise this. Shekinah looks to art, drama, role-play, conversation, dialogue, ice-breakers and fun as a means of communicating. This communication serves not just young people’s understanding of others but most importantly their understanding of themselves. Those who come to Shekinah leave Shekinah with a whole new skill-set; they can now enter a room of young people with a new understanding of young people, an ability to effectively communicate with young people and an enriched comprehension of what it is to be a young person today. Real communication underscores every meaningful relationship whether that relationship be with self or others; Shekinah identifies this and wholly works with those who train to achieve this.

So who am I in all of this?

Well, I am a graduate of Shekinah, completing my certificate in youth facilitation and spirituality in 2017. Indeed, I am hoping to complete my diploma next year. However, with a degree in Sociology, I have worked as a facilitator for over 20 years in difference guises from pre-marriage courses to support groups to youth retreats.

In my work with young people, Shekinah has equipped me with a tool-box of skills, where I can now go out and create a space that affords “safe vulnerability” for young people, where students are able to find their voice and voice it, where everyone is listened to, respected, encouraged and validated and where every young individual discovers an ear for listening, a forum for understanding and a sanctuary for questioning.

So please, begin with me on this beautiful Spring day, the discovery of Shekinah. Through this weekly blog, I hope to provoke thoughts, reflections and new beginnings. We talk much about the challenges of our young people, the hardships of our young people and the mental health of our young people. Well why not tackle all that? Why not help them with all that? We worry much about our young in this ever-evolving world with ever-evolving technologies, but with the right tools, the right communication and the right education in Shekinah – we can stop worrying and start helping.


Yvonne Joy


Last Saturday, 13 May 2017, I graduated from St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth with my Certificate in Spirituality (Youth Retreat Facilitation). It was a sweet day and a surprisingly proud moment for me.

I say surprisingly because when I first commenced the Shekinah course last October 2016, I guess I really did not know what to expect. I had done some practical retreat work, working with children and young people from the ages of 12 to 18 but in doing so I felt I lacked something. I felt that to be the best youth facilitator, I needed more insight, more education and more guidance into that work. It is work I hugely enjoy but its value, power and relevance cannot be underestimated and I felt I need better equipment to meet the challenges. The Shekinah course provided me with that.

My first session was on a Saturday in early October. I mumbled a little about it being a Saturday, but if the truth be told, it was the best day to attend as it did not impact on my usual weekly activities. When I sat down on that first morning of that first Saturday, the opening words of our leader was to tell each of us to relax, that this was a day for ourselves and to cherish it as such. And just like that I knew I was in the right place at the right time.

Saturdays with Shekinah would become my routine. Between October and December I would attend seven sessions of the course at the state-of-the-art Margaret Aylward Centre in Glasnevin and another three between January and April. I would have three essays to complete and three practicals to administer.

I never anticipated back in October entering into winter, the joy and light that these Saturdays would bring. Though those participating in the course with me came from different walks of life and owned different motivations for doing the course, we all came together in sharing and believing in Shekinah’s ethos, worth and importance. Far from seeing my Saturdays as grudgingly given to education, I saw those Saturdays as the highlight of my week.

The course consisted of theory, talks, demonstrations and discussion. There was fun, drama, creativity and so much laughter. The ice-breakers and the meditation though quite different in their guises were hugely instrumental in relaxing us as a group and connecting us as individuals. I felt safe here and I felt safe with the people around me. This is what Shekinah champions – an environment where dialogue, exchange and discourse is easy, un-impinged and that word again – safe!

 This is the atmosphere I seek to create for the young people I work with. I want to relay what Shekinah relayed to me, that each retreat day is a day set aside from which every individual has the opportunity to benefit. It is a day like no other. With Shekinah, I discovered the space to connect with myself, something hugely invaluable to me now in going forth and connecting with others.

We concluded our last session in April sitting outside on the sun-drenched terrace of the Margaret Aylward Centre. To host it there on such a glorious day is another illustration of the flexibility and spontaneity of this course and of the people who run it. There was a harmony and a quiet pride amongst us. We had come through our essay writing, completed our practicals and we were coming to our journey’s end. It was a bittersweet moment.

Working with young people is what I want to do. Creating a space for them to journey from their heads to their hearts is what I want to facilitate.  From the Shekinah course I now have those tools. It was a year that delivered more than I could ever have expected. And my sincere wish is that those with whom I will work in the future will benefit and thrive from all that Shekinah has taught and impressed on me.

Yvonne Joye    



Reflection Exercise

Gimmick or Genius?

In today’s society unless something can be seen, smelt, tasted or touched its existence is questionable. With this in mind how can one visualise the gifts of the Holy Spirit? Enter the ‘Salt Jar’ which is both gimmick and genius…


not in equal measures, the genius of the ‘Salt Jar’ far outweighs its ‘gimmicky-ness’ (if that’s a passable word?)

I was first introduced to the genius of the ‘Salt Jar’ back in the autumn of 2012. At the time I was based in the parish of Dunboyne as a ‘parish pastoral worker’ and decided to sign up for the Shekinah retreat giving course which took place at that time in All Hallows in Drumcondra.

The course, overseen by Sr Jennifer and Fr John, in its essence provides training to the participants giving them a firm foundation, and solid skill set, which allows them to conduct school retreats as part of a retreat team. (I say firm foundation and solid skill set since education and learning around giving retreats is continual and lifelong and hopefully our skill set will be developed and added to over the years…the day we think we can conduct the perfect retreat is perhaps the day we need to step aside and leave it to someone else!?) The course also offers a ‘mind blowing’ insight into the world of young adults with many and varied inputs from professionals ranging from music, art therapy, psychology and much more.

The ‘Salt Jar’ is what it says it is; a jar full of salt! The salt however is coloured by the ‘miracle’ of chalk.

(Salt Jar used during a Confirmation ceremony)

 (Tool kit!)

Those on retreat can make their own coloured salt by simply rubbing a stick of chalk in salt, the salt breaks the chalk down producing coloured salt in the process.

This part time author and sporadic retreat giver likes to mix the salt and chalk either the night before…(usually last thing before bed…or in the days prior to the retreat…which would be a ‘miracle’ in itself) by using mortar & pestle and hand held blender, as in the picture above, the salt is then returned to the commercial ‘tubs’ from whence they came ready for use.

I just feel that with limited time in a full day of events it frees up time and reduces stress levels?

In the parish of Templemore, Killea and Clonmore, Co Tipp where I am based as curate we have Confirmation every 2nd year so this has been my second experience outside of the Shekinah Course and its practical component. We have 4 schools so conduct retreats over 3 days (the 2 smaller schools come together for their retreat). Place of retreat is vitally important and we are blessed here in the parish to have The McAuley Community Centre a wonderful resource centre and parish office gifted to the community 5 years ago by the Mercy Sisters. This year word of our retreats has spread and we have had 3 visiting schools.

Each retreat day finishes with the retreatants receiving a ‘feedback’ form which they fill out in the following days.

They say the ‘proof of the pudding is in the eating’ and the Salt Jar’ activity always ranks highly in the ‘what did you like best section’…highly but NOT first…it’s truly amazing how our young people still crave silence and companionship with Jesus; Sr. Helen Kennedy conducts a truly amazing guided meditation where, in the spirit of St Ignatius Loyola, there are invited to place themselves in the Gospel scene with Jesus. They have a wonderful capacity to do this and do it so well.

Someone once said ‘Imagination is evidence of the Divine’…perhaps the future is bright?

The gifts of The Holy Spirit (in a jar) for all the world to see!

Wisdom, Knowledge, Understanding, Courage, Reverence, Right Judgement and Awe & Wonder in the presence of God.


About Shekinah

Shekinah is a training programme for adults who wish to facilitate youth retreats or other youth ministry programmes. In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and to facilitate people who wish to avail of this course but who live at a distance from Maynooth,  the programme will now be delivered  on-line

The Shekinah course ethos is rooted in in scripture and the message of Jesus but with a profoundly practical interpretation to help Shekinah graduates reach new levels of awareness to engage better with the youth of today.

Shekinah is a Hebrew word that means ‘the light of God’s presence’. In Jewish and Christian theology Shekinah is the glory of the divine presence, conventionally represented as light or interpreted symbolically as a divine feminine aspect.

Young people seek out role models from their peers, siblings, parents and grandparents, an effective retreat team ideally embraces all age groups and backgrounds to best model the reality of the Church as a community.  The methodology and tenor of Shekinah is deeply influenced by the living pedagogy and practice of St John Bosco, founder of the Salesians and patron saint of young people.

The Story of Shekinah

Shekinah was started in 2005 by Jennifer Perkins (a Salesian Sister). The course was developed in response to a shortage of traditional school retreat personnel and teams. The aim was to provide interested adults of any age and background an opportunity to gain professional accreditation in youth retreat facilitation skills and to better engage with young people in their faith journey.


  • I am happy and feel blessed to have had the opportunity to do this course.  I have learned a great deal and have found it all very beneficial, both from a parenting point of view and in my work with young people.  (A Parent of Teenagers)
  • The course provided so many methodologies for interacting with and facilitating young people using drama, music, film, art, small group interactions, ice-breakers and much more (Youth Minister)   
  • The many presentations gave me a real insight into issues that were unfamiliar to me, even though I was a teenager not so long ago.(A student of Theology)
  • The Shekinah course provided me with skills and resources that helped me be a better teacher. (RE Teacher)
  • The course gives a firm foundation and a solid structure for engaging with young people.  I was able to introduce meditation into the parish and we have also used audio-visuals in various liturgies which have enhanced the liturgical life of the parish and are popular with young and old. (A Parish Priest)
  • Pope Francis often mentions the joy of the Gospel when he talks about young people.  The Shekinah course inspired me to help young people recognise and live that joy in their busy lives.  (Chaplain) 


St. Patrick’s College Maynooth is the certifying body for accreditation of the course which is approved by

the National Framework for Qualifications (NFQ)



The practical element will comprise the on-line planning and delivery of four youth retreats/parish reflective youth experiences - to be approved by the course managers. Two will be delivered to course peers in small groups. Two will be delivered on-line to young people in a school or parish setting (or in-situ if circumstances are appropriate). Training for this is included in the course.

PLEASE NOTE: Students must organize their own school/parish placements (2 school retreats or comparable youth programmes/events in parish)


The Shekinah Way

…understanding the philosophy and methodology of the Shekinah retreats…

The Shekinah youth retreat methodology flows from a dynamic relationship between facilitator and young person (committed or otherwise) that attempts to invite the participant into an imaginative and creative faith experience. So the Shekinah Way begins where the young people are at on their journey, not where we would like them to be.

This approach is very much in keeping with the listening approach stressed by Pope Francis in his Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Christus Vivit, where he writes: ‘We need to make more room for the voices of young people to be heard.’ (Christus Vivit, 38) and, ‘A church always on the defensive, which loses her humility and stops listening to others, which leaves no room for questions, loses her youth and turns into a museum. How, then, will she be able to respond to the dreams of young people?’ (Christus Vivit, 41)

Shekinah welcomes all young people. However, it is evident that the majority we encounter on retreats have become disaffiliated from the institutional Church with her ‘distant rituals and symbols.’ The world view of young people is far more likely to be shaped by the values of their peers, through the pervasive influence of social media, rather than by pulpit or classroom.

The Shekinah experience draws on one of Piaget's fundamental pedagogical assertions that children are not, ‘empty vessels to be filled with knowledge.’ They are, ‘active builders of knowledge-little scientists who construct their own theories of the world.’ (Jean Piaget)

Likewise, the retreatants are active participants in their own learning, and not merely passive recipients of information. This approach challenges the facilitator to foster relationships through creativity – using their imagination that is constantly informed and refreshed by the world culture which young people inhabit.

The person of Jesus Christ and his teachings influence the tone and tenor of all the presentations, activities and experiences offered throughout the retreat day.

The Shekinah methodology draws its inspiration from the gentle Christian humanism of St Francis de Sales. This was later adopted and adapted by St John Bosco, founder of the Salesian Congregation. One of his fundamental tenets was that, ‘it is not enough to love young people they must know that they are loved…’

The growing chasm between the Church and young people, in Western Europe, prompted Archbishop Diarmuid Martin to suggest: ‘that the Church has a huge task in front of it to find a language to be able to talk to and to get its message over to young people…’.This need for communication suitable for the time in which we live was also advocated by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, (President of the Pontifical Council for promoting the New Evangelization), who purported,                                                                                                                       ‘The need for a new language capable of being understood by the people of our time is a requirement from which we may not prescind, especially in regard to religious language, so much marked by technical details that it is no longer comprehensible.’

The lives of young people, in our western world, are no longer governed by the one ‘grand-narrative' of the Christian story. But rather by a plethora of midi-narratives which may have nothing at all to do with Christianity. With the vanishing of that ‘grand-narrative' from consciousness, younger people, especially, no longer experience the world through a transcendent frame of reference - where God is at the centre. Rather they experience the world through an immanent frame of reference - where the human being is seen as at the centre.

This is why the Shekinah methodology begins with the immanent frame and seeks to make the connections between the young person's everyday life experiences and the world of the transcendent. This we do guided by the Holy Spirit and the free cooperation of the young people with whom we work.

Laudato Si, with its wonderful imagery and urgent message, could be creatively used to move from the immanent world to the transcendent world. Remember, the Fathers of the Church remind us that there are two great books about God – the Book of the Bible and the Book of CreationCreatively approached, this area can draw young people into the whole area of wonder and awe.

A retreat day does NOT take the place of explicit Catechesis. In the school context, this is the task of the classroom. A retreat day is an experiential day, which will hopefully impact on young people's lives at a more profound level than head knowledge alone - challenging them to ask themselves deep in the very core of their being: WHO AM I?

We cannot ‘think’ our way to holiness. Therefore, a Shekinah retreat encourages young people to open their hearts and minds to the wonder of where God is present, and to the whispers of the Divine within. Perhaps the scripture story of Emmaus captures the essence of The Shekinah Way. There, we ponder the journey of the two disciples going away from Jerusalem. Reflecting, perhaps, the modern day reality of so many young people in Western Europe walking away from the family of the Church.

The Emmaus story, at its very simplest, sees the two disciples, having encountered Jesus, turning around and going back to the community in Jerusalem. The Shekinah Way relies on the promptings of the same Spirit. Our hope is, that as a result of the retreat, the young people will somewhere, somehow, sometime - like the two disciples - recognize and be enlivened by His presence.

© The Shekinah Programme

Youth Matters

Young people face a challenging world!

Understanding them, their attitude and environment is a skill in itself. With the Shekinah ethos, a relevant knowledge base awaits through training and personal spiritual growth. Shekinah offers practical skills in engagement with young people, problem solving, personal development and social science. The learning outcomes offer a rich opportunity for professional enhancement and personal fulfillment.

Benefits of the Shekinah Courses 

  • Official certification
  • Professional confidence in youth ministry
  • Colleague Network
  • Practical tools to manage youth work
  • On-line Course - study in the comfort of your own home




“It’s not straight-forward”, “It’s complicated” “You don’t understand”


Good morning on this beautiful Spring day from Shekinah. My name is Yvonne Joye and in this season of new beginnings it is apt that I too am beginning something new; namely this weekly “Shekinah Blog” and overall promotion of what Shekinah does.

So, what exactly does Shekinah do?


On the 4th of July 2017, I celebrated the second anniversary of my priestly ordination. It is five years since I completed the Shekinah Youth Retreat Training Course.


Yvonne Joy