Hexham & Newcastle Youth Ministry tribute to Father Dermott Donnelly

Father Dermott Donnelly

It is with deep sadness and deep gratitude that the Youth Ministry team shares these thoughts on Father Dermott Donnelly, Director of Youth Services for our Diocese, who died peacefully in hospital on Friday July 8 .

“Father Dermott was a priest with a big heart for youth ministry and touched the lives of thousands of young people, in our diocese and beyond, during his 30 years of priesthood, always reminding them that each of them is important and loved by God. He founded the Emmaus Youth Village and initiated the annual primary and secondary celebrations allowing young people and school staff to experience the joy of the Gospel. It was right and appropriate that the last day of his active ministry, two days before his death, was spent at the Youth Village surrounded by 485 young people and more than 50 school staff enjoying the high school party When Father Dermott fell ill , the festival team and staff courageously and lovingly did everything they could to continue the event and make it the best for Dermott and for the young people.

Father Dermott invested himself fully, without restraint, in a holistic vision of youth ministry and in the realization of this dream. For Dermott, it was never too high, too far or too hard. No matter the disappointments or the difficulties, it was always possible, always reachable and it was this tenacity and this determination as well as her boundless faith in the power of God and her own love for young people that made it possible to build the Village Youth as part of a larger vision. Yet, while Dermott’s vision was broad, it was also about “one” and that was central: he wanted every young person to know that they were “MEANINGFUL” and reach their full potential.

Dermott inspired many people and no more than the young adults who gathered each year to be the “first apostles of young people” (Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity 12). 28 years ago, when Dermott embarked on a journey and began to develop a dream, the words of the Second Vatican Council came to life and peer ministry became the heart of our diocesan youth service, bringing together young around the world to live in community, receive training and walk alongside their peers to share the message of the Gospel. More recently, Pope Francis affirmed this vision in “Christ Is Alive,” his letter following the 2018 Youth Synod. Transcend discipleship program and two awards programs: the Pope John Paul II Award and the Faith in Action Award, which draw young people into the community and into a life of mission. and services.

The goal has always been to bring young people into a personal relationship with Christ and fully into the life of the Church, and over the years Dermott has developed with YMT a three-pronged approach that proclaims the message of the Gospel. through mission and evangelism, deepen faith through retreats and follow-up activities, and support adult parishioners to accompany and radiate the fire of their own encounter with Christ. Dermott entertained for many years the hope of building a place where young people could come, stop on the road like the disciples of Emmaus, share their experiences and meet Jesus. In 2004, this dream came true in Allensford with the support of Bishop Ambrose and the Diocese and in 2010, after much fundraising, the Youth Village was officially opened with its five magnificent residential chalets.

Dermott was exceptionally creative. Under his leadership and fueled by his energy and encouragement, events were woven into the calendar: Destiny, The Source, Festivals, Conferences, Youth Ministry Training Courses and the National Flame Event. Dermott’s vision for youth ministry was much broader than our diocese. He cared passionately that the Church of England and Wales listened to and nurtured young people. He traveled the world to find great speakers and inspirational ideas. He was one of the founding members of the Catholic Youth Ministry Federation of England and Wales, based on the structure he found in the United States. He became chairman of CYMFed and was a big part of the inspiration behind Flame – and when Flame first took place at Wembley Arena, Dermott certainly didn’t want Hexham and Newcastle taking a minibus to the event, but envisaged an entire train (the famous Flame Trains) and later a huge fleet of coaches! He wanted to give as many young people as possible the opportunity to take the next step in their journey of faith and experience what could often be a life-changing moment.

Dermott left an incredible legacy in Hexham and Newcastle, in our country and especially in the hearts and lives of thousands of young people and adults. We want to thank you for all the amazing tributes and messages of support we have received. Please continue to pray for us and especially for his mother and family. Our desire now is to continue his legacy.

“You can help young people live meaningful lives and let them know that they are more than they could ever dream of. Every young person is unique and valued and can reach out to a broken world and put it back together piece by piece. Pope Francis said recently: “For him you have value, you are not insignificant. You are important to him, because you are the work of his hands.” (Christus Vivit, 115).” Father Dermott Donnelly


In 2017, on the occasion of his silver jubilee, Father Dermott founded a charity which he called “Significance”. The charity aims to provide grants to enable young people to realize their own importance.

”Young people have so much to give to our society and our world and I want to give them every opportunity to develop their potential. Through the projects that SIGNIFICANCE will support, young people will be inspired to reach high and do their best. Father Dermott Donnelly

If anyone would like to support Significance, the details are below:
Account Name: Meaning
Sort code: 52-30-44
Account number: 46107363

About the author