Ballinasloe & District Centre

Fr. Robert McCabe, Central Spiritual Director of the PTAA (left), Bishop Michael Duignan (Clonfert & Galway dioceses) and Mr. Francis Donohue (Abbey-Duniry PTAA Centre) pictured with members of Ballinasloe Pioneer Centre during a social gathering in Gullane’s Hotel, Ballinasloe, to formally welcome the forty-two young people of parishes of the Clonfert diocese who enrolled in the Pioneer Assocation during a special Mass in St. Michael’s Church, Ballinasloe, on 16th June (Feast of the Sacred Heart) 2023. Adults seated (left to right): Ms Sheila Walsh (Ballinasloe PTAA Secretary), Justin Harkin (Youth Co-ordinator), Ms Agnes Duignan (Ballinasloe PTAA Chairperson), Ms Ann Downey and Elizabeth Campbell.


A second meeting took place on Friday, September 8th, from 8 to 9 pm, and built upon the work of our previous (July) meeting … see below.

  1. Present
    Sean Kelly (Kiltormer parish & Chairperson, PTAA Diocesan Committee) and Justin Harkin (Ballinasloe-Creagh parish & local PTAA Youth Co-ordinator), four Young Pioneers and four parents. All present introduced themselves and shared their hopes for the meeting and for a club. The group also took a moment to invite God’s blessing on the meeting and to pray for people who experience addiction and for their families.
  2. Recap on Meeting of 17th July
    Justin offered a short report and everyone shared they were happy with the suggestions etc. that had been offered. would:
    * meet every second Friday evening from 8 to 9 / 9.15 pm
    * offer fun activities and interesting learning opportunities, e.g. quizzes, games, competitions, sporting opportunities, making things together, talks from interesting people and occasional opportunities to use their talents
    * go on outings and tours
    * have an occasional film night
    * have an annual retreat day
    * meet with young people from other clubs and engage in fun activities / participate in competitions with them. 
    * support one another grow in their faith and Christian identity.
  3. Quiz Time
    All present engaged in a fun quiz prepared by Niall Duddy, another member of the Clonfert Diocese’s PTAA Committee.  This was enjoyed by all and young participants recommended having further quizzes in the future, and including a mental maths round.

Code of Behaviour
Justin offered everyone a copy of the Code of Behaviour proposed for Church groups in the Clonfert diocese.  The meeting discussed each point and agreed that a slightly adapted version would be ideal for the club.  Justin agreed to adapt the Code and the meeting agreed that consenting to the Code would be an essential part of joining the club going forward.

Code of Behaviour for Adult Leaders and Adults who assist the club in other ways.
Justin shared that the Clonfert diocese also had a Code of Behaviour for Adults caring for Children and Young People.  A copy was given to each parent and child and it was agreed that an adapted form would also become part of the Club’s safeguarding procedures.

Future Leadership of Meetings and Special Events
Justin and Sean shared that while they and other adult Pioneers were committed to helping the Youth Club on an ongoing basis, it would be great if some of the young members helped with the leadership and if some parents could undertake the necessary Safeguarding Training and join a rota whereby they would be present for a meeting once every  six weeks / two months, and / or accompany the club when it goes on an outing, tour or retreat day.

Sean encouraging the young pioneers not to be nervous of taking up leadership roles as they will be given a lot of support and encouragement.  All present were also open to participate in Leadership Training.

Safeguarding – Meeting Our Obligations
Three parents agreed to undertake a Safeguarding Training Day, 9.30 – 3.30 am, in Coláiste Chiaráin, Summerhill, Athlone, for Saturday 16th September. They will be joined by Sean, Justin and some other adult pioneers in the greater Ballinasloe area.

Justin shared that the Safeguarding Training Day would also embrace the initial stage of the Garda Vetting process that persons who engage with Youth clubs need to undertake.

Final Discussion & Vote to Establish Youth Club.
The meeting concluded with an invitation to everyone present to offer their view as to whether we should formally form the Youth Club and have our first meeting on Friday, 22nd September, 8 – 9 pm,  or wait until more Young Pioneers and their parents / guardians expressed interest.

All were agreed that we should have our first meeting in two weeks’ time subject to Adult Pioneers and Parents successfully completing Safeguarding Training and progressing Garda Vetting. It was also agreed that the number of members, given the size of our venue, should not exceed twelve for now

Justin and Sean, with the support the PTAA Clonfert Diocesan committee, will also develop an application / membership form that all members and future applicants will be invited to meeting.

As well as having some fun activities time is also to be given at the Club’s first meeting to discussing the Club’s first outing.

Uploaded: 10th September 2023

REPORT ON First Meeting of Young  Pioneers, Parents and Guardians with Adult PTAA Representatives regarding the establishment of a Pioneer Youth Club / Youth Initiative that will be based in Ballinasloe from September 2023.

  1. Venue

The meeting took place in the Clonfert Family Centre, Ballinasloe, H53 NX59, on Monday 17th July, between 8  and 9 pm.

2. Present
Ann Gately (Laurencetown parish & Ballinasloe PTAA Centre), Sean Kelly (Kiltormer parish & Chairperson, PTAA Diocesan Committee) and Justin Harkin (Ballinasloe-Creagh parish & local PTAA Youth Co-ordinator), three Young Pioneers and four parents / guardians.

3. Ice-breaker exercise
All present engaged in a fun ice-breaker exercise which supported everyone (children and adults) get to know one another.

4. Prayer
The group took a moment to invite God’s blessing on the meeting.

5. Exploration
Question 1

Justin asked children and parents what activities etc. they would like to see offered through a club / youth initiative. Children shared they would welcome a club that met once a fortnight, would offer fun activities and interesting learning opportunities, e.g. quizzes, games, competitions, sporting opportunities, making things together, talks from interesting people and occasional opportunities to use their talents.  They also expressed interest in going on outings and tours, having an occasional film night, meeting children from other clubs and engaging in fun activities / participating in competitions with them. 

Parents supported all of the above and expressed a wish that the children would also enjoy exposure, in age-appropriate ways, to cultural and faith affirming experiences.  They favoured  a club, that in addition to offering opportunities for friendship and fun/learning, would also support the children grow in their faith and Christian identity.

In light of this contribution  Justin asked if children and parents would be happy for the club to have a religious element consistent with the Pioneer’s identity as a Church Association?

All present shared they would be happy for club meetings to include a short time of prayer / gospel enquiry that would include saying the Young Pioneer prayer together.  The children also shared that they would be happy to help with prayers of the faithful, readings, singing of hymns etc. during the Pioneer’s annual Christmas Mass and Party, and that they would be open to meeting children from other centres for a Youth Retreat Day in a place like Knock.

Children and parents were also open to outings having a religious element.  For example, if the club, with the support of some parents, were to go to Dublin for an outing, that the trip could include a visit to a place of significance for Pioneers, e.g. the Shrine of Mass Talbot.  The meeting also agreed that it would not be necessary for all trips and outings to have a religious element, e.g. a visit to Coole Park and Dunguaire Castle.

Question 2
Justin asked what could be done to help realise the above suggestions?

Children shared they would be willing to train as leaders so they could help with the running of the club.

Some parents / guardians shared they would be willing to undertake Garda Vetting and Safeguarding Training as Pioneer Associates (a way of being supportive without becoming an Adult Pioneer) and join a rota of adults who would ensure the club met Safeguarding best practice, e.g. be present for one meeting every two months.

The Adult Pioneers present shared that they had spoken with Fr. John Garvey PP, Ballinasloe, and that is would be possible for the club to rent the large room in the Clonfert Family Centre on Friday evenings for a nominal rent (meet cost of light and heat).  Everyone was open to children contributing €2 per meeting to offset this cost.

The Adult Pioneers also shared that the Pioneer Association would insure the club for its first few months and that they were hopeful that they could raise c €1,000.00 to support the club get up and running.
Since the meeting the Pioneer Association has received €1000 from the Knights of St. Columbanus toward the setting up and running of the club.

The meeting also agreed that it would be great if the club could grow to becoming three clubs, one serving the greater Ballinasloe area, another serving the greater Loughrea area, and another serving the greater Portumna area and that the clubs would come together from time to time.

6Decisions Taken
After some discussion the following points were agreed:

  1. To meet every second Friday from 8 to 9 / 9.15 pm in the Clonfert Family Centre, Ballinasloe, beginning Friday 8th September 2023,
  2. That membership be limited for now to boys and girls in Fifth and Sixth Class and First Year who are Young Pioneers,
  3. That membership be limited to c. fifteen boys and girls owing to the size of our venue and to give the club a chance to form / develop its ethos
  4. That membership be reserved to Young Pioneers …. but that does not prevent a boy or girl, with permission, from inviting a friend to a club meeting and of their friend subsequently becoming a Young Pioneer / joining the club,
  5. That our meeting of Friday 8th September be open to all interested Young Pioneers and their parents / guardians and continue the work of working out how the club is to function.  The format of the meeting is to be as follows:
    • Fun activity helping us get to know one another
    • Prayer Moment
    • Discussion
      • Our code of behaviour  (children)
      • Rota to meet Safeguarding requirements (adults)
      • Leadership Training for children willing to help as leaders
    • Fun game / Quiz
    • News about forthcoming Connaught activities and competitions, e.g. Mid-term Treasure Hunt competition
    • Planning of next (22nd Sept.) meeting

7.  Young Pioneer Summertime  Quiz
Before the meeting concluded a draw took place for five prizes of
€10 from all the children who submitted correct answers.   Winners have been posted on .

8. Expression of thanks
Before the meeting concluded Justin thanked everyone for their participation and suggestions.

Post-Meeting Developments

(i) Safeguarding Training & Garda Vetting
After the meeting Justin researched the availability of Safeguarding Training and Garda Vetting for adults who would help run the club.
A Safeguarding Training Day that will include the initial stages of the Garda Vetting process will be offered in Athlone on Saturday 16th September, 9.30 – 3.30 pm.   This will be open to every adult open to help with the running of the club and transport can be provided to and from Athlone.  More details in early September.

Justin also pointed out that as the club will be dependent on the goodwill of adults willing to help run the club, it would be important that the children of those who volunteer be given priority when it comes to tours, outings, inter-club competitions etc. 
It would be unfair to expect a parent / guardian to be a volunteer for such activities and for their child to be excluded. 

(ii) Further Information for Parents / Guardians
After the meeting the Pioneers present realised that while many children have received a presentation on the Pioneers in their school, the vast majority of parents / guardians have not received any input and may have questions.  In response the PTAA Clonfert Diocesan Committee will host two information meetings, one in-person, and another via Zoom, in September / early October.  Details to be texted to parents / guardians nearer the time.

 (iii) Enquiries
Please direct to Justin Harkin  ( / 087 6171526).
Please note Justin will not be in a position to respond between Monday 24th July and Thursday 31st August.

Uploaded: 19th July 2023


The following Pioneer Association members have kindly agreed to serve on the above committee, July 2023 – July 2025.

Mr. Sean Kelly, Kiltormer parish (Chairperson)

Ms Ann Gately, Laurenctown parish

Mr Francis Donohue, Abbey-Duniry parish

Mr Niall Duddy, Kilimordaly-Clooncagh parish

Mr Justin Harkin, Ballinasloe-Creagh parish (Youth Co-ordinator)

Updated: 19th July 2023.


The evening of Friday 16th June 2023 (Feastday of the Sacred Heart) was very special for us as we welcomed forty-two young people from various parishes in the Clonfert diocese into our Assocation and Centre.

The enrolment ceremony took place during a specially organised Holy Mass in St. Michael’s Church, Ballinasloe. Our guest presider was Most Rev. Michael Duignan, Bishop of Clonfert and Galway dioceses, and our guest homilist, Fr. Robert McCabe, Central Spiritual Director of our Association(PTAA herein).

We also wish to acknowledge the wonderful support of St. Grellan’s (Ballinasloe & District) Council of the Knights of St. Columbanus and Ballinasloe Credit Union in relation to this endeavour.

John Weldon (Knights of St. Columbanus), Muredach Tuffy, Chairperson, The Board of Management, PTAA) with persons mentioned above following the Ballinasloe Centre’s Social Gathering with the support of the Knights of St. Columbanus, by way of welcoming our newest members.

Information for Parents & Guardians of Children who joined us

If you are a parent or guardian of one of our new members, and find yourself querying what will happen next, pleased be advised that we plan to convene a meeting of interested parents and children over the coming months to explore possibilities regarding the establishment of a youth initiative that will be fun, educational, social and spiritual. Patience is necessary, however, at this point as, subject to sufficient interest, as developments maintain due regard for safeguarding best practice within the Catholic Church in Ireland.

It is also our intention to run a very simple competition or two … just by way of keeping in touch with your child through you. More details later.

We also encourage you to integrate the Young Pioneer Daily Prayer into your family’s daily prayer practice:

Lord, for your sake,
for the recovery of problem drinkers
and victims of substance abuse,
to make amends to your Sacred Heart
for the intemperance in all our lives,
I promise not to take alcoholic drink
until I am at least eighteen
and to keep off drugs for life. Amen

Information for Parents & Guardians of Children interested in joining the PTAA

For many years it was customary for Catholic families, schools and parishes to encourage children to take a pledge refraining from alcohol until their sixteenth or eighteen year and to abstain from illegal drugs for life at the time of their Confirmation.

While fear of the effects of alcohol and drug misuse provides a sound basis for such encouragement, there is also another basis, a spiritual one rooted in love of God and neighbour. This is the way of the PTAA.

Mindful of this and greatly encouraged by Bishop Michael Duignan, the Ballinasloe PTAA Centre embarked on a special project earlier this year.

With support from varioust people, e.g. parents, clergy, teachers and principals of the Clonfert Diocese’s Catholic Primary School network, we sought to introduce as many 5th and 6th Class pupils as possible to our Association and its spirituality.

This has culminated in forty-two Young People choosing to join us on the Feast of the Sacred Heart, each child having reflected upon what is involved with a parent or guardian.

If you are a parent of a child between the ages of ten and fourteen and this is your first time to hear about this outreach, and you would like your child and his or her friends to know more about the PTAA please contact either of our Youth Co-ordinators (details below) and we will see what we can do to support you.

Ann Gately
Ballinasloe & District Youth Co-ordinator
087 2970616

Justin Harkin
Ballinasloe & District Youth Co-ordinator
087 6171526

Information for Catholic School Principals and Sixth Class Teachers

If you would like to to arrange a free in-school age-appropriate PowerPoint presentation on the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart for your Fifth and Sixth Class pupils during 2023/2024 please contact the Ballinasloe PTAA centre via 087 6171526 / .

The PowerPoint presentation is timed to take twenty to twenty-five minutes and our presenters (who are Garda Vetted) are open to following the presentation with a ten-minute conversation with the children.

Additional Information for Existing Pioneers and Adults Interested in Joining or Rejoining the PTAA in Ballinasloe / the Clonfert Diocese

If you would like to register with our Centre so as to be informed of upcoming events, meetings etc. please forward an email to us at .

Joining or Rejoining the PTAA

Any adult over 18 who has abstained from alcohol for at least one year in the immediate prior period may apply for lifelong membership. The commitment sought of members is:

  • to abstain from all alcoholic drink
  • to wear the Pioneer emblem
  • recite the Pioneer prayer twice daily

Some members also choose to participate in Centre meetings, social gatherings, e.g. an annual ball, and / or spiritually nourishing events, e.g. retreat days, but these are not essential to membership.

During the Holy Mass mentioned above, and prior to interested children taking the Young Pioneer Pledge, existing pioneers and adults interested in joining or rejoining the PTAA will be invited to take the adult pledge. Once they have taken the pledge, new and re-joining members may begin to wear their pioneer pin, clasp, brooch or ring.

There will also be a table at our Social Gathering where adults will be able to register their membership and sign up (if they wish) to a Ballinasloe PTAA news service.

Background Information

The Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart was founded in 1898 in Gardiner Street, Dublin, by Fr James Cullen SJ, Mrs Anne Egan, Miss Lizzie Power, Mrs Mary Bury and Mrs A.M. Sullivan.

The primary aim of the Association  is the promotion of sobriety and temperance through:

  • faith and prayer;
  • self-denial leading to inner freedom;
  • setting beneficial example to others;
  • presenting alternatives to the drinking and drug scene, particularly to young people.

The duty of a Pioneer is to build a society where people live to their full potential. We reach out to those who suffer from alcohol-related harm.

The Pioneer, like all Christians, is convinced that the love of God, as revealed in Jesus, is central to their lives.

For more information please visit .

Further Information

If you have any questions regarding any of the above please contact Justin Harkin on 087 6171526 / .

Updated: 19th June 2023