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Sunday, June 26, 2022

20th Anniversary of Ulster Project

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? ? ?The Arlington Ulster Project 20th Anniversary Committee is busy planning a 20th Anniversary celebration to be held on Saturday, July 20th at Most Blessed Sacrament Church in Arlington. The celebration will include dinner, a commemorative slide show of the past 20 years, scrapbooks and 20 years of Ulster Project faithful from Texas and Northern Ireland. A recorded video of Rev. Kerry Waterstone, a Church of Ireland (Anglican) priest, who started the project in 1975, is in the works and will be a very special part of the celebration. In addition, we are expecting Father John Forsythe of Belfast to attend. Father John has been the head of the Belfast Center of the Ulster Project in Northern Ireland for 35 years and is in charge of selecting the teens from Belfast. Having Father John as our special guest will be a highlight of our celebration. The official website www.upatx.com will be updated as more details become available. ?{{more}}

? ? ?The Arlington Ulster Project usually hosts 16 teens, however, this year we’ve agreed to host 18 teens. This teen group is comprised of half Protestants and half Catholic, half girls and half boys, and they come to Arlington for the month of July to live with host families in private homes. The teens are paired with American teens of the same sex and approximate age. They live with Host Families, becoming an extra son or daughter, who are on the same side of the Catholic/Protestant ?Faith line? and are ?matched? by a Committee, selected by the participating American churches. Accompanied by two adult Counselors, the Northern Irish participants range in age from 14-16 years, having been evaluated and selected for the project by their teachers and clergy for their leadership potential.

? ? ?Once selected for the project, the Northern Irish teens meet extensively to form strong bonds with each other before leaving their country. During the month-long project in July, the entire group of Northern Irish and American teens meet almost daily for activities, which include encounter sessions (Times Of Discovery), social activities, community service projects, and worship experiences, learning to play, pray, and work together. Because the Project works so well, developing mutual trust and friendship among the Northern Irish youth and their families, participating Northern Irish leaders plan reunions and meetings after the youth return to Northern Ireland, encouraging and allowing the continuing friendships formed during the Project.

? ? ?The Ulster Project was started in 1975 by Rev. Kerry Waterstone, a Church of Ireland (Anglican) priest in Tullamore, County Offally. Following an extended pastoral exchange with a clergyman in Manchester, Connecticut, Kerry Waterstone witnessed the freedom and safety of exchanging ideas and viewpoints among people of different religious beliefs while in the United States. After the experience of his own family in America, Canon Waterstone felt that the attitudes of Teens from Northern Ireland could be changed. If they could see and experience the way Americans have learned to live together in their ?melting pot? society they might influence the future of religious interaction and discourse in Northern Ireland. The plan was to help ease the tensions in Northern Ireland by recruiting various Protestant and Catholic clergy to support the idea of a project based on reconciliation, trust and the destruction of stereotypes. After obtaining approval from church leaders, Canon Waterstone traveled into Northern Ireland to secure the cooperation of clergy willing to help in the implementation of his plan. Forming the original guidelines for the Project, he focused on addressing and minimizing the prejudices and stereotypes, which are the root cause of the bitter strife labeled Catholic/Protestant.

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