Being a catholic has definitely played a huge part in my life. Choosing to prioritise faith over what is expected of a person my age in this society has been difficult, but at the same time so rewarding.
Catholicism is all I've ever really known. I was baptised, made my first holy communion and confirmed in the parish I've spent my whole life involved in. However, it wasn't really until my mid-teens that I truly started to understand what my faith meant to me and just how important it is. Being brought up in catholic primary and secondary school exposed me to the teachings and word of Jesus Christ, allowing me to have a good understanding from a young age. However, after a while I felt as though I was stuck in a habit of just attending mass and not taking that next step on my faith journey.
For me, in terms of my faith, 2014 was a real turning point for me. As a year 10 of St. Bernard's High School, Barrow, I attended my first ever retreat to Castlerigg manor, still not really sure of what I could expect. That week is still one of the most poignant moments of my life. During the week I was encouraged to open up and ask questions about faith. I learnt so much about prayer and the relationship we all have with God, ultimately leaving me to feel much closer to him. Castlerigg gave me the confidence to go forward and to be proud of my faith and inspired me to push myself and take the next step along my faith journey. Encouraged by this retreat, in 2015 I attended a pilgrimage to Lourdes with Lancaster Diocese and Castlerigg Manor, and in 2016 I attended World Youth Day in Krakow. World Youth Day has helped me especially as a young Catholic in today's society. Being amongst two-million other young Catholics was indescribable. Listening to the words of Pope Francis helped me to realise the importance of the role young Catholics play in our communities.
All these experiences have helped shape me into the person I am today. In August I started as a volunteer at Castlerigg Manor and I will spend this year in youth ministry and living in community. I am extremely excited of what this year will bring and I am looking forward to where my faith journey will bring me next.