Katie, 18, Blackpool

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I have been a practising Catholic since I was eight years old. When I started to go to St Cuthbert’s in Blackpool, I felt so welcomed into the parish community. The priest and the deacon taught me so much about my faith and really inspired me to get involved in the parish. I became an altar server and began reading at Mass, something which I never thought I would be brave enough to do. Catholicism is really important in my life and it defines me as a person and it helps me to strive to follow the teachings of Jesus and become a better person.

I think that, in today’s society, being a young catholic is really exciting. There is so much to get involved in; some really fun and inspiring events. I have had the honour of attending pilgrimages to Lourdes on three occasions with the Lancaster diocese. These trips were a privilege as well as enjoyable. Originally, even the idea of going to Lourdes terrified me. My parish deacon originally persuaded me to go, but it was with a sense of trepidation because I was worried that I wouldn’t know anybody. But in Lourdes I met some amazing people who will be my friends for life. In Lourdes the youth team assist the less able pilgrims, also known as the VIPs, to have a relaxing and fulfilling time on pilgrimage. It is great to get to know these people and to hear the stories they have to tell. I also found it really moving to see a large community of Catholics, both young and old, from all over the world. I felt a great sense of unity while I was there, knowing that the thousands of other people there were so passionate about their beliefs and we all shared this enthusiasm for our faith.

I am currently taking a year out from study to give a year of volunteering at Castlerigg. In this role, I hope to inspire more young people to discover their faith and to be open about what they believe in. I think that it is easy for young people to be embarrassed by their faith and I even find myself holding back sometimes because I don’t know what other people will think. But I would encourage any young person to embrace their beliefs and to get involved. In the book of Deuteronomy, it says; ‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid and terrified because the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you.’ This scripture shows that in everything that we do, God will be with us, so we shouldn’t worry about being judged by others.

Katie (18), Blackpool

There are still spaces for young people (aged 15+) to join our Lourdes pilgrimage this summer. See our website, www.castleriggmanor.co.uk/new-events, for more information.

Narquita, 25, Castlerigg

Narquita, 25, Castlerigg

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My experience of being a young (ish!) Catholic today has been incredibly varied. I came from knowing nothing of the faith, to living and serving in a catholic community, to then having the amazing and blessed opportunity to serve as a missionary for the Church in America, to returning home to England and working in a very secular job, to now! Where I have returned to living and working in a Catholic community here at Castlerigg Manor.

This all has occurred in the last eight, most crucial, years of my formation as a Catholic. All these experiences have come with their own challenges and have pushed me in ways that I have often tried to run away from. But what has helped me develop a true relationship with Christ and His Church is the consistency which the Church provides.

 I have travelled a lot in this time and I have lived in many places around the world, but the thing that remains consistent, when my life is anything BUT consistent, is the place where we can all find solace and a home. When you move around a lot or your job role changes often it can be hard to pin down where is home and what is it I actually consider as my vocation. But I have come to realise that life will always be inconsistent in ways, and the only thing I can truly rely on to stay unchanging is the way the Church and her people will always be there to welcome, comfort and love me in my joys and struggles.

Someone I look up to in my faith is St Therese of Lisieux (Look her up she’s pretty amazing) who said ‘My vocation is love’ She has a way of putting things so beautifully and simply, and for me simplicity is something I crave when my life seems chaotic and out of my control. These four words she spoke have become something I try and live my life honouring. Because my life and job will probably always be changing but something I am called to do is love, and love well the people God places in my life. Like His love for us, our calling of loving one another will never cease to end, it is something that will remain consistent in a world of constant change. 

So, the thing I would like whoever reads this to take away is…..That your life, no matter how much you have planned it out, will continuously evolve and change, the more you trust in God’s plan the more adventures (sometimes scary ones!) He will take you on, and the more you ask of Him in your life the more He will ask of you in His Church. Be brave. Pray. And love.

Please pray for me for my role at Castlerigg as retreat leader and as I prepare for my next adventure of entering the vocation of marriage with my wonderful fiancé Matthew. J

Keep the Faith,

Narquita

Paris, 19, Barrow-in-Furness

Paris, 19, Barrow-in-Furness

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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.

Paris

Anna, 19, Preston

Anna, 19, Preston

"Being a Catholic seems so cool!"

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I've got to admit - these were not words I ever expected to hear from my new, non-Catholic friend at uni.

Before starting university, I was most nervous about how I would practice my faith 'on my own' - without the support of my family and parish back home. I knew from the start that I would never hide my faith, but at the same time was worried about how people would react.

Looking back a year later, I have absolutely no idea why I was so nervous! During my first year, I have been blessed with so many amazing opportunities to strengthen my faith and, through my university's Catholic Society and Christian Union, I have made so many wonderful friends who have similar morals to myself and who are able to encourage me in my faith.

Additionally, events such as the CaSSU (Catholic Societies of Southern Universities) Autumn retreat, Flame, Leeds Youth 2000, Celebrate, and many others have helped me grow my faith and make many Catholic friends in the process.

When I have been away on retreat, I was always open with the girls I lived with about where I had been for the weekend. They would always ask me questions and were always eager to hear about what I'd been up to. My post-retreat faith 'buzz' really opened me up to their questions, and it was great that they showed such an interest. This definitely made it a lot easier to be open about my faith.

With my first year at university over, I realise that there has never been a moment when I felt that I was practicing my faith 'on my own'. The friendships I have made this year with both Catholics and non-Catholics alike have made me more confident in my faith and more open to sharing it with others.

So yes... Being a Catholic is cool!

Rachel, 21, Kirkham

Rachel, 21, Kirkham

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Hi I’m Rachel - I have just finished my Sport degree in Leeds so have moved back home to Kirkham and my Parish of the Holy Cross. In my family we have two great Lancaster Diocese Priests (Fr Michael Murphy and the late Fr Bernard Hearty) as relatives so growing up around priest friends has been unusually normal to me and my family. I have spent many occasions socialising with priests of the Diocese and being heavily involved in Church life.  Although this seemed normal for me – I’m aware that for others it’s far from normal! For me, the only way to follow my faith fully was to embrace in the Sacraments of Baptism, Communion and Confirmation. Additionally, having gone to a Catholic Primary School, High School and Sixth Form College my faith was always around me. It wasn’t until University I had to fend for myself (both faith and food wise!)

At University I was thrown into the big wild world with many paths to choose from, though I have stayed on the straight and narrow because of my faith. It is highly important for me to acknowledge that my Catholic friends and Priests that have supported me, have played a part in this. They continually help me choose the right path. Many of these friends I met at the youthful age of 16 from numerous Castlerigg retreats and Diocese Pilgrimages near and far. I have met people from Barrow, Fleetwood, Preston, Whitehaven, Lancaster and Workington and we have all been brought together through our faith. 

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I understand that we are all at different places on our faith journey and it is vital to have the right support network behind us, whether that be family or friends. It is important to maintain our faith and take forward steps. This for me is done through retreats, whether that be Lancaster Youth Service or Youth 2000 ones across the country, where I have the opportunity to meet other young Catholics today and remember we are all on a journey.

Now I am back at home ready to embark on further education or a graduate job – I still am heavily reliant upon my faith friends through prayer, chat and meet ups which I can only thank the Lancaster Youth Service for!

Lizzie, 25, Blackpool

Lizzie, 25, Blackpool

Faith has always been an important part of my life. I was baptised in St Kentigern’s Catholic Church, Blackpool and attended St Kentigern’s Catholic Primary School right next door...

Andy, 21, Castlerigg

Andy, 21, Castlerigg

I’m Andy, I am 21 years old and I’m originally from Hartlepool. This is my 3rd year volunteering in Youth Ministry...

Harry, 19, Preston

Harry, 19, Preston

"3 Million?! I didn’t realise there were 3 million young Catholics in the world!” This was the usual response when I told my friends and family back home about my experience of going to Krakow...

Paul, 19, Hanover, Germany — now at Castlerigg

Paul, 19, Hanover, Germany — now at Castlerigg

I became a Catholic because my parents are Catholic and my grandparents too. It was not my own decision to go to church, one that happened because of my family. It was interesting and kind of boring at the same time...

Hannah, 17, Barrow-in-Furness

Hannah, 17, Barrow-in-Furness

The ten days we spent in Kraków for World Youth Day was an amazing experience that I will never forget...

Mary, 21, Preston

Mary, 21, Preston

Being a young Catholic can sometimes be tough. I have always been firm in my faith, but a few years ago I realised that I was living separate lives...

Aoife, 20, Preston

Aoife, 20, Preston

Being a young Catholic is a wonderful rollercoaster ride, that can be fantastic and terrifying at the same time. When I look back at my faith journey over the past couple of years, I can’t help but be astounded...

Tom, 18, Castlerigg

Tom, 18, Castlerigg

My mum once told me that you know a religion is strong when you can have a good laugh at it...

Anna, 18, Preston

Anna, 18, Preston

Being a young Catholic today can often be a struggle in a world where increasingly more people do not associate themselves with any religion...

Alex, 21, Castlerigg

Alex, 21, Castlerigg

For many years, seeing people filled with joy and happiness terrified me. All the calmness and wisdom radiating from them seemed to be alarming and very suspicious...

Anke, 23, Castlerigg

Anke, 23, Castlerigg

November 2011: the feast of Christ the King. I had made the decision that I wanted to be a Christian just a few months ago, inspired by people in a non-denominational church...

Claire, 18, Whitehaven

Claire, 18, Whitehaven

The main thing that I have discovered being a young Catholic today is that I am not alone. There is a whole world out there full of young Catholics just like me!

Lauren, 19, Fleetwood

Lauren, 19, Fleetwood

The other day I came across a passage within the Bible from Luke which stated, ‘He astonished the crowds’, and unexpectedly it got me thinking more deeper about the message God was wanting to give to me...

Misha, 22, Castlerigg

Misha, 22, Castlerigg

Hi, my name is Misha. I was born in Ukraine and at a young age my parents got divorced, and my father died shortly after that. Life wasn’t very pleasant at the beginning and so much pressure for my mother...