My name is Ruth, I’m 21. What I have experienced during my time at Castlerigg has changed my life. I have always been a Catholic. I am the youngest of six children and had a very happy upbringing in the faith.
When I was 16 I left home for the first time to go to college, where I studied Outdoor Education. It very quickly became apparent to me that I was going to have to make a conscious decision over whether I kept my faith or not. It was no longer something that I
practised just because my parents expected me to. At the time I honestly thought that at the age of 16 I had no choice but to lapse. To me, faith was something for children and grown adults. Faith was incompatible with being a young person and lapsing was a sad but inevitable fact. I had no young Catholic role models to look up to and I genuinely thought that I had no choice but to let my faith dwindle away. No sooner than I had decided this, I knew I couldn’t do it. I loved my faith too much! So I resolutely made the choice to remain a Catholic – even though I thought I would fail. I would at least try. For many years afterwards, I was the only
Catholic that I came in contact with in my day to day life. Once I left college I began working as a watersports instructor teaching sailing, windsurfing and kayaking. I lived at the centres I worked at and was expected to work weekends. At my last centre I had to tell my boss at my interview that I would need the time off to get to Mass each weekend. She was extremely taken aback by this and it put her in a difficult situation but to her eternal credit she did her utmost to make sure I had a couple of hours off each Sunday so I could get to Mass. I worked at this centre for 3 years and in that time my faith increased dramatically. It was incredibly hard at times. I didn’t drive, so I would leave the centre at 7.45 on a Sunday morning to walk for forty minutes to the nearest Catholic Church for 8.30 Mass, returning just in time to have some lunch and jump in a powerboat to teach on the water. Having to fight for Mass and work hard to get there even when the walk seemed too long or it was raining really made me treasure the Eucharist. I understood more than ever how precious our faith was. It was a very lonely time however. For much of it, my community of faith was found on the internet. Online, the young Catholic world opened up in all its vibrancy and I knew I was not alone. I used articles, music and apologetics from several young Catholic websites in America and the UK to help sustain my day to day faith. The world I was living in at the time could not have been further from my faith. Whilst I loved those who I worked with, it was hard not to get
pulled into the differences in our lifestyles; the drinking culture which was the norm. Through all of this loneliness and often times, madness, I developed a longing and love for God that brought me to the point where I looked to leave my job – and what I had hoped to be a long career – to apply to do a gap year with the Lancaster Diocese Youth Service.
So, to cut a long story short, I arrived at Castlerigg Manor last August to begin my training. And what I have discovered in this time has been amazing. The young Catholic world is alive and kicking. It is small and ever so slightly underground but it’s there!
To have the support of other people my age in our faith has been amazing. The young people who come through the centre are able to see what I always wanted: a place where faith is an integral part of our daily lives, something to be rejoiced in and not judged, something that sustains us rather than brushed off as archaic and irrelevant. Please do not underestimate the challenges that young people have to face in this world when they turn against the grain of society and seek God. It is a struggle. Castlerigg Manor, for many, is the place that gave them their lives back and supported and strengthened them. It is the place where they found acceptance and love in an often loveless world. Finally and most importantly, it is the place where they found Jesus and His love for them. I too have experienced that this year and I know it will sustain me wherever I go next in life.