Volunteers' Conference 2018

Volunteers' Conference 2018

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At the start of January, the Castlerigg team joined other Catholic volunteers, retreat leaders, chaplains and directors from retreat centres from all over the country, for the annual conference in Swanwick, Derbyshire. This gave us the opportunity to meet other people who were doing similar work to ourselves and it meant that we could take a few days just reflecting upon the work we do and our faith before entering in to the New Year.

We met at Castlerigg Manor on the Wednesday and started our day with Morning Prayer. I really liked this because we all knew that we would have a busy and tiring day ahead of us and it was nice to spend a few minutes in prayer. Travelling to Swanwick took us five hours (we did make a few wrong turnings along the way!)

When we arrived, we were split in to our small groups and spent time getting to know each other. We also discussed our experiences in youth ministry. The rest of the evening involved celebrating Mass and getting to know some of the other volunteers.

On Thursday morning, Father David O’Malley and Anita from the Salesians gave the keynote address. We had the chance to learn and reflect upon the theme of this year’s synod of Bishops, “Young People, the faith and vocational discernment.” I found this interesting and it gave me a chance to think about my purpose and my vocation in life. This session also gave an insight in to what influences young people the most today, from social media and the news to the encounters we have with different people every day. The thing that stood out to me the most from this workshop was the importance of asking ourselves the question ‘Why?’ We face so many life-changing decisions, and it is important to take the time to really think and reflect upon the decisions we make each day.

For the afternoon, we were given the choice of several different workshops. The team split up so that we could all learn different things and share our experiences with one another. I chose to attend the CAFOD workshop in which we learnt different games and activities linked with the campaigns that CAFOD runs. I also attended a workshop, led by Fr David and Anita, called ‘Signposts and Discernment’. I found both of these workshops very insightful and helpful, and I am really looking forward to sharing what I have learnt.

In the evening, we had a reconciliation service led by St Vincent’s (a retreat centre based in Kent). It was a beautiful service and a good time to reflect upon what I had done throughout the day. After the reconciliation service we all celebrated with a ceilidh. I was so excited for this part of the retreat because I love to dance and the retreat leaders, who had been before, told me how good it is. I had a brilliant time and the whole team really enjoyed themselves!

The final morning started with a morning reflection, led by CAFOD. It was about their new campaign ‘Share the Journey’. The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness of people who are forced to leave their homes to flee danger. CAFOD are hoping to walk 24,901 miles, the distance around the world, to help us to think about the journeys that people all over the world have to take to escape danger in their homes. The volunteers at the conference were given the honour of launching the campaign and we all walked one mile on an Emmaus walk, putting more than one hundred miles on the totalizer! I have decided to continue this, this January but instead of walking, I am going to run!

After CAFODs morning reflection we spent some time reflecting on what difference this conference would make when we returned to our centres, and what we might do after our gap-years.

The conference closed in the chapel with our final liturgy. Each retreat centre received a box and a letter with the address of another retreat centre. We have the task of filling the box with gifts and items from our community and we will send box to Walsingham house, a retreat centre in Brentwood.

Although all the retreat centres in the country do similar work each one is unique, and throughout the week, we could share and receive ideas from people from the other centres. We also formed new friendships with people who were doing similar work to ourselves and we had so much fun. Conference was a brilliant way to start 2018 and I am looking forward to the rest of the year. We were encouraged to make a little pledge for our community so alongside the mission of the Youth Service we have also decided: “We will not be afraid to ask the question why, to both ourselves and to the young people, to have conviction with our answer and choose to trust in God and each other.”

Katie, Castlerigg

The Youth Service are recruiting for next year’s gap-year team. If you will be 18 or older this summer and are interested in growing in faith and sharing it with others please get in touch: team@castleriggmanor.co.uk or visit our website.

I Love Working with Young People!

I love working with young people, they have influenced my life and contributed to my own personal faith in so many ways. I have heard many profound things from the mouths of the young people I have encountered in my time of ministry, but occasionally those words said are too beautiful and moving not too share with.


This week at Castlerigg we have had the wonderful privilege of working with St Ambrose School from Coatbridge (near Glasgow), and it was during our final few hours together, and during the celebration of the Mass, that one young man called Joseph shared his thoughts on the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-23).

He and his small group stood up to share the art work they had done to represent the Gospel for that day. He had in his hands a small exercise book in which he had written some notes on how he interpreted the scripture, and it’s this I’d like to share with you.

‘The parable is not about seeds, it is about faith and the word of God. A more understandable way to put it would be the way people receive the word of God is like walking. Some people try to walk but give up immediately, some people want to walk but they soon get tired and they give up. Others pick up the pace but fall back suddenly and completely stop…. But some walk until the very end, never faltering, never wavering, and they complete the walk until the end’.

Joseph, age 13 – St Ambrose, Coatbridge.

 His understanding of what our lives were made for and how our humanness can stop us reaching our fullness in Christ is why I do what I do. It affirms that the time and effort we put in sowing endless seeds pays off, and sometimes we are blessed enough to see some of the fruit in ways like Joseph, who so bravely and unreservedly shared his faith with his peers, teachers and the Castlerigg staff, sowing his own seeds of faith. It has given me great hope for the future of our church. Young people like Joseph will continue to share the gospel, but in the meantime we must continue to be brave and unwavering like Joseph, and proclaim with conviction and no hesitation the ultimate purpose of our lives.




New Year, New Start, New Me

New Year, New Start, New Me


We are half way through the first month of 2018. What was your New year’s resolution?

Many people go through their whole life saying that I didn’t have a good start to my life so that is why I shall remain where I am. The mistake that many people make is that they don’t seem to be aware that the beginning of their life does not determine their end. It does not matter what you didn’t do yesterday, you have the power to change your life in this new year as you begin a new journey of your life. I love this song “My Tomorrow Must Be Greater Than Today” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OD-IpBhGFCs&list=RDOD-IpBhGFCs&t=44)

Some of the team have shared their new year choices; Ella one of the volunteers here at Castlerigg is among the people who started the new year in a new style of being Vegan for January. She started this new year in style with non meat treat. She has even found a nice Vegan café in Keswick. Another team member Matt whom we used to share porridge every morning at our breakfast but, this New Year he decided to start enjoying cornflakes and not drinking coca cola, his favourite drink. Megan and Ella have recently donated blood to make a difference to someone’s life.

It is never too late to start on a new journey and take your life to the heights of greatness; the choice is yours. In John 10:10, Jesus tells us he came so that we can “live life to the full”. Believe in yourself and take action today, so that you can achieve your goals that you have set out for yourself. Let us open our hearts to God and ask him to continue to walk with us. It does not matter about the life you have lived so far; you have everything within you to live life to your highest dream. Let’s look forward and give our past to God. In scripture it says “No need to recall the past, no need to think about what was done before. See, I am doing a new deed” Isaiah 43: 18-19.

There is this belief that successful people have something special about them, and that is why they succeed, but that is not the case, successful people set goals, they make plans, they invest in themselves, they put self-education over entertainment and they take daily consistent action. Let us receive our blessings from God this New Year and be thankful for them. We thank God for the blessing of our self. Let’s start each new day with an open heart to enable us to be successful in doing good each day. You are more than you appear to be, you can grow the beginning stages of awakening require that you have faith in the journey and yourself, set big goals, you will grow into them, start now.

Cleophas - Castlerigg Manor

Christmas Message - Matty


How do I feel about being at Castlerigg this year? It is interesting! It’s good to be able to work with both children and young people around Christmas time, because it adds a good sense of both joy and excitement to Christmas that you yourself may actually forget or put aside a little bit of as you grow older.

It’s good to be able to celebrate the build up to Christmas in a range of different settings and centres. I’ve celebrated the build up to Christmas in schools, working with children helping them to prepare for their Christmas plays and parties, and making things for advent, and I’ve celebrated the build up to Christmas in another retreat centre, where there were some Christmassy/advent resources and activities added into the program.

This year at Castlerigg, I’m looking forward to celebrating the build up to Christmas and working the advent retreat along with other members of the team as well as working one of the advent days in a school in Barrow along with the rest of the community.

I’m really looking forward to the next week and a half both living and working at Castlerigg in the build up to Christmas.

Merry Christmas 


10 Years on the Big Walk

10 Years on the Big Walk

I have been on this annual pilgrimage every September since 2008. This year marks my tenth Big Walk and I have had some time to reflect on what that means to me.

The Big Walk has given me the opportunity to make many friends and every year meet the new Castlerigg team members and catch up with old acquaintances. We have discussed many things on the Walk; life, faith, studies, jobs, hopes, aspirations and tired legs!

I have been lucky enough to experience the Lake District in all its beauty and in many weathers; this year, our first day was sunshine and blue skies and the day after was horizontal rain and blowing winds! I have come to learn that the weather doesn’t matter. It all adds to the pilgrimage experience.

The Big Walk has helped me gain a deeper understanding of my faith which has grown and strengthened with the support of all the Youth events I have been involved with.

I am incredibly grateful to all the teams (past and present) at Castlerigg for their support, guidance and friendship. If anyone is considering taking part in the Big Walk, I can only say do it, and I’ll see you next year!

10 years of Big Walk t-shirts!

10 years of Big Walk t-shirts!

Big Walk 2017

Big Walk 2017

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Every year, young energetic and well-motivated youth from Castlerigg Manor join other faithful Catholics from across the diocese of Lancaster to walk to St. Mary’s Cleator to celebrate our Lady of Lourdes and to reflect on their personal journey in faith.

The first time I read about the Big Walk on the Castlerigg website, I did not know that it was not only a walk but a great trek to encounter God, discover new things and to explore the beauty of the Lake District.

I was among the lucky group of twenty young people who participated in the Big Walk this year. My friends and I had waited so long for the Big Walk. My friend Matthew, from Newcastle, and I spent part of the night practicing how we will walk while shouting “Yahooooo” , our crazy way of showing togetherness.

We started our two day journey by having food for the soul in our chapel with Mass led by the men of God, Fr. John and Fr. Philip, and we had to prepare with waterproof clothes, walking boots, packed lunch, and everything else we would need.

I thought that we would walk from Castlerigg to Cleator, but no, I was wrong, and we had a short drive from Castlerigg to Honister were we had a cup of coffee. This is where we started to see the beautiful scenery of the mountains and small rivers flowing.

Like any other journey, we started it with big smiles and different ideas about where we were going but a few miles from Honister as we started to climb the mountain, some of us started to slow down in our walking and speed up in our breathing, our water bottles doing their job softening our throats and energising us.

The walk was a moment to reflect on God’s love towards mankind, making new friends, helping each other and crossing different streams of small rivers.

Fr. John, Fr. Philip and Sister Shienrose had to remind us about God who was our shield against bad wind, storm and rain, and on our way we stopped to pray the rosary; it was agreat moment for me to pray the rosary in my Ugandan language (Runyankole) but thank God that as Catholics we have the same rhythm of praying rosary, so everyone was able to follow me in English.

After climbing mountains and hills and crossing many streams, at around 5:30pm we finally reached Ennerdale Valley and Gillerthwaite centre where we were welcomed by kittens and chickens, we had our dinner and a social night. Unfortunately my team performed poorly in the quiz. After the long journey we finally had sleep.

On our second day, very early in the morning at 7:30, every one had to wake up, stretching muscles as we headed to our breakfast.

We started our journey to St. Mary’s at 9:15am and here we had to walk in pairs, sharing our spiritual and social life, talking as the disciples did on the road to Emmaus. I was number three, paired with a very wonderful girl, Paris, who has been offered a law course at Lancaster University and comes from Barrow, indeed we shared ideas both spiritual and social life.

On our way to St. Mary’s it was not an easy journey, as that of Isrealities when they were coming from Egypt. We had to walk 10 miles in the rain but we were prepared enough for any kind of weather.

At the time of lunch, guess what!! All of us had to gather under a storm shelter. All of us, including our friend Bosco (Fr Phillip’s dog) crowded in under a bright orange sheet!

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As we were getting closer to our final destination of Cleator our phones started to have network (on our way we had no network coverage). When I tried to open up on my social media I was soon collapsing because my eyes immediately set on information showing how my team Liverpool was beaten by Man City 5-0 but my friend Matthew had to encourage me to stay focused on the reason of travelling.

Finally we reached our destination at St. Mary’s church and we were welcomed as heroes by the beautiful people of Cleator. We changed our clothes to a very smart orange T-shirt to identify us pilgrims. The walk into the church was just amazing. Going through the whole building with the cross, people cheering and clapping, it was a good moment for the people who have walked for the long journey. Mass was celebrated by Bishop Michael, and seen by us from the altar server’s perspective behind the sanctuary. And we joined in prayer with many others from around the whole Diocese of Lancaster. It was my great life experience.

How I wish that next year’s big walk I will be part of it but unfortunately I will be in Uganda praying for you.

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Cleophas - Castlerigg Manor

New Start

New Start

After a busy summer here in the Youth Service we have said our goodbyes to the team of 2016/17 and wish them well in their next ventures.

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As well as going on pilgrimage as a Diocesan family to Lourdes where we prayed for you all we also had groups in using the house here at Castlerigg.

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Many of us have new starts be it new jobs, school, college, university. For us our new team 2017/18 have moved in and already started preparing for meeting our young people around the Diocese in the coming weeks and months on retreat. Have you thought about our advent retreat or young adult weekend

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Sometimes it may feel daunting to start something new. Even each new day can be a challenge,  getting out of bed due to worry or being over tired. We are blessed to have scripture. We can get to know Jesus through his word.

“Come to me all who are weary and overburdened, I will give you rest”
Matthew 11:28

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With new challenges ahead we must remember to turn to Jesus with our burdens, with the things that weigh us down. Jesus invites us to turn to him in all aspects of life, maybe sharing our happy times, when we are tired and when the road is tough.  Jesus cares for us and wants to walk with us in all areas of our lives not just the happy or sad bit but, in everything.
Do your best and God will do the rest.

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 We hope to see you soon, if you want any more information on any of our events please email us team@castleriggmanor.co.uk

Big Church Day Out

Big Church Day Out

The Big Church Day Out is a Christian Music which has been held at Wiston House in West Sussex since 2009. This was the first year that the Non-profit organisation had ventured up North, hosting a second festival in Cheshire at Capesthorne Hall at the start of June. This is where myself and 10,000 other Christians, including Dioceses, parishes, youth groups, families and friendship groups gathered together for the weekend.  It was great to just have a journey of a couple of hours, instead of the 8/9 hours we had been travelling for the past few years to West Sussex.

We travelled as a small group from Lancaster Diocese setting up camp in a sun covered field on Thursday afternoon. Before long there were tents as far as the eye could see and a real buzz around the place. As Friday came and more people arrived the buzz continued to grow, as did our group. We moved over to the arena for the first time where we found the 3 stages of music as well as the Kingdom Come Tent, set aside especially for worship. Some of the biggest acts in the genre of Christian music played on the main stage throughout the two days including Tim Hughes, Bethel Music, Rend Collective and Reuben Morgan from Hillsong Worship. Alongside this were new acts playing for the first time but all with one aim, to lead all 10,000 people in the praise and worship of God. And that is what sets this festival aside from others. To the untrained eye this festival could have been Leeds/Reading, T in the Park or V Fest. But to those in attendance it was a community of Christians, coming together to praise God and give witness to the Gospel, all led by artists who have dedicated their lives to spreading the Good News.

A personal highlight for me was being in our camping area, 13 of us in 6 tents, ready to celebrate Mass for Pentecost. After bumping into a few friends the night before and letting them know where we were camping, before we knew it we had gone from a small congregation of 13 to a much larger group, all together ready to celebrate the birthday of the Church on our final morning of camping at the Big Church Day Out! It was a blessed way to end our weekend in Cheshire. The Church is alive!

Next year’s dates are 26/27 May in the South and 1-2 June 2018 in the North. Think about joining us!

Richard Teasdale, Workington

I Do Believe in Saints!

I Do Believe in Saints!

“I don't believe in saints,
They never make mistakes”

I was listening to the radio recently, and my ears picked up this opening line from the song ‘Dirty Laundry’ by the American rock band All Time Low. Immediately I thought…do these guys even know the saints? My mind was drawn to some of the amazing stories of the saints…Saint Augustine, who at times was living a lifestyle which could not have been further from God; Saint Paul who persecuted early Christians before his own conversion to Christianity; or Saint Teresa of Calcutta who admitted that she felt a deep and painful separation from God, yet still chose to serve Him every day.

In the Catholic faith, we consider anyone who goes to heaven as a saint. There are however official saints who are canonized (declared officially by the Roman Catholic Church), who have lived lives especially worthy of recognition. Saints are often thought of as people who are perfect or sinless, who have lived lives without any stain or sin. However, that could not be any further from the truth. Saints are just normal people like you and me – each of them suffered with the effects of original sin. Each of them needed God’s mercy, and each needed God’s help. But what does separate the saints is their enduring quest to know God, to serve Him and His people. They never gave up when things did not go quite right, and never stopped trying to do better. Their mistakes (and yes they did make them!) do not define them.

When I looked a little further, I managed to find out a little about some of the meanings behind the song ‘Dirty Laundry’. Alex Gaskarth, the lead singer of All Time Low said the song is about coming to terms with your past and realizing that everybody around you has a past too. Alex made the point that often the people around us do things they regret and that is part of accepting people exactly as they are.

“Saints are only sinners who keep trying” St Teresa of Calcutta

And Alex is right…all of us do have a past, all of us have things that we might be ashamed that we have done, all of us have probably done things that have hurt others around us, or hurt ourselves. But with that past and our mistakes, there is a choice…to do as the Saints did. To know that our mistakes are not the end, and to keep on trying to live as God is calling each of us to.

Another popular misconception about saints, is that they are people of the past. That the canonization of saints is an outdated tradition from many years ago. But in reality the call to holiness is still just as valid as it was 2000 years ago.

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48

Since 2013, Pope Francis has canonized 850 saints – each of them recognized for bringing Christ to this world in a different way. Often people may ask what is the point of canonized saints, or what can we learn from them. And the answer will be very different from each person, and on each saint. We never know how our life, our story, will affect the people around us – but ultimately we must believe that God is using our life for a purpose. And hopefully through us, others may come to know Him too.

This poem below is often attributed to Saint John Paul II, but really we do not know the true author. The sentiment however is the perfect message for us as young people living in the 21st century.


We need saints without veil or cassock.

We need saints who wear jeans and trainers.

We need saints who go to the movies, listen to music and hang out with friends.

We need saints who put God in first place, but who let go of their own power.

We need saints who have time every day to pray and who know how to date in purity and chastity, or who consecrate their chastity.

We need modern saints, Saints of the 21st century with a spirituality that is part of our time.

We need saints committed to the poor and the necessary social changes.

We need saints who live in the world and who are sanctified in the world, who are not afraid to live in the world.

We need saints who drink Coke and eat McDonalds, who wear jeans, who are Internet-savvy, who listen to Spotify.

We need saints who passionately love the Eucharist and who are not ashamed to drink a soda or eat pizza on weekends with friends.

We need saints who like movies, the theatre, music, dance, sports.

We need saints who are social, open, normal, friendly, happy and who are good companions.

We need saints who are in the world and know how to taste the pure and nice things of the world but who aren’t of the world.

We need saints.

I do believe in Saints. They did make mistakes. But they were not afraid to learn from these mistakes. To be the people that God created them to be. And I leave this quote from St Catherine of Sienna as an encouragement to each of you reading this – we need saints!

“Be who you were created to be, and you will set the whole world on fire” St Catherine of Sienna

Bridget Huddleston

Keswick Half Marathon

Keswick Half Marathon

Earlier this year Fr John decided to take up a new challenge. He occasionally goes out for an afternoon run in the hills surrounding Castlerigg Manor, but this year he entered the Keswick Half Marathon, which, because of the hills on the route, advertises itself as “possibly the hardest 13 miles 192.5 yards you’ll ever do.” So on Sunday 30th April, he along with many others set out to complete this huge challenge!

He was supported by his family and the Castlerigg Team, who kept track of him online, and by parishioners from Keswick who were watching around the course. “It was a great experience,” he says, “running with nine-hundred others; the atmosphere was very supportive, and it was great to be cheered on along the course, especially on the hills. It was a challenge, but worthwhile.”

Fr John has raised over £500 in sponsorship for Castlerigg Manor. We are grateful to his family and friends, parishioners in Keswick and the local Catenians for their generosity. There is still a chance to donate to sponsor Fr John, just head to our website www.castleriggmanor.co.uk/donate.

Donations are an important part of our income at the Youth Service and the donations we receive help us to make Castlerigg Manor a welcoming place where young people encounter Christ and grow in faith. We are very grateful for every donation and keep our benefactors in our prayers. Please consider making a donation or including us in your will if you are able to, to ensure we can continue to offer this opportunity to young people.

Next year the Keswick half marathon will take place on the 6th May – are you up to the challenge?

Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment

Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment

Pope Francis has called for the Synod of Bishops, meeting in October 2018, to consider the lives of young people, their faith, and how the Church can support them.

The Synod of Bishops is a gathering of bishops from around the world who meet every few years to reflect on current issues and to advise the pope. Most recently, they met in 2015 to consider the Vocation and the Mission of the Family. Bishops are elected to attend by their national conferences or appointed by the Pope because of their particular expertise, and they are joined by other observers and experts invited to attend from around the world. In 2015, over 250 bishops from around the world were joined by more than 50 other experts.

Consultation has now begun for the meeting in 2018 and in January a preparatory document was published, setting out the key themes the bishops will consider and the questions they will address. Three key headings are:

1.       What are the features of the world in which young people live?

2.       How young people make decisions about their lives?

3.       How can the Church help them?

For the purposes of the Synod, those aged 16 to 29 are considered young.

Of course, young people’s experiences of the world will be very different, depending on where in the world they are, their society, economic status, gender, faith, and many other factors, but some common themes are proposed in the preparatory document. The pace of change in life is high and the world in which young people find themselves is very different to that of their parents and grandparents. Increasing uncertainty leads to greater vulnerability. And globalisation means that young people around the world share much more than previous generations, but this is often in tension with their own local culture and the expectations of their society.

The theme given to the Synod includes Vocational Discernment. This does not refer just to vocations to priesthood or religious life, but more broadly considers the way in which young people make decisions about (i.e. discern) how they live their lives. Young people find it increasingly hard to make choices that cannot be changed, and the synod will look at what support the church gives to young people.

Accompanying young people on this journey can take many forms, but it will include going to meet them where they are, understanding them and calling them to Christ. This will require that we are open to new ways and creative ways of doing things. It will also rely on credible witnesses, adults who live their faith in a way that draws young people in, and the focus naturally falls on parents, families, clergy and teachers, but this is a responsibility for the whole church.

Creating spaces where this can happen is also to be considered. Events such as World Youth Day or pilgrimages can be significant moments when a young person may encounter Christ in a deeper way. But there can be many opportunities closer to home in parish communities, schools, universities, societies and volunteering opportunities. Meeting young people might also mean engaging with them in the environments where they feel comfortable, using their language and forms of expression.

To help with preparations for the meeting of the Synod a number of consultations are underway. The Bishops of England and Wales are running an online survey to help them answer questions about what it is like to be a young person in our country today. This can be found at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/parish-youth-poll. The poll closes on the 5th of June and all young people are encouraged to complete this survey from all backgrounds to ensure a complete picture of the life of young people. A similar survey will be launched soon by the Vatican to gather opinions from around the world.

If you feel called to do so, then please fill out the survey, to ensure the opinions of young people in the Lancaster Diocese are represented. Thank you!

#Flame 2017

#Flame 2017

.On March 11th 2017, many young people and adult leaders from Lancaster Diocese made their way down to the SSE arena – Wembley. Their reason?...to join with over 8,000 other young people from across the UK, for the largest gathering of young Catholic’s in England, at the CYMFed Flame youth congress!

Two groups within that large group were a group of students and staff from Our Lady’s Catholic College in Lancaster, and some of the team from Castlerigg Manor in Keswick.

Lucy Richards, who is in the sixth form at Our Lady’s, tells us a bit about the day she and her fellow students had. “The day started extremely early (4:30am in fact!) as the very generous Mr Seddon drove the group to Salford in our school minibus, and from there we made our way with a large group to Wembley Arena.

We arrived in London at 10:30am and the event began with song, drama, prayer and an opening address from Mike Pilavachi who inspired everyone gathered to really know our own worth. He used a memorable anecdote about the price of a bride in certain cultures; that even the most wonderful bride ever would cost 5 cows. And how that we, as children of God, have received a much greater price paid for us, in Jesus’ sacrifice.

The theme of Flame this year was 10,000 reasons to be thankful, inspired by a song from Matt Redman who sang live throughout the day. Many of his songs were very inspiring and were about becoming closer to God.

The event had a strong emphasis on social justice, with Cafod volunteers Ryan and Leah sharing about their time visiting refugees in Lebanon, and Fr Augusto Zampini Davies encouraging us to make a difference. Rise Theatre Group presented a wonderful drama focusing on the Refugee crisis and encouraged us all throughout the day to go to the front of the arena to have a close look at the refugee boat which had sailed from Lampedusa to London. This was a powerful imagery and really brought home the reality of our brothers and sisters across the world.

We were lucky to sit in the sun over lunch and meet up with Cardinal Vincent Nichols. There was also a powerful address from Cardinal Charles Bo, From Myanmar, encouraging us with his words “Hope has no expiry date”, and to place our hopes in God’s hands.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols closed the afternoon by leading over 8000 people in prayer and a time of Adoration. It was a really powerful experience to bring an arena full of people to total silence, before the presence of God.

It's fair to say all of the staff and pupils thoroughly enjoyed their experience at Flame. One student said, "It was a great atmosphere. It made me feel closer to God and has inspired me to help others". Another said, "It was a fun experience and brought young people together. Towards the end, nearly 8000 people put their phone lights into the air as a sign of hope- that was a memorable experience".

In light of attending Flame 2017, we would like to bring back a range of things from the experience to our school, parishes and communities. This includes "Different ways of praying and more acting and singing in liturgies" and to "bring young people together more". We would also like to look into ways that we can help and support the charities that we heard about during the event. We would like to thank our local parishes for their kind donation of travel expenses, we are most grateful and you are definitely on our list of 10,000 reasons to be thankful to God.”

Sarah from the Castlerigg Manor team was also present at Flame, and tells us a little bit about what the Castlerigg team experienced that day. “Six Castlerigg Team members were privileged enough to be able to experience Flame 2017 in the SSE arena.  The team drove down the night before and were welcomed at the Briars Retreat Centre in Derbyshire, where we spent the night. Personally, I had really wanted to go to Flame because despite growing up a Catholic, I had never been to a large-scale event aimed at young Catholic’s. Moreover, this event looked amazing and every person who had been previously to Flame 2 sang the event’s praises, whilst telling me I needed to go. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was expecting heading into the event, I knew it would be a loud noisy and busy affair but ideas of what was coming were unknown.

When I reflect on the event, I realise how much it truly gave me without me noticing fully at the time. Flame 2017 provided me with such an immense amount of inspiration from all the people I met and heard from, to change the world around me and to truly put my faith into action. I could see by being gathered together in the arena with so many other young people, and getting #FLAME2017 trending on twitter, the affect that so many aimed towards one goal could have. The whole day gave me such a sense of community with the thousands of other people gathered. I know, and have felt many times, that it can feel like you and a few others are the only young Catholics around. However, the powerful message that Flame gave me was that I am not and have never been on my own in the Church; there are so many young people just like me, wanting to change the world with our faith!

I think that ultimately my favourite part of Flame has to have been Matt Redmond; however, Fr Augusto gave him a close run for his money. As anyone that has been to Castlerigg for a retreat probably knows we have a special love for hand actions in the songs we sing, especially We Are the Free (by Matt Redmond). So understandably me and many of the team that were there too, ecstatically raved along with actions when this song was sung by Matt towards the end of the day!

I wish to pass onto others who were not able to attend the event, the inspiration I received but also in particular the sense of community that I felt that day. Hopefully I can do this in welcoming everyone who comes through the door of the Manor to the Catholic community, because I know how impactful and important this community feeling was, and is to me.”

Lucy – Lancaster & Sarah - Keswick

Castlerigg team go back to school

Castlerigg team go back to school

Last week, the Castlerigg Team were busy working with the Chaplains in some of our diocesan schools. On Monday morning the team gathered at 6:15am to drive to the different schools. Andy and Paul were heading to Preston aiming for Corpus Christi and Our Lady’s, whilst Alice and Alex were bound for St Mary’s Blackpool. Sarah left the evening before, making her journey to Whitehaven to spend time in St Benedict’s. 

Throughout our week we had the opportunity to take part in the many different jobs that a Chaplain would do on a day to day basis, seeing what makes the role so unique. However, our first day was reasonably calm as we settled into our new environment, getting to know the chaplains and teachers of the various schools. Obviously, this new environment was very alien to us all, so our chaplains gave us great tours of the schools. We got to know the different corridors where all the various subjects were taught, leaving us all with throwbacks to high school days.

As the week progressed some of us had the opportunity to sit in some lessons, and have a chance to see what the students were being taught. Watching these lessons as an outsider was very interesting, as we could see how the students discuss the many different subjects that they learn. At St Benedict’s Sarah and Mr Teasdale helped to facilitate a year 7 RE lesson on the story of St Bega and why living a life with and for God is important today and to us personally. Sarah also had the opportunity to participate in a few year 11 classes looking at marriage and the family, by acting out the marriage ceremony in the chapel in order to further understand the symbolism within the ceremony. These proved to be rather engaging with Mr Teasdale’s references to Shrek, with the added bonus of lots of wedding cake! Sarah also managed to briefly meet some of the year 7 pupils who had visited Castlerigg Manor in October and hear their many memories of their retreat and what they had been up to since leaving us. It proved to be such a joy to watch faces light up as the students spoke about what their time at Castlerigg had taught them about life and faith.

Some of the chaplains set us tasks such as planning liturgies for staff and students, usually focussing on the weekly Gospel. Alice and Alex enjoyed Blackpool both in and out of school. They got involved at Christ the King (the local primary school) leading year 2 and 3 in reflection. They managed to see Blackpool tower lit up and visit several big supermarkets (very exciting as Keswick has only little stores)!

This week has been incredible and an amazing experience to work alongside our inspiring chaplains and seeing our young people in a different light. The chaplains and school staff do amazing work and we will continue to pray for them. A big thank you to Our Lady’s Preston, Corpus Christi Preston, St. Benedict’s Whitehaven, and St Mary’s Blackpool for allowing us to come and visit.

Castlerigg team – Sarah, Andy, Paul, Alice & Alex

Returning: Renewed, Refreshed and Real!

Returning: Renewed, Refreshed and Real!

Going to the volunteers’ conference was something I was looking forward to after hearing leadership and our second year volunteers talking about how great their previous experiences were. Coming back from Christmas break was filled with excitement, so much so I’d even packed for conference well in advance – something that normally never happens. We made our way down via various routes with a few mishaps along the way, including a cancelled train and starting off going in the wrong direction on the motorway. But, we all made it there in the end and it was great to all be back together again after our break.

The three days at conference were filled with prayer, conversations with friends new and old, laughter, singing, discussions and of course countless cups of tea, hot chocolate, and coffee from the very exciting hot drinks machine which kept us warm and happy. The conference all kicked off with, of course, introductions, by now I feel like I could introduce every member of our team in my sleep because every retreat and outreach starts off in the same way, and this soon became very useful as I was nominated to do the introduction for all of us from Castlerigg Manor. We also had our introduction to the theme for the whole conference which was authenticity and keeping it real.

After this we were split into small groups, made up of people from various retreat centres from around the country where we had time to get to know each other and share stories of the work we do in our communities and learn from those with different ideas and experiences to enable ourselves to develop as youth ministers, these conversations continued into dinner which flew by as we all quickly made new friends and bonded over all that we had in common.

Our first day concluded with all of us gathered together to celebrate Mass in the chapel, this was a wonderful way to finish our day with all of us united in prayer and it was great as one community to come to be a part of a larger community and share in our Catholic faith.

The next day was packed full with so many opportunities for us to learn more, discuss and think about various aspects of our faith and our future. Starting off with a fascinating and thought provoking talk from Fr. Eamonn Mulcahy who was this year’s keynote speaker, his talk gave all of us there much to think about and reflect upon in order to grow as people and also as youth ministers so we can strive to show all the young people we encounter the real, authentic Christ. The talk was filled with so many important messages and each individual will have left with something different, but at its core it was all about accepting God’s unconditional, unparalleled, and never failing love for you into every part of your life, as this is so important to do before we can share the message of God’s love with young people, and also that our faith should be radical, like Jesus, and like him we should try to step out and share this with others in a bold and ground breaking way. After this we were filled with so many ideas and thoughts, so our conversations about this continued way after the talk had finished.

After this we had a variety of workshops to choose from which would make up our afternoon, I chose workshops on discernment and mindfulness, both were really useful for me and gave me a lot to take away. Looking at different ways to approach discernment was really refreshing and it is something that I know will help me in the future, especially looking at how vocation is where your greatest passions meet the world’s great need and how we can discover what that can be in our own lives. I left filled with ideas and inspired about vocation. Mindfulness was something that I’d heard a lot about, as it seems to have become a trend lately, but I didn’t know a lot about it, so it was that curiosity that drove me to attend this workshop despite not knowing what to expect, by the end I was very happy with this choice, as I left feeling very positive and uplifted, wanting to put some of what we have discussed into my own life.

Next up was our Adoration and reconciliation service. A chance for some calm after a very busy day to take that time to just be present with Jesus, to talk to him, to listen and just be there with Him. We were lead in this service beautifully by the Soli House team, and it really helped us to open our hearts and minds to Jesus before us in the Eucharist, and as always the opportunity for reconciliation is always amazing as it is such a beautiful sacrament and leaves you feeling renewed and forgiven and strengthened in your journey.

From adoration to Ceilidh! This was the time for us all to gather together and just have fun and celebrate all that had happened so far in the conference, most of the team ended up dancing at some point encouraged most enthusiastically by Fr John, who was later dubbed Twinkletoes due to his outstanding Ceilidh skill. The night was filled with dancing, laughter and of course lots of bumps and trips, but it was such a joyful celebration filled with so much life and love.

Suddenly, Thursday morning had arrived and somehow we had reached the last day despite it only feeling like we’d just started, the final morning was filled with reflection on what we’d experienced during conference and what next, in both our lives after this year has finished but also for the rest of this year and each community made a pledge to carry out for the rest of the year, after much discussion as there was so many great ideas over the past few days, the Castlerigg Manor team made the pledge to: ‘be more aware of the love of God for us, so the young people can see the real authentic Christ.’. This led us into the final liturgy lead by the team from Walsingham House, which reflected a lot upon Mary, her yes and the joy that it brought to her life, and in the same way how our yes can bring joy to our lives and to the lives of others. That joy comes from being carriers of God’s light, and we have a mission to keep this light alive. For the light to stay alive we need to share this with young people, to pass the light to the next generation which we can do through our ministry. This wonderful final message brought us, sadly, to the end of the conference, we said our goodbyes and began the journey home but despite the conference being over, the messages we received will continue to impact our lives and help us in our ministry.

All that is left is for us to remember the friends and the memories made, all the ideas brought up by listening to so many new people, and to remember our pledge and to strive every day to show the real authentic Christ to all that we meet.

Alice – Castlerigg team

Celebrating National Youth Sunday

Celebrating National Youth Sunday

Castlerigg team on the road! Celebrating National Youth Sunday

We (Fr John, Paul, Andy, Cheri, Maria and Alice) set off from Castlerigg Manor on a Saturday afternoon, having spent the previous few days preparing by thinking about what we all wanted to share as part of National Youth Sunday (Sunday November 20th). About our faith and personal experiences so far, and about the work we do at Castlerigg, as well as packing our overnight bags (or suitcases in some cases)!

The journey down to Barrow-in-Furness through the Lakes is always such a beautiful one. All the picturesque views of the lakes, hills and mountains definitely make up for the windy roads, which aren’t the best if you get travel sick. What made it even better was the sun setting as we travelled down which made the views even more striking.

We had a quick stop in Ulverston, as the team were splitting up so we could cover all of the Masses. We dropped Cheri and Maria off with Fr Paul at St Mary’s of Furness who immediately made them feel very welcome. The remaining team continued travelling down to Barrow to (another!) St Mary’s Church where we were staying with Fr Manny, we very quickly had the first Mass of the visit which went very well and we met the first group of the many kind and welcoming people we would soon meet throughout the duration of our trip.

After Mass we headed back through to Fr Manny’s house where we were treated to amazing Chinese food, and a piano recital, from Fr Manny and Cameron, who are both very talented, as they prepared for their concert the following night. As well as lots of affection from a very excited Chopin…Fr Manny’s dog.  We had an early night to prepare us for the next day where we split up so we could visit the four churches we had Mass at that day; Paul, Alice and Fr John headed first to St Columba’s on Walney Island and then to Sacred Heart in Barrow, and Andy went first to Holy Family and then back to St Mary’s. We had a very packed morning but it was such a great opportunity to speak to so many different people about the work we do as the Youth Service and answer any questions they had, it was especially nice hearing people’s stories about their trips to Castlerigg some which were 50 years ago. It is such a testament to the work done at Castlerigg that people still remember it so fondly even after so many years.

Meanwhile in Ulverston, Cheri and Maria had their first Mass on Saturday evening, where everyone was so encouraging and nice that it eased their nerves about speaking to such a large crowd in a packed church. In the evening, Fr Paul made them a delicious dinner and chatted about so many things, and the evening was full of Fr Paul’s intriguing stories, which made for a very enjoyable time. Before bed they had a quick stroll into the town centre and really enjoyed the liveliness and character of the town. In the morning they were picked up by Fr Ozzy who took them to nearby Dalton for their next Mass, where again they said it was an honour to speak about Castlerigg. It was quite a rush to get back to Ulverston for the next Mass so they only had a little time to talk to Fr Ozzy but it was so inspiring to hear about his life and how fulfilling he found the Catholic faith.

After the next mass in Ulverston, Cheri and Maria were re-joined by the rest of the team where Fr Paul had prepared an amazing four course meal for us, it definitely defeated all of the team except Fr John!

We then headed back to Castlerigg via the coast road which took us past the sea which got all of us, (except Fr John who was driving) reaching for our phones to try and get the perfect photo for Instagram. We didn’t quite manage to capture the beauty – but we tried. We arrived back to Castlerigg slightly tired but also renewed and fulfilled by meeting so many people who are so supportive and thankful for all the work that is done for the youth in Lancaster Diocese. It’s hard to pick highlights of the trip because there were so many but we have managed to narrow down a few including seeing such active participation from young people in each of the parishes and seeing what amazing guidance is given by previous generations by sharing their gifts and experience. It was great to hear so many stories, particularly those who were remembering what Castlerigg meant to them. For our international team members, they were struck by how so many people wanted to talk about their personal experiences of their home countries and find about what it was like for them growing up, particularly regarding their experiences with faith. I (Alice) was visiting my home parish so it was such a highlight seeing so many familiar faces and getting the chance to explain more about what we all do here at Castlerigg. For all of us, just meeting so many people, who were all so welcoming, open and encouraging – it was such a rewarding trip which we are all grateful for.

We would like to thank everyone who helped organise the trip for us, from everyone who helped us in the different churches and all of the priests we met but especially to Fr Manny and Fr Paul for their exceptional hospitality, and thank you to all who we spoke to at each Mass and for all their encouraging words and their donations. Thank you and God Bless.

Alice & Andy – Castlerigg Manor, Keswick

Surrendering it all to God

Surrendering it all to God

Hi, my name's Sophie and I'm a recent Primary Education graduate from the University of Cumbria (I did 2 years beforehand at Lancaster University). I'm originally from near Manchester, but spent the last 5 years in Lancaster where I was a regular at the university chaplaincy.

However, now I lead a somewhat different life…I'm a Catholic missionary with NET Ministries Ireland. NET is a Catholic youth ministry that encourages young people to love Jesus and embrace the life of the Church. It's a path I never would have thought myself capable of doing back in first year of university, but God is faithful and with Him my life has been so much more fulfilling than I could have ever imagined.

I come from a family who would have called themselves Catholic - I went to Catholic schools, we occasionally went to Mass, I received my Sacraments of Initiation but it wasn't until I was in my final years of secondary school that I truly and personally encountered Jesus for the first time. My time at university was great and I had some wonderful experiences, and it was there that I was able to develop a relationship with Jesus. I also experienced the spiritual highs and lows of being a Catholic at university; having to defend Church teaching at 3am in the flat kitchen, trying to explain a new-found love for Jesus to family or finding faith when life seems to be falling apart. 

However, I made some incredible Christian friends who helped keep me on the right track and held me accountable to going to Mass and keeping prayer as part of my routine.

During my final year at university, I was praying hard about what I was supposed to do after I qualified. I was set to graduate with good grades and references so obviously the presumed route would be to get a job in a school, complete my NQT year and start my teaching career. Yet, for some reason this didn't appeal to me. I knew it was what was expected of me, and would allow me to do all the 'grown-up' things like getting a house, a car and the dreaded 'settling down'. I am passionate about education and one day I hope to have a job in a school, but I knew it just wasn't the right time for me to start yet. I know that when I get busy, and stressed, that I forget to pray; I can turn away from Jesus, and I wanted to have my heart rooted in Christ before beginning my career. I couldn't ignore the niggling feeling that God was calling me to give a period of my life specifically to Him, to bring Jesus to other young people, to give youth the same opportunities to grow that I had received.

So, months later, after graduation, applications, interviews and training, and plenty of prayer, I'm now settled in to my new mission field and I love it! NET has completely exceeded any expectations I may have had beforehand. We have had so many great adventures as a team such as hiking in the mountains, helping lead a Youth 2000 retreat, putting on a praise and worship night and making friends in our community, particularly with the priests and religious. Soon we will be going into schools to give retreats, which includes delivering talks, activities, dramas, music and prayer ministry. Not only are we carrying out ministry but I'm growing in my knowledge of the Catholic faith and Church teaching, and in love for the gift of the Sacraments from the Church. I'm being stretched and challenged in ways I never expected; missionary life is a radical way to live out the call from Pope Francis for youth to be counter-cultural, as a team we strive to call each other on to holiness.

One of the areas I've had to grow in most is surrendering to God - I am learning to give everything to Jesus. A striking moment for me so far was on training during a prayer evening, we were encouraged to write on a piece of paper everything that we wanted to surrender. At first it was difficult to admit to myself how much I love to be in control and how little I allow God to lead my life, so I asked Jesus to show me all of the areas I need to surrender to Him. A few minutes later my paper was full, I had written down my weaknesses, my strengths, my future, my vocation, relationships with my family and friends and my possessions. I then went and nailed this surrender to a cross placed in the middle of the room, my heart beating fast as if Jesus was asking me to give Him my heart too in surrender. I remind myself of this encounter every day, there's nothing in my life that's too big or small for Jesus to handle!

Pope St John Paul II once said to young people "It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is He who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle."

Serving with NET Ministries has shown me the truth of these words, that while I love adventure, only Jesus is going to satisfy the restlessness in my heart. He has called me to this mission and I am so excited to live out the plans that He has in store for me this year, and for the rest of my life!

Sophie, 23, Waterford - Ireland

If you would like to find out more about our ministry or if you would like to join us in our mission to bring the Good News to young people, you can visit my page on the NET website: www.netministries.ie/sophie-benson 


Big Walk 2016

Big Walk 2016

I’ve asked myself this question multiple times during the 371 days in between the Big Walk 2015 and Big Walk 2016. Enough time to remind myself of how heavy the water, snacks, and dry clothes filled backpack felt while walking uphill. Remembering how much of a struggle it was to hike with, what felt like, the worst flu known to human kind… There we were, myself and the rest of the Castlerigg team, patiently waiting at Castlerigg Manor for the other pilgrims to arrive.

A very strange phenomenon, isn’t it? To start a pilgrimage, we first have to gather together in one place, which is kind of a pilgrimage itself. Our group of 27 (including Bosco, Fr Phil’s Border collie) joined together on the Friday evening at Castlerigg Manor. We spent an evening socialising, praying together in the chapel, drinking plenty of hot chocolate and showing off our fancy new walking socks. After that it was straight to bed to get the rest needed before the walk.

The morning started in the best way possible – Mass in the chapel to feed our souls, and a carbs-packed breakfast, to feed our bodies. From there it was only a short bus ride to Honister where we started our hike up Haystacks, after a cup of tea at the café of course. This is also where we split into two smaller groups. Easier to notice if someone goes missing. Also to keep an eye on our energetic four-legged friend Bosco, who seemed to be the happiest whilst running up the hill in between the two groups, making us look even slower than we really were.

The walk was excellent. We were given an opportunity to talk, to spend quality time with each other and pray the most Holy Rosary as we went. Just what we all needed! All of that on our way down into the Ennerdale Valley and Low Gillerthwaite Field Centre, where we had our meal prepared by the good people of Cleator followed by a pub quiz. Some people got quite competitive; others took a chance to be rather creative with their answers. An evening of laughter was finished with calming night prayer and a good night’s sleep.

Morning day two, rather calm and toned down. Us lot of slightly aching pilgrims, slowly waking up, stretching muscles as making our way for breakfast. Some were skipping it to say the last goodbyes to the proudly prowling six days old kittens at home in the centre. And off we went, heading to Ennerdale Water, chatting and praying, getting to know each other as a group or in pairs, as we were doing an Emmaus walk, sharing our faith journey and life experience. Truly amazing how randomly paired up people find their way to God through speaking about Him.

Getting closer to our destination we did not forget about small joys of life – we were picking blackberries, having a laugh, encouraging others to go that extra mile, eating cheeky ice cream. Some were even sharing food with horses! Not the ice cream though.

The road turned from field path to asphalt, the sign to put on our matching polo-shirts, as we were getting closer and closer to Cleator. The walk into the church was just amazing – going through the whole building with the cross, people cheering and clapping, Mass celebrated by Bishop Michael seen by us from the altar server’s perspective, joined in prayer with many others from around the whole Diocese of Lancaster – a once in a lifetime experience!

Why do we take up the journey then you might ask? Why coming from all over Europe and the UK just for those couple of days?  To prove ourselves wrong along the way (a two-day hike with no previous training, easy-peasy.) To eliminate all the distractions and take a deep breath before the start of a new school year – going back to work or starting uni. To make an effort and meet God once again, surrounded by his beautiful creation. And so we will meet next year, ready to share this time with each other again.

Alex, 20, Keswick

More blessings, graces & mercy, once again received in Lourdes

More blessings, graces & mercy, once again received in Lourdes

No matter how much training we do before Lourdes, no matter how many checklists you tick off, no matter how many times you check your passport and prayer journal is in your bag. I never think we are prepared for what Our blessed Lord has in store for us during our week together.  

Life is so busy and it can be easy to go with the flow. But, what flow?
Pope Francis encouraged us to go on Pilgrimage in this year of Mercy which has really opened many hearts and pulled so many people back to him so we can see the face of our Father who welcomes each of us with open arms freeing us from our burdens.

Jesus is the ultimate face of mercy it has reminded me that the flow we need to be in is the flow of Christ. To be also merciful like him. To accept and be respectful of those around us in every challenge each person faces. Every person is facing personal struggles and we can be that face of Christ to others, we can be the hands of Christ. St Teresa of Avila says that “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks with compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.” It is so beautiful and what an honour that God calls each of us to be like him to serve others.

Our lady again and again guides us to her son so we can reflect his light to others. We can do this in every moment and every conversation and have done this  during our time in Lourdes. I am so proud to be part of the youth service and I have learnt so much from so many people from the different teams the medical, the Brancs, the van men. From our wonderful pilgrims and assisted pilgrims, you bring so much joy spending time with you talking about life and sharing experiences. We are so blessed to have our priests who walk with us spiritually on our journey. Thank you all and a special thank you to the team of young people even though the number was small this year they did amazingly. Thank you to Fr John Millar who led the youth this year, teaching us about St Bernadette and how our Lord is so loving to all. Thank you to Daniel our seminarian, Kate and Charlotte our volunteer leaders who helped and supported every minute of the day (and night).

I thank the Lord for you all and thank him for all he does for our Diocesan family every day, in the joys and hard times.
For me this year in the Gospels Matthew 11:28 has reminded me to hand everything over so our Lord can help me (and you) with our pains, our hurt and he is with us every step of the way. Our blessed Lord will give us peace and happiness and we will find rest in him.

 You are all in our prayers.


Castlerigg Manor

The most incredible experience

The most incredible experience

Walsingham Youth 2000

After hearing so many rave reviews about Youth 2000 over the past couple of years on my pilgrimages to Lourdes, my interest had been sparked but I had never actually had the opportunity to attend any of their main retreats due to various reasons. However, after World Youth Day this summer, Youth 2000 was mentioned so frequently that I felt I was really missing out on something and so decided to join the diocesan group and see what it was all about. And I was not disappointed!

The retreat lasts over the long August bank holiday weekend and takes place at Walsingham - Our Lady's home in England. While Youth 2000 run many retreats throughout the country during the year, this is the main event and so there were people there from all ends of the UK – from Glasgow to London and everywhere in between!!

I'll admit - I was pretty nervous about going at first because I wasn't sure how I felt about camping for three nights and secondly, I had absolutely no idea what to expect!! However, as soon as I got on the minibus with the lovely Lancaster group (most of whom I've known for several years now) I just became so excited to get to Walsingham!

I had the most incredible weekend with the loveliest people - not only from the diocesan group but also all the new people I met from across the UK. I thought I'd share some of my highlights of the retreat:

Constant Adoration

One of the things which makes Youth 2000 retreats unique is that there is constant Adoration, except from when Mass is occurring. I absolutely loved this because you could just pop into the main tent whenever you wanted a chat with God - whether it was first thing in the morning or even in the middle of the night. I found this a great way to deepen my relationship with God and having Him there in the Blessed Sacrament really helped my prayer to be much more focused during this time.

The Healing Service

When I first heard that there would be a healing service, I was intrigued but had no idea what this would consist of! However, this night was the turning point in the retreat and made me feel closer to God than I ever had before. The whole evening is really based upon the Gospel passage (Mark 25) where the woman suffering from a haemorrhage believes that if she could just touch the cloak of Jesus, she would be healed. There is a lot of praise and worship as the Deacon brings Jesus in the monstrance to each individual and as the Blessed Sacrament is in front of you, you are able to touch the cloak around the Deacon and believe that God would heal, as the woman in Mark’s Gospel did. I found this the most incredibly moving spiritual experience and it was truly amazing to be so close to God. After that evening, I felt like my faith had been renewed and I felt filled with the Holy Spirit.

The Music

Again, I'd heard nothing but amazing things about the music at Youth 2000 events and I was still blown away. From the lively worship songs during Mass to the peaceful and seemingly spontaneous acoustic songs after the healing service, the music ministry team did the most amazing job of transforming the atmosphere, and bringing us all closer to God through their music. Since I've been back I've been trying to find all the music they played on Spotify but the original tracks don't compare to their versions - I can't even describe how amazing they were!!

Friends New and Old

As with all the retreats and pilgrimages I've been on, the atmosphere at these events makes it so easy to build on existing friendships and to make new ones as well. I met so many lovely people during the weekend and I really enjoyed being able to chat with people without having any distractions (in particular, without my mobile phone - we had no phone signal from Thursday afternoon until Sunday evening which was really refreshing and something I actually enjoyed). One of the best things about the group I was with is that it was made up of people who I have known for several years from other Diocesan events. However, I had never really had the opportunity to properly get to know them before. So being out of our comfort zones together was a really great bonding experience and I enjoyed getting to know everyone better, along with making many new friends.

So overall, it was the most incredible experience and I can't recommend it enough! The retreat has really inspired me to get more involved with Youth 2000 and attend some of the other retreats they put on during the year - as well as next year's retreat in Walsingham I hope!!

Anna Jordan - 18, Preston

World Youth Day 2016

World Youth Day 2016

It’s hard to believe that World Youth Day has come and gone already. I had such an amazing experience in Krakow with the Lancaster Diocese. Our pilgrimage began as you would expect; the coach was running late arriving at the Phantom Winger Pub on the 24th of July as the rain began to pour and as a car show was taking place in the car park. Of all the days to have a car show, they choose the day of the WYD Pilgrimage departure!

After waiting for the group to arrive from Castlerigg with Fr John Moriarty, who was our spiritual leader for the trip, the 48 pilgrims of the Lancaster Diocese united in Preston and set off for the long, long, long journey to Krakow in Poland. We had had a few meetings prior to the trip so we knew each other rather well before the journey began. The 37 hours spent on the coach from the UK to Poland allowed us to get to know each other a little better! It was not the swiftest journey, but at least it gave us the opportunity to say many a cheeky decade of the Rosary as we travelled.

After a ferry crossing from Dover to Calais and a journey across Europe, we arrived in Poland on the evening of the 25th of July and attended a Mass in the bursa where we were staying, located right across the street from Błonia Park. This was the main venue for the masses and the services that would take place during the week. After a late tea and a chat with our smaller groups, we settled down for our first night in Poland and our first sleep in a bed since travelling across the continent two days earlier.

Our first full day in Poland was spent exploring the city of Krakow. We went off in our small groups and during the day, we walked through the city streets which were already packed with pilgrims from all corners of the globe. It was incredible to see the impact of World Youth Day and the importance of faith this early on in the week. On the evening of the 26th, we attended the first big event for World Youth Day. The Opening Ceremony and the Holy Mass took place in Błonia Park in the pouring rain and the Lancaster Diocese arrived in style, wearing the bright red ponchos provided by the World Youth Day organisers. Only the Lancaster Diocese could make these look good!

The Mass itself was a wonderful way to begin World Youth Day officially. It gave us the opportunity to speak to other pilgrims from different countries, swapping stories and trinkets whenever possible. There was a poignant moment for me when the Mass came to an end and the clouds parted, revealing the most amazing sunset. I think that certainly set the mood for the rest of the pilgrimage; it was as though God himself knew that he wanted us to enjoy the prayerful times in Poland.

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After the Opening Ceremony, the Lancaster Diocese had a venture into the city for the evening. We dispersed with our newly-formed friendship groups and went out to soak up the ambience of Krakow by night with pilgrims from all over the world. There was singing, cheering and good vibes all around. The Pilgrimage of Mercy took place the next day. We took a tram and joined the many hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to travel to the Divine Mercy Sanctuary. There, we processed through the John Paul II Centre, and saw the vestments worn by Pope John Paul II when an attempt was made on his life in 1981.

In the evening, we travelled to Tauron Stadium for a Youth Festival Concert. Unfortunately, the arena was full to capacity so we were unable to actually enter the building. There was a live-feed of the musicians who performed inside, so we could listen to the music as we mingled with the pilgrims. I managed to get a sneaky selfie with the Pontiff (cardboard cut-out, of course!)

For the next two days, we attended Catechesis and had a lot of time to meet with pilgrims to discuss the importance of faith among the young people. We had talks from a bishop from Australia and a Cardinal from Tonga and had the opportunity to go to confession and attend Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The Welcome Mass took place on the evening of the 28th in Błonia Park. The Pope arrived after travelling on his own personal Polish tram (the Tram del Papa) and greeted the enthusiastic pilgrims who chanted “Papa Francesco!” or, if you were part of the Lancaster Diocese, “We love you, Francis! We do!” After a morning of Catechesis on the 29th, we attended the Way of the Cross. The stations were acted out, which gave a great sense of emotional realism with incredible live music throughout.

Saturday was the biggest day for the World Youth Day pilgrims. It saw 1.8 million young people make their way to Campus Misericordiae for the Vigil Mass. Where else could you be in the company of this many young people and not have any trouble whatsoever? The atmosphere was electric; to be able to share this experience so many likeminded people was something I will never forget. We fell asleep to the sound of praise and worship being performed on the distant stage and the sight of several shooting stars wheeling overhead. It was an uncomfortable night’s sleep, I must confess, but on the Sunday morning, everyone was in high spirits. This was partly due to the fact that the group was pleased that they had accomplished the feat of camping outdoors with 1.8 million poeple, but mainly due to the praise and worship group singing a favourite song of the Lancaster Diocese from the film Sister Act! The journey back from the Sunday Mass after the announcement for WYD 2019 in Panama was memorable indeed. We were caught in not one, not two, but three thunderstorms!

After 12 miles of walking ankle deep through waterlogged roads and enduring high winds, thunder and lightning, we were blessed with warm food, hot showers and comfortable duvets and mattresses back at the bursa. Everybody slept very well that evening and enjoyed the 8:30am lie-in the next day! The last few days spent in Krakow were used as time to explore the city once again. On Monday 1 st August we visited Wawel Castle, had a very good lunch in a local restaurant and went out for an evening drink in our groups, discussing what we had spiritually gained during the week. This was after visiting the relics of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati and the relics of St Therese of Lisieux. On the Tuesday, we had the opportunity to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau. It was a sombre experience, and many people said that they were glad they had the chance to go despite initial reservations about visiting. I found the whole experience deeply moving. As we walked around the camps, a group of Jewish visitors began to sing a solemn hymn in Hebrew and said a prayer for the Jews who were murdered at Auschwitz. In response, we made our own tribute later in the form of silent prayer and spent some time that night in the bursa reflecting on the events of the day.

Our journey home commenced on the Wednesday. We said goodbye to the staff, thanking them for their hospitality and kindness during our stay, and made the 37-hour coach trip back to Lancashire. Obviously, we managed to do a few more cheeky decades on the way! World Youth Day in Krakow was an experience I will never forget. I have returned spiritually strengthened, and I have made a lot of new friends that I feel blessed to know. A few of us are planning to meet up regularly and I can’t wait to see my friends again. The overall theme of World Youth Day 2016 was “Blessed are the merciful” (this was the main chorus of the official song which was heard at every possible location).

Pope Francis’ message to the young people was as follows: 

We have come here from different parts of the world, from different continents, countries, languages, cultures and peoples. Some of us are sons and daughters of nations that may be at odds and engaged in various conflicts or even open war. Others of us come from countries that may be at “peace”, free of war and conflict, where most of the terrible things occurring in our world are simply a story on the evening news. Some situations seem distant until in some way we touch them. We don’t appreciate certain things because we only see them on the screen of a cell phone or a computer. But when we come into contact with life, with people’s lives, not just images on a screen, something powerful happens... The times we live in do not call for young “couch potatoes”, but for young people with shoes, or better, boots laced… Today Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life, is calling you, you, and you to leave your mark on history. He, who is life, is asking each of you to leave a mark that brings life to your own history and that of many others. He, who is truth, is asking you to abandon the paths of rejection, division and emptiness. Are you up to this? Are you up to this? What answer will you give, and I’d like to see it, with your hands and with your feet, to the Lord, who is the way, the truth and the life? Are you up to this?

Thank you to the Lancaster Diocese for making this World Youth Day an amazing one. I’m already saving up for WYD 2019; Panama, here I come!

Lizzie, 24, Blackpool