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