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 That the canonization of saints is an outdated tradition from many years ago.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

Castlerigg Team Go Back to School

Alice and Alex - school chaplaincy.jpg

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!


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

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

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

I’ve have 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

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

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

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.

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

So they are no longer two, but one flesh

Finding the true meaning of love and marriage.

After months of preparation; marriage prep, church prep, face prep, outfit prep, food prep, drink prep, weather prep, you name it, we prepped it, our wedding day finally arrived. Despite there being a 100% chance of thunderstorms forecast, the sun broke through as I was leaving for church and it stayed clear all day, my dress was even sparklier than I remembered, my husband looked perfect, and my home parish church of The Willows, Kirkham was so full of our loved ones that it was standing room only.

We made an entire weekend of it, starting off with an hour of Adoration on Friday night and ending with pizza in the skeleton of our wedding marquee on Sunday evening. Every single moment was perfect.... and then we had to leave, drive back across the M62 to get back to work on Monday morning in Lincoln. Was that really it? Our wedding, done?! How do we get over something so perfect?! The world and his wife descended on The Willows the weekend of the 21st May 2016 because something incredible was happening. Everything we did, from my dad scouring olive wholesaler’s websites for the past 10 months (amongst other things) to my brother spending days driving all over Lancashire to collect glasses, to my mum tearing her hair out at 11am on the day over a wonky cake was because something SO incredible was happening that only the best was good enough.

Our wedding homilist, Fr. Philip Conner, reminded us that despite living in a time where there is confusion over the meaning of love and marriage, we have the manual and we can go right back to the start; Genesis. It states very clearly in the Catechism; Holy Scripture affirms that man and woman were created for one another: "It is not good that the man should be alone." The woman, "flesh of his flesh," his equal, his nearest in all things, is given to him by God as a "helpmate"; she thus represents God from whom comes our help. "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh." The Lord himself shows that this signifies an unbreakable union of their two lives by recalling what the plan of the Creator had been "in the beginning": "So they are no longer two, but one flesh."

We aren’t supposed to 'get over' our wedding like it's some kind of every day thing that happens and then ends. Our day was the product of months and months of hard work by my parents, siblings, in laws, Maid of Honour, Fred and myself because we knew it wasn't simply 'a day'. The beauty and the magic of the dress, the suits, the tiara, the shoes, the flowers, the marquee, the grounds, the church, the Mass, the readings is all to highlight the beauty and the magic of what Freddie and I were undertaking in vowing to be with each other, through the grace and strength of God, for the rest of our lives in order to fulfil the divine plan of creation!! We became an “unbreakable union”, the two of us with God. Our wedding day was the perfect start to our marriage. Not something we’re supposed to move on from, but the starting point from which we build our life together; this unbreakable team of Fred, Sarah, and God.

Sarah, 22, Lincolnshire (Hometown – Kirkham)

My Castlerigg Experience - Sarita, Tenerife

I had been baptised but not a practising Catholic.

I come here first because I wanted to realise another experience abroad before I find a good job in Tenerife.  I had been first in France and after in Belgium doing Erasmus.  I really enjoyed and I wanted to do again something abroad.

I was scared about it, because it was a Catholic centre and I didn’t use to practise. I’m a person that really likes go to the party, drink, have fun with friends and more worried about when is the next party or to have fun than spent time praying. I still like a lot to dance.

I thought that this experience could change my mind and give me something really different to my life. I saw this experience opposite that I used to do In Tenerife where I come from.

And this experience did it, this experience has changed my life. First for the fear of the dead that we can have, the time pass so quickly and we wondering about our existence and that experience in faith have give me a hope for now and for the future. To appreciate the gift of each day of my life and to be confident now and after death when we will meet God as well.

My first days and even last ones in Castlerigg were difficult, each day we have had challenges to do with young people and so many activities to manage. First really hard because my tiny knowledge about the English and more even about the Bible.

When sisters ask me about my faith I could feel pressure about that because I know  that they were reallyCatholic and I wasn’t, I didn’t know anything about the Bible. (Or maybe I did without know about it)

I didn’t want that they didn’t love me because I wasn’t believing in God.  All the morning we went to the mass, I didn’t know how to pray in English, I didn’t know what supposed to be done.  In the work I couldn’t speak with the people, with my colleagues.  I have learn to be strong and to appreciate my brothers and our differences. And I remember beautiful moments when I was crying in my first confession or watching people praying and crying...and the community it was there to help me always.

In moments really hard when I have felt very sad another volunteer give me a piece of paper saying: keep going, be strong, God is with you wherever you go.  I too much appreciate this message and thats help me to keep going.

I was really glad and happy when volunteers show me love and at the same time I was doing questions about God, I wanted to know how these people believe in him, I wanted to understand the Church, their believes. It was really hard to understand the Bible in English so when I had the opportunity to go to Tenerife I had bring with me the new testament in Spanish.  I have to speak about my faith to my family and my difficulties but I came back plenty of energy.  I was trying to understand more about God because I had to speak about him.  How I’m going to speak about faith if I don’t have?  I started to approach to sisters doing morning reflection and nights prayers together for the young people. They command me to pray at the same time at it was more easy like that. Practising in prayer, reading the Bible is get advice to the Lord when you are in need.

I have decided to be confirmed because when I saw how it was the life of Jesus what was his philosophy I have think that his way it was right, welcome people, love your neighbour, humble, forgiveness, help...and much more important values.

But I have struggled with my faith a lot of times, to think more about the commandments.  I was scared being confirmed because I respect the religion and I wasn’t sure about go to the Church all the Sundays.

So people tell me please don’t force yourself if you are not ready to be confirm don’t do it and that make me so happy so happy because I have felt the freedom about if you are not ready to take the step you don’t do it we still loving you. And they have explain me as well that Christians are not perfect and if you see the commandments all are good things. I was struggle with the Lord is the truth but for me is because God is Love, and go to the church help you to reflect and to think about what you do in your life, and that is important because we are important. We need to spent time with ourselves and with our Father who always love us. If we want to please him we will be more happy because we are pleasing ourselves as well.

And don’t be worried about the sins that you have done God always forgive you when you are sad and only keep trying.

After this words, and love, and really don’t know about the future, my problems and cry in the chapel, the support of the team and the spent time about God think about what was wrong in my life and how to change it, I have done confession and I have felt so happy so happy. I couldn’t explain with my words and all that I can say now in this beauty celebration of my confirmationis Thank You Castlerigg Manor for all the gifts that you have bring me in my life I will keep in my memory this experience all my life and I will come back. I did confirmation the 10 of July and the Bishops come to do it and I believe in the Almighty God and in his help. Thank you so much... love and prayers.

Sarita Gregoria.


Experiencing God's Mercy

Youth 2000 day of prayer in Lancaster

On Saturday 2nd April, the eve of the feast of Divine Mercy, a group of young adults met at Lancaster University Chaplaincy centre for the first ever Youth 2000 day of prayer in Lancaster Diocese. Youth 2000 is an organisation that seeks to draw young people into a personal relationship with Jesus. They do this primarily through weekend prayer festivals, where young people are introduced to the essentials of the Catholic faith: Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, Confession, Scripture, Devotion to Our Lady. These festivals are opportunities for young people to experience the love of God, to receive the grace of conversion and to begin living anew the Christian life.

In the last number of years more and more young people from the Diocese have been attending events led by Youth 2000. We wanted to bring the joy of these events to the Diocese so that more of our young people could experience what Youth 2000 are all about.

Nisha, 19, from Preston, who attended the event said: "I attended the Youth 2000 day at Lancaster University, mainly because I wanted to strengthen my faith and make new Catholic friends - both of which I achieved. I left the day feeling renewed after listening to God’s Word, taking part in discussion sessions and singing the best hymns in Adoration. It was also great to see friends after a long time and speak to new people, because having good Catholic friends on your faith journey is so important. I would most definitely do this again and I would encourage other young people to join too!"

We gathered at the start of the day sharing lunch together before moving into a time of prayer. This was followed by a talk looking at both the Year of Mercy and Divine Mercy – to link with our theme of the day ‘Mercy’. We ended the day with a time of Adoration, accompanied with praise and worship – and the chance to receive God’s mercy in a tangible way, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Anna, 18, also from Preston said: "The first Youth 2000 Prayer group at Lancaster was a really enjoyable day, with thought provoking discussions and talks on the theme of Mercy. I had a great time catching up with old friends and getting to know many new people. A particular highlight for me was the small group discussions where we talked and reflected on several questions on the topic of Mercy. This was quite a moving experience as people shared how they had experienced mercy in their own lives.

After having such a good time, I feel inspired to get more involved with the work of Youth 2000, in particular future prayer groups and the pilgrimage to Walsingham this summer! I really encourage other young people to come to future Youth 2000 prayer groups and other events as I found it a great way to not only deepen my faith, but to get to know other young Catholics!"

We hope for this to be the first of many Youth 2000 days of prayer that we have in the Diocese. The next day we are to host will be Saturday 9th July at Lancaster University Chaplaincy to begin at 12:30. All young people are welcome to attend the event, please keep an eye out for more information in your parish bulletin.

The next retreat led by the National Youth 2000 team will be in Walsingham, Norfolk – running from August 25-29. All information can be found at http://www.youth2000.org/#!conquerors/b2675 There will be a group travelling from Lancaster Diocese, so please get in touch with the team at Castlerigg if you are interested in attending. 

Summer 2016

The sun is shining (sometimes…), exams are almost out of the way…the summer holidays are approaching! This is often the time of year that young people like to gather at music festivals across the country – Glastonbury, Reading & Leeds, T in the Park, V Festival, Kendal Calling. Why are these events so popular with young people? There is a great atmosphere, good music and a sense of getting away from it all. Time to be with friends, and also meeting lots of new people. And also the chance to live off pot noodles for the weekend, and embrace living the hippy lifestyle for a few days!

Maybe you weren’t aware, but there are events up and down the country that allow us to experience all the best bits of the festivals, along with living out our Catholic faith. There is no shortage of events available, and many young people from our diocese will be journeying to various festivals and celebrations – enjoying and celebrating our faith, in many different ways. There is something for everyone!

On 17-19 June ‘Brightlights Festival’ will be taking place in the grounds of Alton Castle, Staffordshire. Brightlights is a Catholic festival for young adults, open to young people aged between 16 and 30. The weekend will include talks, workshops, and various activities, along with time for prayer and quiet refection, all focussed on the theme of mercy.

‘The Faith Summer Conference’ runs from 1-5 August, and takes place at Woldingham school, in Caterham, Surrey. The Faith Summer Session is for 16-35 year olds which includes talks, daily Mass, opportunities for discussion and social time. The week gives young Catholics a chance to ask questions about their faith and meet other young Catholics, in a relaxed and informal environment. There is also a swimming pool, football pitch and beautiful grounds available to use in the free time!

July sees the arrival of some of our diocesan summer events for young Catholics.  The annual Lancaster Diocese youth pilgrimage to Lourdes takes place from 21-30 July. Young people have the chance to go and serve the sick and elderly of our diocese, and play a big role in the running of the pilgrimage. In addition to the work that takes place there is also time to make new friends, relax in Lourdes, and reflect and learn about your own personal faith. There are still a few places available, but not for much longer!

An event that only comes around every 3 years, is World Youth Day. The Lancaster Diocese trip takes place from 24 July – 4 August, and we will be travelling to Krakow, Poland, to join in the WYD celebrations. It is the biggest gathering of young Catholics in the world, and there is expected to be around 3-4 million young people descending on the city of Krakow! It is an amazing atmosphere, and there are currently 4 places left to join with the Lancaster diocese youth service.

Towards the end of summer, Youth 2000 will hold their annual prayer festival in Walsingham, from 25-29 August, entitled ‘Conquerors’. For five days, around 1000 young people will be camping in the fields of Norfolk, gathering for dynamic talks, live-band worship, powerful prayer times, fun social activities, creative workshops, in-depth discussions, evening entertainment and loads more, with brilliant speakers from the USA and all over the UK. And finally…there is our very own Lancaster Diocese annual ‘Big Walk’, on the weekend 9-11 September. The weekend begins at Castlerigg Manor on the Friday night, before setting off to walk from Honister Slate Mine, to the Shrine of Our Lady of Cleator, where our pilgrimage ends on the Sunday afternoon.  

There is plenty going on this summer for young people, whether in our diocese, or a little further afield. If you have any questions, or want to know how to join up with other young people in the Lancaster Diocese, then please give us a call in the office on 01768772711, or email team@castleriggmanor.co.uk. Happy holidays!

Child's Play

Tom McGeough - one of the volunteers at Castlerigg Manor takes us through a 'Day in the Life of a Castlerigg Volunteer' to mark National Volunteering week which runs from 1st - 12th June 2016

The Castlerigg Volunteer is an extraordinary creature. They can often be found being both highly energetic and utterly exhausted at the same time, sort of like Bruce Forsyth on a night out. But what causes this strange phenomenon? What possible excuse could there be to make 8 perfectly ‘normal’ young volunteers enter this strange state of existence? Well brace yourselves dear readers, prepare yourself for this exclusive, once-in-a-lifetime look at the secretive life of a Castlerigg Volunteer.

Every day starts of course, in the morning: the assessment of the weather concludes that once again, it is raining. The volunteer then begins their morning wake-up ritual with the obligatory washing of body and teeth, unless the fire alarm goes off, which always brings fun, excitement and slight confusion to the start of the day.

Should no fire alarm be set off, it’s the normal 8am start in the chapel where the community all gather to wake themselves up and to feed their spiritual selves, usually through a nice mass and some quiet adoration. From there, the volunteer feeds their physical bodies through the goodness of cereal, toast and porridge; or, on some days the volunteers are treated to a special treat of some goody or other (Bacon Wednesday being a particular favourite).

Then, with the early morning over, the fun begins! To those on retreat, it’s the final preparations for morning reflection and the first activities of the day. As soon as these volunteers step foot out of the dining room they are inundated with good mornings and hellos from the young people and the school staff; all of which are a pleasant and a welcome start to the day’s events, helping to put the volunteers in the right frame of mind for the rest of the day.

For those lowly volunteers not privileged enough to be on retreat that week, they are on back-up. Confined to the main and back office their day will consist of preparing for upcoming retreats and drinking tea. However, good behaviour provided, they will occasionally be allowed out to support the retreat team by the setting up of certain activities and the making of many, many drinks for the staff and young people.

For the retreat team however, their day will be much more exciting! Each day begins with a morning reflection, during which the volunteers will introduce the theme for the day and maybe occasionally show off a secret talent they’ve kept hidden from the young people in order to impress and generally win their love and respect. After which the first of the morning activities begins. During these sessions the volunteers usually lose the love and respect gained in the morning reflection due to their sub-par art abilities. Believe me, the young people are SOOO good at art it’s embarrassing!

It’s the break times where the volunteer’s true multitasking abilities come to the fore. Whilst the young people are running around outside or sitting and talking on the sofas at the bottom of the stairs, the super talented volunteers are busy doing the following tasks:

·         Clearing up from the last session.

·         Setting up the next session.

·         Ensuring that all the young people and the teaching staff have enough to drink.

·         Socialising with the young people, getting to know each of them individually.

·         Helping the young people and staff with any and all problems or questions that they may have.

·         Remembering to have a drink themselves so that they don’t dehydrate.

·         Keep being awesome and amazing people.

It really is a hectic break time for the volunteers, yet by some miracle they have enough energy and enthusiasm to lead and help the young people in the next session before break. It’s at this point when the humble volunteer begins to change from normal, hardworking human to the extraordinary Bruce Forsyth-like person. Someone who should really be in bed but who still has the energy to entertain and lead the masses of young people in the joys of the retreat timetable.

Even at Lunch times the volunteers are hard at work, trying their best to appear as ‘down with the kids’ as humanly possible as well as also remembering their table manners; It really is tough for a volunteer sometimes. However the walk after lunch helps the volunteers to really build up a sense of superiority over the young people. This could be because (due to no other reason than the height of their legs) the volunteers are faster walkers than the young people. Or it could be because the volunteers have the chance to give smart and informative answers to questions given by the young people which really, the volunteers don’t know the answer to. Whatever the reason, the walks are one of the best parts of the day for the volunteers, it’s a great opportunity to do some more talking and instead of walking around a room, they get to walk around a field!

After the glorious, well-controlled freedom of the afternoon walk, the volunteers have a bit of well-earned down time. This time is spent either having a wash… again (a volunteer can never be too clean), or they spend the time looking for various items they may have lost during the course of the day; their room key perhaps, or a jumper, or…. their marbles even.

Still, immediately following this period of respite, the volunteer throws themselves back into the early evening, happily teaching the young people how to sing the hymns for the upcoming mass. Sometimes the volunteers sing the wrong tune to the wrong hymn but they somehow manage to make each mass a resounding success- so long as the PowerPoint doesn’t decide to misbehave and display the original version of the song.

Tea time (or dinner time if you’re from the south, in which case- you’re wrong). Such a fabulous time for the volunteer, it’s by this point that the young people start to see the volunteers as normal(ish) people who can actually have a ‘cool’ conversation. It’s here where you really see the new friendships that have been forged between the young people, also the rivalries which seemed to have emerged which is always fun to watch. If nothing else, Castlerigg really helps the young people to break down those barriers.

And so, the final activities of the day begin, at the early time of 7pm, this is where the retreats really start to take steam as the young people are finally awake. The evening begins typically with the continuation or the beginning of a creative or dramatic workshop. Running on caffeine and wishful thinking: the volunteers make their final transition to the half energetic and half exhausted existence we most commonly see of them.

The battles faced by the volunteers change now as delirium starts to set in amongst the retreat team as they find themselves constantly repeating the same phrases and instructions: Please listen, yes the tuck shop WILL be open this evening, no it’s not a good idea to put 6 sugars in your tea you are only 12 years old after all.

However, despite the difficulties faced at such a late stage in the day both the young people and the volunteers seem to enjoy themselves. The results of these workshops can be fantastic; colourful blessing jars, decorated agape bracelets, clay sculptures covered in a shiny layer of PVA glue that actually stand up! A fun time is had by all even though the silly conversations seem to take precedent over actual, formed sentences which the young people always seem to enjoy watching when the volunteers talk to one another.

The Night Prayers at the very end of the day take on an altogether different tone. It’s at these times when the volunteers begin to truly shine as serious, intelligent, respectful young adults. Leading the young people in a thought-provoking and prayerful reflection that sums up the days’ events and wraps up thoughts about the theme of the day, sending the young people off to bed with something to think about. It also proves to be the most rewarding part of the day for the volunteers; at the end of each night prayer the young people are invited to stay for a bit longer for a time of quiet personal prayer and reflection. Seeing the select young people stay behind always makes the volunteers feel that they have done their job properly.

So there you have it, our tale which began in the morning has now ended, in the evening. Volunteering at Castlerigg Manor has got to be one of the most demanding vocations a young person can do: giving yourself 100% to something with no expectation of getting anything back. Pushing yourself to the absolute limit when you’re asked the same question by 50-odd smaller people with the attention-span of Dory the fish.  However, these volunteers seem to do it. Even though a single day may last a lifetime due to the separation from their phones. Even when they become the Bruce Forsyth-like hybrids we regularly see them as being. Even though they have to forfeit a year’s worth of regular Coronation Street viewing, these volunteers manage! They go the extra mile! They drink that extra cup of tea because it’s the polite thing to do! They aren’t just any volunteers! They are Castlerigg Manor volunteers! The best and the most extraordinary volunteers this side of the Pennines!

Have a wonderful Volunteer week everybody, here’s to many more weeks of diligent volunteering. God Bless and thanks for reading to the end!


'Putting Christ at the Centre of My Teaching'

"Congratulations Jimmy, we would like to offer you the job"

As I sat in Covent Garden, enjoying the sights and sounds of busy London life, I heard these words informing me that, as of July, I would become Mr. O’Donnell, teacher of Religious Education at Our Lady's Convent High School, in London. After accepting the offer and hanging up the phone I began to reflect on how I had got here, and started to call to mind my journey to this point.

Volunteering at Castlerigg Manor a few years ago gave me the opportunity to explore my vocation. I had always liked the thought of being a teacher and, coming from a family full of teachers, I knew that it is a very rewarding job. However, it was only through my experience of working with young people at Castlerigg that I was able to truly discern my calling to working with young people, and in particular, working with young people within a Catholic setting.

After leaving Castlerigg Manor and completing my undergraduate degree, I decided to take a position in the chaplaincy department at Cardinal Allen Catholic High School, Fleetwood. This was an invaluable year for me as it gave me further insight into Catholic education and everything that is unique and glorious about Catholic schools. The ethos and vision of Catholic schools, in that they reflect the values proclaimed by Christ in the Gospels; faithfulness and integrity, dignity and compassion, truth and justice was very apparent at Cardinal Allen. This was further confirmation that Catholic education is where I am needed. And importantly, at Cardinal Allen I was exposed to a RE department that is truly outstanding in every sense of the word. It was the example and inspiration of my colleagues there, that led me to take the next step and get into the classroom and become a teacher of Religious Education.

I feel privileged to have undertaken my teacher training with the Catholic Teaching Alliance, based at Our Lady’s Catholic High School, Preston. Whilst this year has been one of the most challenging periods of my life; I have learned more about myself as a person, as a child of Christ and a teacher in this last 12 months than I thought was possible. My career path has afforded me the honour of working within Catholic education at all stages and under several different guises.

From my experience, I firmly believe that Catholic schools have the potential to promote the fullness of Christian life and to demonstrate the joy with which you can live your life, when you follow the teachings and example of Christ and His Church. To be able to put Christ at the centre of my teaching, not only in subject material but also in my building of relationships with my students and colleagues is a gift unique to Catholic Education, and one which I have thoroughly enjoyed in this past year.

I now stand on a precipice in my life: moving to London is a scary thing. Getting to know a new school, a new city, a new diocese, making new friends and leaving everything behind is a daunting challenge. However, I am not truly leaving anything behind; I will take with me all I have experienced. Not just during my career but throughout my life and during my journey in faith, and I will use these experiences to help me become the best teacher and the best person that I can become. I will miss the Lancaster Diocese and the North West terribly, but I know that a little part of me will always be there and a little part of it will always be in me.

Jimmy, 25, Blackpool

The Adventures of Bosco

As many of you may remember, Bosco sadly left the Manor in August last year, to move down to his new job in Lancaster with Fr Phil. We are missing him here at Castlerigg, but Bosco has kept us updated on all his new adventures in Lancashire.

I am enjoying living in a parish very much. There are always lots of things going on – different masses and services, lots of visitors, and plenty of people to play football with. Fr Phil and I live in a big house, not quite as big as the Manor, but still big enough for me to run around in and have fun. Occasionally I sneak onto the comfy chair in the living room when Fr Phil is not looking, but he always catches me out!

Every day is different, and I am enjoying going to lots of places around Lancaster. There are some beautiful walks near to our new house, so I have enjoyed going out and exploring. I recently found some new lambs – I would have liked a closer look at them, but they were in a little barn. It was still nice to have a look at them though. I also help out at the university sometimes – the students love me!

It has been hard to leave the Lake District, I loved being able to go out in the hills and to the lake. Me and my Dad (Fr Phil) sometimes come up on day trips to visit the lakes, when we have a day off from our work in Lancaster. We came up to the mountains when it was snowing, and it was so much fun to run around in the snow! Hopefully we will come up and visit again soon, now that summer is coming – I love to swim in the lake!

I’ve got a few photos to share with you all – hope you like them!


We are the Pro-Life Generation

Mid-March brought with it the infamous pro-life Youth Conference put on year after year by the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. 2016's conference was no let down. It was a fabulous weekend which not only provided well over a hundred enthused young adults with lots of encouragement, great company and a superb ceilidh; but also equipped the next generation with knowledge needed for fighting the pro-life battle. As Catholics it is crucial we don't bury our heads in the sand when it comes to issues that can overwhelm, but stand strong and proclaim the truth with love. The weekend conference inspired us all to do just that in regards to pro-life matters. The heart wrenching testimonies that we heard, could not have demonstrated more effectively how personal these issues are and how sensitively they must be dealt with; whilst also highlighting how essential it is, for every life affected, to speak out for justice and the right to life.

The wonderful speakers inspired us with the work they do and have done, in striving to make sure care is given to the lives most at risk of being neglected: the unborn; the disabled; the elderly; the dying. Some of the other speakers opened our eyes to issues perhaps generally less well known. To name a few: Fiorella Nash and her empowering feminist talk highlighted the reality of gendercide, whilst Uju Ekeocha illuminated attitudes to abortion in Africa, their pro-life energy, and the pressure the African countries face from the Western world to legalise abortion.

Alongside a spectacular and inspiring line up of speakers, there were stalls by groups such as: APS (Alliance of Pro Life Students) providing a huge amount of support for university pro-life groups, and LIFE offering positive alternatives and fantastic educational pro-life talks and workshops for students, and more. This meant pro-life work could very realistically be extended beyond the weekend by those attending. Keep the efforts of inspired individuals in your prayers that we may witness the fruits of their work!

Finally, the cherry on the cake for me was the great joy of meeting so many wonderful, life-loving, like-minded young people. Nothing is more inspiring, in a world riddled with abortion, hurt and confusion, than the hope and commitment that is experienced when in a room full of young pro-lifers. It was noticeable, and as a young Catholic, heart-warming, to see that a great number of those who attended were Catholic. It is a superb display of Christ's love to see Catholics' compassionate and uplifting pro-life work which so ardently protects the vulnerable and defenceless. I urge you readers to not be disheartened! We are the pro-life generation. And, I am proud to say, it is passionate young Catholics who are leading the way most wonderfully. They inspire me and I applaud them!


In a nut shell…

·         If you get the chance to go to next year's Youth Conference - don't miss it! There is often funding available for young people to attend. (Find this year's speakers online!)

·         If you are looking to get involved or know more about the pro-life cause - don't hesitate! (There's no time like the present...!) 

·         If you are keen to get involved in a pro-life event coming up - get to March for Life UK in May, and LIFE Charity's big relaunch in June!

Thank you for your prayers and please keep praying for a world that upholds utmost respect for all human life from fertilisation to natural death. With God's grace the pro-life joy will be unstoppable. 

Mary, mother of all life - pray for us.


Clare, Penrith

Clare works for LIFE charity, based in the North West. If you are interested in finding out more/booking a compassionate pro-life talk in your school/youth group, please contact her at: clareplasom-scott@lifecharity.org.uk