Lizzie, 25, Blackpool

Faith has always been an important part of my life. I was baptised in St Kentigern’s Catholic Church, Blackpool and attended St Kentigern’s Catholic Primary School right next door. I then went on to attend St Mary’s Catholic College and later Liverpool Hope University (next door to the church where poet and priest Gerard Manley Hopkins once lived).

I have always been proud to be a Catholic and I try to live out my faith and support the Church by sharing my time and talents with others. I am an altar server (and have been since I was 7 years old) and I play the organ at Sunday Mass. I have spent time with, and have been inspired by, many people including priests, teachers, friends and family. They have helped me develop my faith, making me the person I am today. For this, I am deeply thankful.

I have been involved in many Diocesan Youth events including the Big Walk (our diocesan pilgrimage walk from Keswick to Cleator - ten in total so far), volunteering in Lourdes and taking part in two World Youth Days. The most recent was in Krakow, Poland in 2016. The theme of this gathering was “Blessed are the merciful”. The atmosphere was indescribable. You just had to be there to understand it! Knowing that so many like-minded young people had all gathered because of their faith was incredible. Imagine it; over 2 million young people in one place and not a bit of trouble from anyone! Pope Francis urged us to go home and spread the Gospel and not to be “couch potatoes”. He told us that “Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, is calling us all to leave our mark on history.”

I took these words to heart and I felt I had been spiritually refreshed and strengthened. I came home with a deeper understanding of my faith and the will to share my experiences with others. I pray that with God’s love and care, I may continue to be a faithful worker in the vineyard and share the light of Christ with those I meet.

Lizzie, 25, Blackpool

Andy, 21, Castlerigg

I’m Andy, I am 21 years old and I’m originally from Hartlepool. This is my 3rd year volunteering in Youth Ministry. I spent my first year in Hexham & Newcastle Diocese, my second year in Northern Ireland, Derry Diocese, which then led me to my third year working in youth ministry, in Lancaster Diocese.

For the first 16 years of my life I was an atheist - I had no faith and had not experienced God. My first experience of God came when I was at my lowest. It came about through my anger, due to some of the things that were going on in my life. I was 16, on a school retreat and there was an option to pray in Ampleforth monastery in the early morning. Initially I had no intention of going, but somehow I found myself up, ready and going, purely because I had nothing else to do. In my prayer I found myself screaming at God and blaming him for everything that had happened in my life. When I went home God had answered all of the prayers that I needed answering at that time and had changed my home life around.

I was so joyful because of this that I had to share it with my school chaplain. As years went on I became more involved with the Church and school chaplaincy. My school chaplain persuaded me to join the youth community at YMT (Hexham & Newcastle Diocese) to carry on exploring my faith and to share what I have experienced with young people. This was the time I really felt I could give my life to Him and I finally decided that I wanted to enter into the Catholic Church, allowing God to finally confirm me into his family.  I’m not sure how or why I ended up doing what I was doing, but all I knew was that I was falling in love with God and working with young people.

Through sharing my experience, I really want young people to grasp onto how loved they really are, and that they can really discover this through saying, yes. Yes, to God…as a young person it can be so hard to do this, whilst all the distractions are going on around us. There are so many expectations in the world, telling young people who they should be, through media, society etc. It’s such a blessing to be working with young people and helping them to see who they really are, which is a precious child of God.

Andy, 21, Keswick

Harry, 19, Preston

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"3 Million?! I didn’t realise there were 3 million young Catholics in the world!” This was the usual response when I told my friends and family back home about my experience of going to Krakow this summer to celebrate World Youth Day. And to be honest, when I actually saw 3 million people all around me, I didn’t realise there were this many young Catholics in the world either! As a young person, it can be so easy to feel like you’re the only Catholic of your generation when you go to mass at home. But experiences like World Youth Day, or going to Lourdes or Youth 2000 events, or even just going to Castlerigg, remind you that you are by no means alone, that you are part of something that spans the Earth; that the Catholic Church is very much alive and full of youthful energy!

 

In that field in Krakow, Pope Francis told us how sad it makes him to see young people who have given up on life by the age of 25. This is perhaps a consequence of the society we live in, which bombards us with consumerism and materialism; telling us to have as much of whatever we want whenever we want it. But ultimately, this leaves us dissatisfied, wanting more. This is what our Catholic faith offers us, truths that don’t spin like a weather vane with whichever way the social or political winds of the day are going, but truths from the Gospels, from God, which are just as relevant today as they were in the time of Jesus.

 

This was the message that Pope Francis gave us in Krakow. He asked us if we wanted to change the world; to replace despair and hatred and greed with what Jesus offers us in the Gospels- mercy, hope and love. Hearing 3 million people, in hundreds of languages, with flags waving and hands clapping; respond to that question with a resounding ‘YES!’- tells me that there is still a lot to be hopeful for in this world, and the Catholic Church may have a lot of work to do, but also has a long future ahead of it with its young people, but we must go out and be that mercy, that hope, that love in the world. St Teresa of Avila said: “God has no hands on Earth but yours, no feet on Earth but yours.” This is what motivates me in my faith.

 

Harry, 19, Preston

Paul - 19 Hanover, Germany - now at Castlerigg Manor

I became a Catholic because my parents are Catholic and my grandparents too. It was not my own decision to go to church, one that happened because of my family. It was interesting and kind of boring at the same time. On the one hand you have all this fancy stuff like the chalice and all the golden bowls which are very interesting for a young boy like me at this time. But you have on the other hand all the boring things like silence, kneeling and the speeches from the priest, anyway adult stuff. So church was something I did for my parents. This changed when I had my first holy communion. I became a membership of a great club. We have a secret high five with the priest, we get able to get the bread of Christ.

All in all, Mass became interesting for me. Very quickly after this I became an altar boy and a youth minister. I make a lot of friends there and it became a big part of my life. Experiences like Taize showed me that I need this faith in my life. Even when a lot of my friends are not Catholics, I have no problems with staying to my faith. Sometimes you need to be patient until they understand that it means not that you are uncool or boring and it will not stop you from living a normal life.

My faith is one of my things that gives my personality a ground and safeness. Maybe it’s not the biggest one, but I need all of them to be the person I am.  When I start youth work in my parish I began to go once a month to the mass on my own. That was great for me. Now I live in Castlerigg Manor and I have prayers daily and mass often. And it’s a new great experience for me to have this intense time with God and I enjoy it to find my self every morning and have time to practise my faith. When you ask me what I am…. I would say I’m a human, a Christian and a Catholic and I’m proud of all of it. I will know that God will be always by my side. And this gives me peace.     

Paul, 19, Keswick – Castlerigg Manor

Hannah, 17, Barrow-in-Furness

Being a Young Catholic Today – My World Youth Day experience

The ten days we spent in Kraków for World Youth Day was an amazing experience that I will never forget. It was incredible to be surrounded by other young people who were so different to ourselves in terms of culture, appearance, language yet we all had one key thing in common which had brought us together; our faith. The atmosphere at the events was indescribable when there were 3 million people from 187 countries all united in prayer and showing love for God. It doesn't seem possible until you experience it for yourself and I feel so privileged and thankful to have got the opportunity to do so.

It was quite moving how well everyone got on. Everyone was high-fiving and saying hello to people from different countries in the streets. We sung on trams, danced in fields, joined congas, took photos, played cards and swapped things with people who we'd never met before. I couldn't help but think how much happier the world would be if life was always like this.

Being a young Catholic in a society where people are so conscious of what other people think of them is something I sometimes struggle with but celebrating mass with the Pope and seeing so many other people my age who share my belief in God has made my faith a lot stronger and being able to share it with friends (both new and old) has given me so much joy.

Hannah, 17, Barrow-in-Furness

Amy, 19, Barrow-in-Furness

Keeping your faith alive at university

Keeping up with my faith at university hasn't been the easiest thing to do. The transition from working at a Catholic retreat centre surrounded by young people practising their faith and having a priest on hand and a chapel less than a minute from your room, to not seeing any other Catholics has been a big change.

For the first time in my life, I've had to go to church on my own. Finding the enthusiasm to make the half an hour walk in the rain, to sit on my own in Mass is something that became a bit of a struggle. However, trying to explain to my flatmates why I go and what I actually did in my gap year hasn't been too bad. I am lucky to live with lovely people who accept my faith and encourage me to go to church, promising to put the kettle on for when I get back! 

Keeping in touch with my Catholic friends, has also been a key part of keeping my faith alive. University is a whole new world for me, with lots of new situations; so being able to ask Catholic friends for their opinion and advice has helped me so much. I have been on a couple of retreats this year as well, some run by Youth 2000 and some at Castlerigg Manor which have tightened the rope between me and God. Seeing others practice their faith has given me the strength to carry on.

Knowing God is still right beside me wherever I am and whatever I am doing has helped me through my first year, and although I do feel my faith takes up a little less of my day, it's something I am working to improve. 

Amy, 19, Barrow-in-Furness

Mary, 21, Preston

“I’ll pick you up when you’re down, be there when no one’s around. When you’re in unfamiliar places, count on me through life’s changes.” Leona Lewis, Collide

Being a young Catholic can sometimes be tough. I have always been firm in my faith, but a few years ago I realised that I was living separate lives; my life as Mary the music student, and a different life as Mary the Catholic. I had assumed that if I went to church each weekend and I said my prayers every day, that God was firmly planted in my life.

The Catholic Society was one of my favourite parts of going to university. It was there that I learned how to fully weave my relationship with God into all areas of my life. Once a semester they held a Pop Music Mass. The mass functioned as normal, but instead of hymns we sang pop songs; real pop songs, not religious pop or modified versions. We sang Leona Lewis, One Direction, Union J, Adele, James Bay, Taylor Swift, Jess Glynn, George Ezra and so many others. The purpose was not only to inject enthusiasm into the students, but to help us to see that our worship is not limited to the traditional methods. In so many pop songs we are enabled to talk with God, to give thanks, pray for help, and develop our sense of self-worth. The Leona Lewis quotation that I opened with was, presumably, not initially written or performed with the intention for it to be used in a form of religious worship, but to look over it now, with my ‘where’s God?’ head on, it seems to fit so well into the context that I was looking for. This concept, finding God in the less obvious, can be taken and used repeatedly in a wealth of situations.

With this understanding, I would argue that I am no longer living separate lives, and that Mary the Catholic is not just an aspect of who I am, but is a constant part of me that doesn’t stop the moment I leave church. I am now able to see God everywhere: in my car as I drive, in shops, in the dentist’s waiting room, in night clubs, at work, at parties, in films, in books, in my family and friends, even those who don’t believe that they are religious.

I’ll leave you with one last pop song quotation, taken from a song of thanks for ever lasting support, “I see the shadows long beneath the mountain top, I’m not afraid when the rain won’t stop, ‘cause you light the way” Jessie J, Flashlight

Mary, 21, Preston

Aoife, 20, Preston

Being a young Catholic is a wonderful rollercoaster ride, that can be fantastic and terrifying at the same time. When I look back at my faith journey over the past couple of years, I can’t help but be astounded by the amazing things God has done in my life. Starting university can be really scary! It’s not easy being thrown into a flat with people you’ve never met before, in a strange city, and on top of all that it’s the first time you’ve lived alone. So on my first Sunday evening at university, I decided to go to Mass at the Catholic chaplaincy. I thought that at least having something familiar would make me feel a bit better.

The strange thing is, even though I started going to Mass each Sunday out of habit, I soon got to the point where it was no longer a comfort blanket. I wanted to go to receive the Eucharist. I could feel something inside me drawing me to Mass, and I even started going during the week too.

It was this pull of the Eucharist that has really helped me to strengthen my faith. Receiving Christ each day has made me feel much more comfortable to start questioning what I believe, and finding out more. I’m not using it as a comfort blanket anymore, so I feel free to explore much deeper. Of course I have times when I really struggle to be Catholic in such a secular society. I have times when the views and comments of others make me question what I believe. However, I’m lucky to have a fantastic chaplain to talk to, and the strength that Christ’s Real Presence gives me, to help me grow from a child’s faith into something that can support me for the rest of my life.

Aoife, 20, Preston

Tom, 18, Castlerigg

My mum once told me that you know a religion is strong when you can have a good laugh at it. I think she told me this while we were discussing the virtues of Monty Python’s Life of Brian, as the credits rolled down the screen with that immortal message to always look on the bright side of life ringing in our ears. While most of what we were talking about has been lost to the ages, that simple phrase has always stuck with me. I’ve been Catholic all my life. I was baptised Catholic, I was raised Catholic and I was dragged to Mass as a Catholic child should be. I have to confess however, I never really saw the appeal of going to Mass for an hour every Sunday (actually it was more like an hour and three quarters when you factor in how long my Mum talked afterwards). I always saw Mass as a chore - just another blockade in my quest to ignore homework and watch trashy TV. Yet as I’ve grown up and (dare I say it) matured slightly I’ve begun to slowly realise the importance that Mass has in our lives. Father John, our director here at Castlerigg Manor, begins every Mass with the school groups by commenting on the significance of people coming together for Mass. It’s the fact that Mass brings together different people from all walks of life, united in the shared love of Christ. At the end of Mass we are told to go out and spread the Gospel in our lives, to all the people we meet and through way we treat them. I’ve met some of my oldest and dearest friends through going to Mass every Sunday. Going to Mass has taught me not to be afraid of people, and to love and respect people no matter what their age or background. My faith in Christ, and my faith in people has oft times been strengthened purely through the conversations and chance meetings I’ve had with other people. One such person I met at the back of church. I was late and so I had no choice but to stand at the back. We began talking (after Mass, of course) and I got to know him better, we ended up talking about our views on Catholicism and I remember him saying to me “Mass is a Celebration, we’re celebrating Jesus’ life, we’re celebrating our faith, we’re celebrating our community. We only have one chance on Earth, let’s be happy, let’s be thankful, let’s enjoy our faith, enjoy each other, let’s have a laugh”. 

 Tom, 18, Castlerigg Manor – Keswick

Anna, 18, Preston

Being a young Catholic today can often be a struggle in a world where increasingly more people do not associate themselves with any religion. In today’s society, where Facebook ‘friends’ can often be seen as a measure of a young person’s popularity - I believe that the value of true friendships can often be underappreciated. Despite attending both a Catholic primary and high school, very few of my closest friends were actually Catholic and I would often worry that Catholics were a dying species! However, over the past couple of years- through attending a local youth group and going on pilgrimage to Lourdes twice (amongst other things); I have met many other young Catholics who I would say are some of my closest friends. These friendships are invaluable to me as nothing is better than knowing that they are there to offer their prayers and support during tough times. It is these friendships that have kept (and are keeping me going) throughout the challenges that life throws and I feel incredibly blessed to have such amazing friends as them in my life.

Anna, 18, Preston

Alex, 21, Castlerigg

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

How could they be filled with so much love and compassion, willing to share it with everybody around? Where did they get the energy to do so, when I was barely able to move out of my bed? How on earth could they be so confident and sure of their faith in God when I was there, young, lonely, with so many questions and prayers unanswered? How could it be that the Lord was present in the lives of so many, but not in mine? Was it my fault? Was I the only one left alone? I can’t be that special. Maybe once more, I was just not good enough.

With a mind-set like that the only thing I was dreaming of was my own sacred space. My room, where I could hide from the whole world, get the distractions on and just ignore everything that disturbed me so much. Some nights, when having enough energy left, I would sit in an open window of my bedroom, looking at the sky with all its stars, the moon graciously poking through the thick black clouds … And the cross of the nearby church.

It was a painful reminder of the past I could no longer relate to. To the annoyingly happy, calm and sweet girl, that I used to be. That I knew only from other people’s stories and some photos. Described by my family as an angel. The 'A' student, part of my school's dancing and drama clubs with unconditional love for literature and arts. Always there to help. Loving and loved. Of course, actively involved in the same, nearby church. Singing the little heart out in the children’s choir during rehearsals and midday mass every Sunday, being a part of Militia Immaculatae and bringing flowers to Mary’s statue whenever I got enough pocket money saved, having dear friends of some sort at church and school.

Becoming my worst nightmare for the years to come.

What happened in between? I had suffered full memory loss, due to an accident, with more absent-mindedness to come. I felt it was a lot to take, but God must have been with me there. Building a life over with no previous knowledge was one of the hardest tasks I was forced into. I wouldn’t have done it on my own, I know that. Not remembering my family, friends, not knowing God. Countless breakdowns, falls, moments to cry on itself or in prayer.  It opened my eyes to the darker side of myself. Gave me a full view into the complexity of the human mind - to other people’s behaviour and problems too. And what might be surprising and the most amazing, it gave me an a chance to re-discover God. This time, on my own.

Where am I now? Happily volunteering at Castlerigg Manor. Trying to get back into drama, slowly overcoming my fear of public speaking and singing. Halfway through The Bloodaxe Book of 20th Century Poetry, painting with watercolours, drawing, thinking of filmmaking. Helping people as much as I can. Loving and feeling loved. Slowly by myself. By other people. Most importantly, feeling loved by God.

Everything seems to go around. By pure coincidence I even wear the same hairstyle!

 

Aleksandra, 21, Castlerigg Manor - Keswick

Anke, 23, Castlerigg

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November 2011: the feast of Christ the King. I had made the decision that I wanted to be a Christian just a few months ago, inspired by people in a non-denominational church. A Catholic friend thought I was missing out and insisted I join him for Mass. Just this one time. Just once. Nervously I walk into the chapel. I ask the Holy Spirit to make sure I won’t be bored, to make sure I will be able to pay attention. Everyone sits down. So do I. Then I notice they are not actually sitting down, but kneeling. Awkwardly I join in, trying to make it look as though sitting down first is just my way of kneeling. “This is my Body.” Two months of lectures in Catholic theology prove to be helpful. The priests lifts up the host and I know that this moment is special. I believe that it is special. I did not expect that I would believe it – it just happened.

April 2012. I know I no longer want to stand back and watch. I feel like I am missing out. My Catholic friends speak about confession sometimes and they seem to appreciate it so much. They speak about the Eucharist, the rosary, the breviary, the saints. They even speak about chastity. I am impressed by their honesty and devotion. I want that. I joined the Student Cross pilgrimage, walking from London to Walsingham during Holy Week. We carry a large cross and there is something comforting about the wood pressing gently onto my shoulder. It is a constant reminder of God’s grace, of God’s intervention to reconcile us to Himself. Reconciliation… “How long has it been since your last confession?” I giggle. I have got some explaining to do. Baptised, first Holy Communion, confirmed – never been to confession. I suppose people who were once forced to go wanted to give us more freedom. But I want real freedom – the freedom that Christ offers. I want that joy of the sacrament, knowing that God forgives me even if I am hardly aware of my sins. “I absolve you…”

December 2015. I have been enjoying life at Castlerigg for the past few months. Every day I get to experience that joy again. The joy of just being Catholic. It is such a blessing to be able to share that with others. It is a great blessing, also, to have endless silly and crazy moments with the team. And even more so, to be able to thank God every day for being part of a community in which people are not afraid to support one another, whether it be on the worst or the best day, reflecting the love that motivates them – God’s love.

Anke, 23, Castlerigg Manor - Keswick

 

 

 

Claire, 18, Whitehaven

The main thing that I have discovered being a young Catholic today is that I am not alone. There is a whole world out there full of young Catholics just like me! At first I found it difficult to accept God into my life, due to all the negativity and questioning from friends, family and society; they didn’t seem to understand. But having the Diocesan youth service to fall upon has allowed me to embrace my faith, as we all have common ground. I have always found it difficult to achieve and it seems things don't always go to plan, but through my faith in God I know that this darkness will turn into light.

Five years ago I became ill; after having major surgery to become healthy again, I turned towards God. During those dark times, He encouraged me to stay strong and comforted me just how I needed. In 2014 I was asked by my parish priest if I wanted to go to Lourdes as part of the youth section. At first I felt anxious but now I am so grateful he put my name forward, it has completely changed my outlook on life and in turn changed me. It was one of the most inspiring experiences I have had, so therefore I decided to go again this year. Through this I have met some wonderful people that will hopefully turn into long term friends.

For that reason I would like to thank the youth service for introducing me to my new family, and I look forward to all the upcoming events in the next couple of weeks and months.

“For I know the plans I have for you” Declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” – Jerimiah 29:11.

Lauren, 19, Fleetwood

The other day I came across a passage within the Bible from Luke which stated, ‘He astonished the crowds’, and unexpectedly it got me thinking more deeper about the message God was wanting to give to me. First I thought about what it means to be astonished, to be amazed, impressed, overwhelmed? When I thought more deeply about it I realized that in my life I found it very hard to ‘impress’ one person, whether it be because I looked up to them or because their presence overwhelmed me. In fact I realized that many-a-time I have failed to impress just one individual, and yet here Jesus was astonishing groups of people.

I then thought about my life and I asked myself when have I felt astonished, and is it God who astonishes me? After deep thoughts I realized I had two answers to this question. Firstly, simply waking up in the morning, meeting individuals who inspire and teach me, looking at my surroundings, the beauty, and being able to feel love and joy in my heart, I would say ‘Yes, this is Jesus astonishing me’. My second reply would be when I’ve felt angry and hurt, when I have completely turned my back on the Lord and gone astray, when I’ve believed he has left my side. And yet, looking back on these moments, I realised that it was when I was the weakest and it was in those times that God carried me and made me the strongest. From this Scripture I had an image of a sweet jar and a friend slowly taking a sweet out one at a time and myself only realising when the jar was empty. I thought this represents all of our lives: we have a best friend, Christ who slowly takes our pain and worries away, yet being human beings we expect a sudden change, something to happen right away. But this image of one sweet being taken away at a time helped me to realise that, in fact, as I look back on my life, the Lord has been at my side. It was me being too foolish to recognise this and how he has slowly transformed my life and given me gifts and talents throughout my ongoing journey to become a disciple of His. 

Beth, 16, Poulton

When Father Collins first talked to me about the opportunity to go to Lourdes as a volunteer in July this year it was something that vaguely interested me but as I wasn’t going to be sixteen until the end of July it was something I put to the back of my mind. I knew back in January that my GSCEs were looming and I needed to concentrate on securing my grades for sixth form. A couple of weeks later I attended a meeting before Mass, albeit a little reluctantly. After a discussion with my Mum and a fair bit of encouragement from my Dad I realised that volunteering was a real possibility and something I felt I could do. I had many questions, with the majority of them being about whether I actually had the ability to do it.

I signed up, received an email from Ruth from the Youth Service and put the date in my diary for the first meeting. Prior to the first meeting I felt incredibly anxious. I didn’t know anyone. What would happen if I didn’t have anything in common with anyone? What would happen if no one talked to me?  On the evening of the meeting I nearly backed out but I needn’t have worried. The welcome I received was so warm. There were people who looked exactly as I felt but by the end of the meeting I knew that going to Lourdes was something I not only wanted to do, but was looking forward to.

Throughout my journey to date not only have I gained experience, training and skills – achieving things I never expected I could I have – but I’ve also met a group of the best people anyone could want to meet, some of whom have become really good friends in a short space of time. And not having anything in common? We all have our faith in common. It’s been amazing to be with so many people who aren’t afraid to talk about their faith, their beliefs and their love of God. It has strengthened my faith and given me an opportunity to live out my faith as I volunteer helping others.

I know before I even depart for Lourdes the biggest step I have had to take wasn’t on my sponsored walk, or wade,  across Morecambe Bay raising money to fund the trip, it wasn’t across the hills on my weekend team-building at Castlerigg or even learning to push a wheelchair safely up and down kerbs. It was the first step across the doorway of that very first meeting. I’m so pleased that I summoned up the courage and opened the door and my heart to a new and exciting chapter of my life.

I’ve already thought about future activities and Youth Service events I can get involved with and the only question I have now is ‘Where do I sign up!’.

Misha, 22, Castlerigg

Hi, my name is Misha. I was born in Ukraine and at a young age my parents got divorced, and my father died shortly after that. Life wasn’t very pleasant at the beginning and so much pressure for my mother. Apart from looking after me, my mum had to study, work and bring me up all on her own. It was a difficult time because sometimes I would have to be left alone or my mum would take me to university with her. At some point, our relationship became worse and I turned into a street kid, and started to do things that I am now ashamed of. My behaviour was quite bad, I didn’t study properly at school, and of course my mum did not like this, so we started to argue a lot and quarrel. Then my mother found out about a Christian organisation in Odessa with a daily drop-in centre for young people. I didn’t really want to go but my mother gave me no option. I would go there after school and I was helped to do my homework and make new friends and go on annual trips. This time changed my life because this was a Christian centre and this is where I discovered about God and thought about spiritual things deeply. I learnt how to pray and to read the Bible. Of course I had my ups and downs but I successfully finished school, and with the centre’s help I went to university. After graduating I wanted to do a gap year abroad in England and spent a year in Wolverhampton and then applied for a second year through an organisation called Time for God. This is how I ended up at Castlerigg. To be honest I did not know what would await for me at Castlerigg. When I arrived and went to my first Mass  I didn’t really know what was going on because I wasn’t used to Catholic worship as my background had been Orthodox and the centre which I belonged to was Protestant. At the beginning I would have none of it. I sat at Mass and waited for it to end, but I enjoyed the sign of peace. But gradually I began to accept it, but not completely until I went on a trip to London and ended up in Westminster Cathedral where something amazing happened. During the tour of the treasury of the cathedral, Mass had started in Latin and I stood on the balcony and looked at this Mass, and then I felt drawn to the Mass, and so I sent my other friends away for lunch. I joined in the Mass. This was something so new for me and during the Mass, I felt completely at peace and fully content and I just wanted to stay there and I was just happy. After I returned to Castlerigg, I told this story to the Castlerigg team and they were quite amazed by this change of heart. The priest here has told me that our faith is all about the Mass, and after celebrating the Easter mysteries,  I cannot imagine myself without Mass at all.