I was not dead, but I felt dead inside. I was empty, unhappy and had nothing to look forward to. I was failing Sixth Form and failing expectations of myself and my family. I was never brought up with any faith; I was baptised but it didn’t mean anything to me at all. I would go so far to say I hated religion. My R.E. book consisted of 4 pages of work and the rest consisted of Hangman and Noughts-&-Crosses games! In 2010, whilst at St Benedict’s Sixth Form, we had an assembly about Lourdes. Apparently this was an amazing place but I didn’t buy it! We were asked if we wanted to go. One of my friends, Ashley, really wanted to go. She wanted
some people to go there with. She asked me and obviously I said ‘no’. I had no interest in that place at all! I said I would help her fundraise but, after about ten minutes of talking about it, I said to her ‘OK, then I’ll go’. I’m not sure if she took me seriously or not. Probably not. But anyway, there I was: my form filled in and my deposit in hand, ready to give to Dave our chaplain. Several cake sales and bag packs later we were there, waiting in the Cathedral car park to get on the coach to Lourdes. I knew no one; I didn’t know why I was going. When I got there I hated it – hated everything about it and wanted to go home. But I didn’t. I don’t know what it was but I stayed and I loved it, every moment. I saw the joy that everyone there had, and I wanted to be part of it. I have each and every person there to thank because if it wasn’t for them I would not have taken the next step. When people ask me why I went I tell them truthfully I don’t know. As far as I know it was an accident, but the best accident that’s ever happened to me. When I got back and told my Mum and friends about it they didn’t really get it. They thought it was just a phase and I would pass through it. In a way they were right: I only really went to Mass when I could be bothered and slowly stopped all together. I had already signed up for World Youth Day but was beginning to regret it. By the time I went there I had been going through phases of going to weekly Mass and not going at all. It was during World Youth Day, however, that the seed grew, and the spark that had been lit turned into fire, and I became truly enlightened. ‘You can always, with Christ, endure the trials of life’. To hear Pope Benedict say these words during a difficult part of my life was simply amazing. At this point I didn’t know what I was doing with my next academic year. I wasn’t going to Uni and hadn’t got a job. But I had Jesus with me, and he guided me to Castlerigg, the best place I could have ever been guided to, somewhere that I could develop my faith. It was during my walk training with Fr Phil that the decision was really made. I think he was a little worried about asking me about whether I wanted to become a Catholic but eventually he said, ‘Would you consider getting confirmed?’ I played it round in my head for a few moments and everything pointed me to saying ‘No’. What would my friends say? What would my Mum say? What would my Granddad say? So, as I was about to say no to Fr Phil, ‘Yes’ popped out. And after some intensive RCIA, my right of election and awkwardly professing my faith in front of the
community here at Castlerigg, I found myself ready to be received into the Church at the Easter Vigil this year, happier and more excited than I can ever remember. I am now alive, raised again by my passion for my faith. And I want to thank each and every one of you for making it such a special journey and event for me. It’s exciting to be part of such a special community. I have learned so much from my time in the Diocese and I want to give that back. I owe everything to my faith.