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Holly, 16, Barrow

Hi, my name is Holly and I’m 16 from Barrow. Back in March I came to Castlerigg with my school and the experience changed everything. At that time I wasn’t even baptized and I hadn’t been brought up with any faith. But, for the first time, I opened up to what faith means and how it helps us. I went home after the retreat and talked to my mum. She thought all this religious stuff was just a phase, but something in me really wanted to be baptized. I went by myself to the church to see the priest. It was scary but it felt good to be able to do something all by myself. And for every Thursday for an hour over an eight month period, I did sessions with two catechists from the parish. It was quite hard as I had to give up going to Boxing on those nights and I found it hard to digest all the things I was learning as it was all so new and in depth. But when I finally came to the big day, I was so nervous. One of my best friends, Michael, was one of my sponsors, and also Liz, one of the catechists. The moment I was baptized was overwhelming; I had the biggest smile on my face. My faith means a lot to me. I am very proud of it, even when my family and some friends make jokes about it. Faith has given me strength to deal with difficult situations and to help me to understand things like my Dad’s death. I feel I have been given a new courage and these first few weeks as a Catholic have been exhilarating. I’d like to thank Fr Manny and everyone who has helped me at Sacred Heart parish on my journey.

Tilly, 19, Castlerigg

Being a young CATHOLIC today… For so long I couldn’t say that. At home I grew up with no faith; it was never part of my household so I didn’t get baptized as a baby; my mum was born Jewish, and my dad was an Anglican, though he never practised his faith.
But my older sister and I still had a very happy upbringing with 2 amazing parents. However, when my mum suddenly passed away when I was 9, it was the first time I thought about God properly. I prayed for the first time for myself, and since then my faith has
grown slowly but surely. The year my mum died, my sister had the chance to come on retreat to Castlerigg and went back many times after that. Her faith started to grow and she ended up working at the Manor. When I finally entered Year 8, I also had the chance to come up and experience a retreat, and just like my sister, I fell in love with the place: I opened my heart and I finally felt the love that I heard people talk about when they spoke about God. I had just never understood it before.
After coming back a few times on retreat and growing older and learning little bits about the faith a bit more, I decided to apply for a gap year at Castlerigg. Arriving on the first day, I had no idea what was ahead of me. On the second day here, I thought what’s stopping me from finally getting baptized? So the journey began with RCIA meetings every week, getting to know the faith and understanding the Scriptures a little more, making lifelong friendships with the incredible team, figuring out who to choose as my godparents too! As well as working on retreat with the young people!! So 19 April arrived, the day of my baptism. All the young
people on retreat were getting ready, doing art work, singing practice, and so on. Nerves and excitement filled my head and I didn’t know what to do. Friends from all over came to support me, and my dad and sister were there to help me through the day and having the entire team and group of incredible young people supporting me through everything made it a lot easier. The Easter Vigil started and as my godmother squeezed my hand in encouragement it gave me comfort to know it was all going to be alright with her and my godfather by my side! After the beautiful evening and finally after such a long time of preparation, getting Baptised,
Confirmed and receiving my first Holy Communion, for the first time in my life, I felt at peace. Knowing I was part of an amazing Catholic family, knowing that my godparents – Hannah and Ralph – are now part of my family, knowing that my mum is watching down on me proudly, and knowing that through everything Christ will be by my side from now and always. So, officially, I can say, I’m a young Catholic and proud of it!