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Claire, 18, Whitehaven

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!

Beth, 16, Poulton

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...

Louise, 18, Grimsargh

Being a Catholic has always been part of my life, and I have been brought up in a wonderful Catholic family. Every Sunday we would go to church, and I enjoyed going to Children's Liturgy with my friends. Although a friendly parish, it was centred around the older generations, and there was nothing to encourage young people to attend Mass. Growing up, and looking around the church, there were very few families with teenage children and less and less of my friends turned up. My parents and other families with “teenagers” in the parish continued to inspire me with their vision of faith being something you can live out in your everyday life. They constantly showed me this, through working hard to get younger members of the parish involved in the church community. I got involved in the music group, and Children's Liturgy became something for the whole spectrum of youth in the church to be involved in. They made a youth group, showing me living out my faith through raising money for charities, with other young people can also be fun!! This strengthened my faith giving it relevance to my life, encouraging me to make the choice to continue going to church, even though many of my friends didn’t. Going to Castlerigg with school, gave me a different exeperience of church, where the whole of mass is a celebration, not just a routine where the meaning can be lost. Coming back from there into my own parish, I became aware that the way the service was presented meant people appeared to be going through the motions of going to church and I felt frustrated that little was done to make the Mass speak to people. Getting involved in the Youth Service helped me find something that was missing in my church. Through it I have met lots of amazing friends, and there is an amazing spirit when we’re together, due to us all having our faith in common. Summit walks, and Prayer & Praise helped me praise God in a setting that is comfortable and relaxed. Going to Lourdes last summer, was an overwhelming experience for me. Seeing the faith the sick had, as they visited the grotto and touched the walls was inspiring, and the gratitude they had towards the youth for enabling them to make the pilgrimage was enriching. Even though it was hard work and exhausting, being with the 100 strong youth helpers meant it was a week full of laughter & fun. My parish has been amazing in making it possible for me and other young people by constantly supporting the fundraisers we have with enthusiasm and generosity. Now going to church, I find a growing sense of community. Meeting in the ‘Caton Room’ after mass for a cup of tea and biscuit is a
chance to bring all memebers of the parish together, and is fantastic. I can see that as our parish develops, and the sense of community strengthens, so does my faith.

Richard, 19, Whitehaven

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.

Anna, 19, Castlerigg

Sometimes, I feel a bit like Lucy Pevensie. I opened the wardrobe and stepped through a door of faith, but unlike Lucy I didn’t get to the other side and see a mythical land of snow and ice, with fauns who invite you for tea and sardines and talking animals. Instead, I found a wonderful meaning to my life and I found out who I was. It had always been a struggle, a daily one in fact, to discover who I was. I blended into the background, I was like Bilbo Baggins and never did anything unexpected. I tried lots of different characters to establish myself; scholarly, witty, rude, insulting and my personal favourite is punk. But whatever I did, I remained the quiet one who would slip by unnoticed and I felt like I had no purpose or place in the world. My faith had always
been there from when I was in my mother’s womb, but it had just been present. I’d gone to church like anyone else and I loved Jesus intently for reasons I don’t think I fully understood, but even so, it was just there, a side fact about me. Then I opened the wardrobe, and found a new world called Lourdes. In this world, I realised that the most important thing was not being noticed and not trying to stand out from the crowd, but being of service to others. I met the most inspiring people and helped the sick and the elderly who if I, and the other young people, hadn’t been there, the week would not have been possible for those we were helping. Through this week, I realised that I had never felt more alive than I had in Lourdes. I prayed that I would never lose that feeling of being alive and never lose the desire to help people.

Bridget, 23, Lancaster

Being a Catholic has always been something that is a part of me. I was brought up in a Catholic family – but in the past few years it has become something that is truly a part of my whole self. I was brought up going to Mass with my family at St. Thomas More in Lancaster, and it was a great part of my childhood. But as I grew up, as I’m sure a lot of others did, I began to grow distant from my faith. It was a pilgrimage to Lourdes at the age of 17 that ignited the spark for faith once more in my life. It was an incredible experience, and one that would start a huge change in my life. I went through the next few years with highs and lows of my faith journey. I found myself having moments of extreme highs, like being able to attend World Youth Day in Sydney in 2008, to extreme lows, like some of my times at university, where I felt lower and lonelier than I ever had before. It was a trip to Rome that was to
change everything. Whilst there in 2009, I met members of the team at Castlerigg Manor. They told me about the work they did, and it sounded amazing. Before I knew it, I was there for a weekend having an interview. And from then I have spent the past 2 years working on the team there, which has been the most inspiring and uplifting 2 years of my life. There I have truly learnt what faith means to me – that it isn’t just something for a Sunday, or when you feel like it. It has an effect on every part of my life now, and I couldn’t be more thankful to God for never giving up on me, and for bringing me to somewhere where I can have such a true,
raw and loving experience of faith. So what next? I could have never have pictured myself doing youth work, or any kind of work for the Church. But from August 16th, I will be heading to Minnesota in the USA to work for an organisation called NET ministries. Their focus is on a ‘New Evangelisation’ – reaching young people in schools, parishes and youth clubs. I feel this next step is going to form my faith in an ever greater sense, spending day to day meeting young people and preaching the Gospel. I will spend 9 months travelling the USA, going from place to place, and living with different host families along the way. What could be a greater
adventure? And for me this is what faith has helped me to understand about life. That it is an adventure, that it is to be enjoyed, and that we must live each day for God and His mission for us. This is what will make us truly happy. As it says in John, let us “Live life to the full”.

Harry, 16, Preston

Catching the Lourdes bug

Being a young Catholic in 2013 can be a testing experience. There are fewer and fewer young people in church congregations, and young people are often ridiculed or discriminated against for practising their faith. However, when I went to Lourdes with our diocesan pilgrimage, my faith was boosted in a way that it had never been before. To see the hundreds of people from our Diocese: priests, VIPs, carers, able-bodied pilgrims and young people; amongst the thousands of others from all-over the world, come together to pray to Our Lady and St.Bernadette, gives you such an amazing feeling that words cannot describe. But a pilgrimage to Lourdes certainly gives you a lot more than this. The week was full of unforgettable memories, with both the VIPs and the other young people, and I made many new friendships that I’m sure will last much longer than the week we spent together. I can’t wait to go back next year- I’ve definitely caught the Lourdes bug!

Nisha, 17, Preston

My faith is part of who I am

Being a young Catholic today is hard but I absolutely love it! My faith is a part of who I am; it defines my personality and it sets me apart from other people of my age. I could not get through a day without Jesus! I believe He is always there, helping me and guiding me in even the smallest choices that I have to make. It hurts me when I see young people who are going in the wrong direction in life and people who have not accepted God’s love in their lives. As a Catholic, I believe it is my duty to help these people even if they are not always willing to listen! At school, I am surrounded by young people who try to convince me that God does not exist. This is one of the challenges of being a young Catholic, especially in today’s society where many people are openly atheist. However, I love it when I am faced with situations like this because it gives me a chance to speak out about my faith. I have always thought that I am one of the very few young Catholics in my area but this year, after going to Castlerigg Manor a couple of times and to Lourdes with the Diocese, I have realised that I am not alone. I have met so many young Catholics; we understand each other and we can share our experiences of being a Catholic in today’s society. The pilgrimage to Lourdes in July was an amazing experience that I will
never forget! It has definitely helped my faith to grow and Our Lady has given me people who I can look to, in the future, if I ever struggle with my faith. Overall being a young Catholic is incredible! Although I face challenges, I know I will always get through them with the help of God. My faith has become a huge part of my life and I am never going to give it up!

Charlotte, 18, Preston

Being a Catholic in our society can prove to be difficult, especially in the hectic life of a teenager who doesn’t want to miss out on anything. It’s not always easy to find the time to speak to God, or to remember to say a prayer at the end of each day, but in fact what I have learned about the Catholic faith in recent years is that we can speak to God anywhere. He is always with us, and speaking to Him is something we can all do. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, ‘Actions speak louder than words’. Although it is very important to take quiet time away from our busy lives to speak to God, I have found that simply being ready to accept the challenges which He throws at us, and being ready to help other people is a great way of letting God know we’re still here. I have been to Lourdes three times now. Each time I go I find myself discovering my faith further, not only through time spent at the Grotto and in Masses, but through helping and chatting to the sick pilgrims. Hearing other people’s stories of their faith and seeing the hope they have has really encouraged me. The fact that the sick pilgrims are always smiling even though for some of them they know that this will be their last trip to Lourdes is very humbling. Suddenly, the problems of everyday life do not seem to be so large anymore: knowing that someone who is in far worse health than you can still manage to smile is something that has really inspired my faith.
Being ready to accept the challenge which God has set me and being able to help these pilgrims, not just physically but socially as well is something which has helped my faith to grow. I guess what I am trying to say is to keep smiling and be ready to accept whatever it is that God throws at you. You never know it could be your smile through a difficult time that inspires another person in their faith.