CAFOD - Step into the Gap

CAFOD - Step into the Gap

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Hi, my name is Sharon. I’m a third year Psychology student, taking a year out to do a sandwich placement at Castlerigg Manor, Lake District. I’m volunteering as part of a programme called Step into the Gap, run by CAFOD.

During my time at Castlerigg, I will be helping young people learn about Christ. I love working with young people, they bring a lot of colour and happiness into my life. I also love helping people. Prior to volunteering for CAFOD I worked for Victim Support helping Victims of Crime, and Age UK helping patients who have Alzheimer’s, whilst teaching the elderly IT skills (a very fun experience!) As you can see I’m a people’s person.

I will be going to schools and parishes to talk about the projects CAFOD are doing such as “Hands On” and “World Poor Day”, encouraging young people to embrace global justice and do our bit to make a difference in the world.

At the end of my year I will be going to see the projects CAFOD do overseas that transform people’s lives. I’m very excited to learn, and be inspired by this experience.

I have made many friends since I’ve settled into Castlerigg. As you can see above, I have a wonderful family at CAFOD and Castlerigg. There are eight other gappers on both teams. We have got on so well and learned many things about each other. Hope to make amazing memories with them.  Wishing everyone all the very best for the year ahead!

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Medjugorje

Medjugorje

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“They think that they can do it without directing their thoughts to the Heavenly Father, who illuminates – to my Son, who is always with you, anew in the Eucharist and who desires to listen to you” – Our Lady Queen of Peace’s Message to the visionary Mirijana, 2nd August 2018

This year, I travelled to Medjugorje on pilgrimage for an annual youth festival, with a group of my closest friends and other young people from all over the UK. Medjugorje, a small town in Bosnia and Herzegovina, was the home of six children, to whom the Queen of Peace is reported to have appeared to since 1981. After spending many beautiful summers in Lourdes with Lancaster Diocese, I had high expectations from Our Lady for this trip.

My relationship with God began with a prayer I made in the grotto in Lourdes. There, I was filled with a peace that I had hoped to find again as I began my pilgrimage in Medjugorje. But, our God is a God of the unexpected, and peace was not the principle gift that I was to receive in this little town. Despite the reverence that encircles Medjugorje, this place felt different. I felt that Our Lady was working here now, and her message was urgent. Whilst in Lourdes as a 16-year-old girl, God had told me, ‘its all going to be ok’, here I could hear him telling me ‘perhaps it won’t always feel okay, but what does that matter? I am with you anyway.’ It was once I accepted the message of this pilgrimage, that I allowed God to work his wonders in me that week.

Whether it was dancing to the praise-music of the festival, the Croatian woman that hugged each of us as she said “peace be with you” or watching the sunrise in the middle of Mass, you could feel the joy of the Holy Spirit working throughout this town; a joy that has lasted long after I stepped off that return flight into rainy Leeds. As my friends and I spoke of this pilgrimage, we knew that this joy had been kindled throughout the group and couldn’t just be kept amongst us. It felt impossible to leave Medjugorje without feeling as though something needed to be done. Daily, the visionaries share a new message from Our Lady, to tell us that something in our lives needs to change. If we only listen to her message, a message of such powerful peace, then this change can become fully alive in the world.

Rachael

Castlerigg

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

24th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his own cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life, for my sake, will save it.

-       Mark 8:27-35

Last Sunday’s Gospel reading was a big one. Not for its length, but for the effect it could have on our lives. This week we are going to take a section of the Gospel, which you can read above, and look at it bit-by-bit.

Jesus is telling us to renounce ourselves, take up our cross and follow him. This is a pretty huge command. Why should we ‘renounce ourselves’? What does that even mean? To renounce means to reject or abandon something. So, do we have to sell everything we own and wear a sack for clothes like the High Sparrow in Game of Thrones? Well, maybe…but we don’t have to do that (and I’m certainly not recommending it!).

 

For me, renouncing myself as Jesus tells us to means not living my life by my own way, but by God’s way. We can often think we know best, and that we know what we want and what is best for us, but when we do this we often find ourselves at dead ends, or things go wrong and we get in a mess! When we follow our own desires, we ultimately find ourselves unhappy and unfulfilled, having followed things that don’t make us truly happy.

 

This is what Jesus is telling us to renounce in this passage: our own imperfect ways! Instead we can take the path God is laying out for our lives. Let’s let all our worldly desires go, because they will only fail us. Instead let’s follow God, and let his love into our lives. This doesn’t necessarily mean forcing ourselves into poverty and spending every moment praying in Church, but it means living our lives the way God wants us to. It means saying to God, during good times, as well as the bad and just plain uncertain: ‘God, I’m trusting you here. Please guide me through this.’ At University, I often found myself out of my comfort zone: be it with friendships and relationships or with an essay that would just not write itself. I wouldn’t always turn to God, sometimes trying to plough through my troubles myself or other times simply burying my head in my duvet. These were both sure fire ways to burn out or get a rubbish mark on my work. But when I did turn to God, I found that I had renewed strength, and peace in my heart. I found myself being closer to the best version of myself that I knew- the person God made me to be!

 

This links in to the next part of the sentence, when Jesus tells us to ‘take up your cross and follow me’. We can take our cross to mean the heavy things we carry through life; our burdens and responsibilities, worries and fears, and all the rest. Being a Christian comes with burdens. It means we can’t always do what we want to in the moment, or that we are judged by those who stereotype people of faith. It can mean that we have to drag ourselves out of bed on a Sunday morning to get to Mass- as the team did this week, we got drenched! But the beauty of our faith is that we know Jesus is with us through all of this. By willingly taking up His own cross, and dying on it, he shares in all our burdens, all our fears and worries, all our wet and windy walks to Mass! He is with us through it all, and all He asks is that we stay with Him on our journey of life, because He loves us and wants to be with us.

 

Lord, you came to Earth to share in all our sufferings, both great and small. Help us to trust you, and to follow your path in our lives. Please be with us, because we cannot carry our crosses without you. Amen.

Castlerigg Team - 2018/19

Castlerigg Team - 2018/19

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When every new team arrives at Castlerigg in the middle of August, we’re all at different stages of life. Some of us are fresh out of sixth form, and have little experience of the workplace, while others have been out of university for a year and are familiar with work routines and practices such as safeguarding. We are also all at different stages of our faith journey, with some of us not even being Catholic. With that in mind, the two and half weeks of training we go through as a team are designed to bring us rapidly up to speed with all things Castlerigg and youth ministry; as well as getting to know the people we’re going to be spending the next year of our lives with!

After we said farewell to our families on moving-in day, there were a fair few moments of uncertainty and doubt, but the leadership team were always on hand to keep us busy, getting to know each other and our new home. One of our first ‘team-building’ tasks was taking us out rowing on Derwentwater, which some of us took to more easily than others… But it did the trick of bringing us together as a team, and for fun. Phelim’s vast collection of board games has similarly kept us busy in the evenings.

Having only been here for two weeks, we all agree that it feels as though we have known each other for much longer. Theresa particularly notes how quickly she became comfortable with her new housemates, which helped her to be more confident and engage in all we were doing as a team. Being in such a close environment has meant that we have quickly learned to rely on each other, be it with washing up after meals or looking out for each other when we’re out on walks.

What’s more, we’ve had a selection of the Diocese’s best and brightest coming to give us talks and presentations on various topics. These ranged from safeguarding and professional standards to the sacraments and how to read the Bible in a prayerful way. They were all very engaging and thought-provoking, Rachael particularly enjoyed Fr Chris Loughran’s talk on the importance of having a personal encounter and relationship with Jesus. For each of us, it is our personal relationship with Christ that has drawn us here to Castlerigg, and it is this that we are so excited to share with young people (you!) this year. 

We’ve also had two excursions out of Castlerigg, to Walsingham for Youth 2000 (See our other blog!) and also last weekend on The Big Walk. Most of us were experiencing these things for the first time and so they continued to bring us closer together. The boys in particular were united in solidarity against Patrick’s snoring in the boys’ tent…

So, in all, training has been a busy but positive time for us. Full of new experiences, faces and responsibilities. We have already grown as individuals and as a team in the last few weeks, and with our first school retreat just days away we are all eager to get started. It was great to welcome Bishop Paul this weekend, both for the Big Walk but also to have him formally commission us as gap year volunteers. At Mass, he prayed ‘May the Lord, who has begun this good work in you, bring it to fulfilment’. This is our prayer too!
 

Share in the Joy

Share in the Joy

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This weekend the new team travelled to Walsingham in Norfolk, to attend the Youth 2000 festival. First and foremost, our thanks to those who got us there, especially Fr Alf from St Wulstan’s and St Edmund’s Fleetwood, in his Parish minibus! Walsingham is a picturesque village which has a strong history as a place of pilgrimage for Catholics. In 1061, Richeldis De Faverches prayed to Our Lady the Mother of Jesus and Our Lady led her in Spirit to Nazareth, in which Mary told her to build in Walsingham a replica of the Holy House of Nazareth, where Jesus grew up. When she achieved this, Walsingham became as famous as Jerusalem as a place of pilgrimage for Catholics in the Middle Ages. The original Holy House was destroyed in the reformation, but the ‘Slipper Chapel’ and Shrine remain.

The Youth 2000 festival brings together over a thousand people mostly ages 16-35, as well as inspirational speakers from all over the world and dozens of priests and religious. The festival is centred on a huge circus tent, within which Jesus can be found 24/7 in the Blessed Sacrament. We gathered in His presence every day to hear from speakers such as Anthony Gielty and Mary Bielski. We prayed and sang uplifting songs of worship, and to celebrate mass.

We could also spend some time in quiet with Jesus late at night or early in the morning. Phelim took the brave calling to spend some time in adoration at 3am on Saturday Morning. He reports that he enjoyed taking some time reading the story of the road to Emmaus from the Gospel and simply reflecting on a busy day in the tranquillity of the Lord. We let him off for having a bit of a lie-in the next morning…

We all got a lot from the weekend, which for many of us was the first opportunity to take part in such a joyful and vibrant celebration of our Catholic faith. It was emboldening to meet and get to know so many other young people, as well as priests and religious, who are faithfully living out their lives as followers of Christ. It served as an important reminder that our faith is not something that should be restricted to one hour on a Sunday, but something that should soak through our entire lives; and fill us with pure love and joy!

Patrick, who had never been to a Youth 2000 event before, was struck by how passionate people were about their faith: ‘I think it’s good for people to have a space to do that in an increasingly secular world.’ He also enjoyed the healing night, and found the testimonies really powerful. People with ailments such as chronic back pain found they had been taken away after being prayed over.

The theme of the festival was ‘Share in the Joy’. Since arriving at Castlerigg just over a week ago, we have been getting to know each other as we embark on this year together. By sharing in the joy of Christ in such an enthusiastic way at Walsingham, we have certainly grown closer as a team and as friends. As the old mantra states, ‘the family who prays together stays together’!

As many of the speakers reminded us this weekend, Jesus brought us all to Walsingham for a unique reason, and the same is true for us as we begin our year at Castlerigg. We can’t wait to get started, and look forward to sharing the joy with you soon!

Sponsored Walk

Sponsored Walk

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On the 28th May an intrepid group set out from Castlerigg Manor for the sponsored walk. Fr John had planned a challenging route, taking in some of the amazing Lake District landscapes, and the day lived up to expectations.

Each year Castlerigg Manor welcomes thousands of young people and fundraising helps us to keep the costs down to enable everyone to participate. The ten participants on the walk had a target of raising a thousand pounds each and, although money is still coming in, it looks like we are on target.

We left Castlerigg Manor by minibus, ready to set off from Grasmere. It was a beautiful sunny day and, although showers were threatened in the forecast, we barely saw a cloud all day. The route started out by climbing rapidly from Grasmere to Stone Arthur, a challenge in the heat, where the views over the valley opened out below us. From there it was up again to Great Rigg, and then on to Fairfield, where we could see ahead of us along the Helvellyn range. In the way was a sharp descent to Grisedale Tarn, passing a few people brave enough to try swimming, before climbing again to Dollwagon Pike.

From Dollywagon Pike the path continued to rise and fall, taking in Nethermost Pike on our way to Helvellyn, the highest point of the day. Continuing north, we left the tourists behind and found ourselves on the quieter peaks of White Side, Raise, Stybarrow Dodd, Watsons Dodd, Great Dodd, and eventually Clough Head. The heat of the day proved a challenge, and as we came to these latter summits water was in short supply (and not to be found on the ridges!). The final descent to St John’s in the Vale was steep and rocky, passing old mine workings before reaching the road and a car loaded with bottled water – a very welcome sight.

We were delighted to be joined on the walk by Bishop Paul, as well as staff from several of our schools. Everyone enjoyed the day and finished with a great sense of achievement. We’d walked 17.15 miles, climbed a total of 6,102 feet and reached the summit of twelve Lakeland fells.  Along the way we had the chance to get to know each other, and spent a whole day in awe of the beautiful countryside around us.

You can still donate at MyDonate

Shine Where You Can

Shine Where You Can

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A talent is something that we are born with that gives us unique skills and abilities.

Talent is set apart from knowledge in that it is not a learned behaviour, although it can be strengthened and practiced.

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace” 1 Peter 4:10.

The Bible tells us that we are all born with different talents and gifts that set us apart from each other. When you discover the talents that God has given you, thank God for them. Living out your talents it can help us find our unique calling in life.

Paris is one of the Castlerigg Manor volunteers who decided to step out of her normal routine and her comfort zone in Barrow to serve God through serving the Diocese searching and living out her Faith, living in community carrying out youth work sharing her gifts and talents each day and encouraging others to find their own.

One of Paris’s talents is music. She is very talented at singing and I have been telling her how she inspires the young children through singing practice and social time.

In the book of Gary Zukav called 'The seat of the Soul' which I am reading at the moment, he describes the Authentic power as the power that will never leave you but will benefit other people around you. Our best legacy we can leave behind in life, I believe, is that we share our talents, be it singing, playing football, playing guitar or something else. Every one of us was created with solutions to the challenges of others, through empowering them by using the talents we have.

You may have heard about ‘The Voice’ on national television. It is a campaign across England for spotting talented musicians who will participate in next year’s television show, and the winner is receives a recording contract and £100,000.

Well, recently in Keswick there have been auditions for this programme and it was of great joy to see our own Paris participating in the process in front of so many people. It was also great to see her in the Keswick Reminder too.

Through Paris’s example of sharing her talent I came to know that it’s better to believe in yourself and you keep your head held high so you can “run the race with endurance” Hebrews 12:1.

It reminds me that is “a man who sets to win, he never say impossible”.

If you have a talent, let it grow, do not hide it!

Cleo - Castlerigg Manor

 

Rosary Around the Coast of the British Isles

Rosary Around the Coast of the British Isles

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On Sunday 29th April, the Catholics of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland formed a Human Rosary chain around the entire coast!

Over 400 locations were officially registered and an estimated 45,000 Catholics took their Rosaries in their hands to the coast to pray for Faith, Life and Peace!

The event brought together our Church in the UK, with Bishops, Priests, Religious, Laity and youth all praying as one at 3pm for Faith, Life and Peace.

I went home to Fleetwood where I worked with Canon Alf Hayes to get a team together to organise our rosary for the area. Someone opened their Chalet on the beach and provided hot drinks, someone else brought their Statue of Our Lady and others brought so much joy to the cold showery afternoon that it was.

I love my home town and I spend most of my time on the beach when I’m home just reflecting on life and appreciating the views looking across to Morecombe, Barrow and the Lake District hills. On this occasion it was a beautiful experience, firstly receiving a special Apostolic blessing from Pope Francis and knowing that St Wulstan’s and St Edmund’s Parish were  joined together with St Mary’s and even a couple from the Willows in Kirkham to pray our rosary led by some of the Parishioners including our young people, gazing across to the other parts of the Diocese but, also on a bigger scale joining in prayer around the country.

St George, Pray for us.

St David, Pray for us.

St Andrew, Pray for us.

St Patrick, Pray for us.

Patricia, Fleetwood & Castlerigg

Why Should You Join Us In Lourdes?

Why Should You Join Us In Lourdes?

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Ella (centre) and Paris-Ayo (right) explain why they are going to Lourdes with the Youth Service this year:-

 

ELLA

This summer, after finishing my gap year at Castlerigg Manor, I am travelling with the Lancaster diocese, along with other young people from surrounding schools and parishes, to Lourdes. I have never been before and am looking forward to learning more about this special place in the run up to our trip.

Before now I have never really had the opportunity to go to Lourdes, my high school didn’t go every year and I missed out when they did go, but it is definitely something I have always wanted to do. I have had a very Catholic upbringing from my mum, catholic primary and secondary education, and have heard a lot about Lourdes from family, teachers and friends, all speaking very fondly of the Holy place, the amazing experiences people have there and how it has been a significant turning point in a lot of people’s faiths.

I didn’t know too much about Lourdes before I signed up but I always knew that part of our pilgrimage to Lourdes is to assist the sick and that this trip is more for them than us, this is one of the main things that appealed to me about the pilgrimage.  I have given this year to serving God through the youth and I am so blessed to now have this opportunity to serve the sick, I am a big believer in that through serving others we are ultimately serving God.

I also knew I would get to see some amazing places like the Grotto where Our Lady appeared to Bernadette, but apart from that I was pretty clueless. In some ways it made me more excited because there was so much to discover but I feel at a big disadvantage having never been to Lourdes before because it is a really special place for Catholics and as I said a huge milestone in many faith journeys.

Only this past weekend on our Lourdes Prep retreat did I really find out how much we do and get to experience in Lourdes, including torchlight processions, bathing in Bernadette’s spring, visiting the Basilica on many occasions, St Bernadette’s walk, international mass in the underground basilica, sacrament of the sick for our sick pilgrims (VIP’s) and of course free time with the VIP’s from our Diocese. I have met a few young people that will be travelling with us on our 24hr coach trip, and am so inspired at the huge numbers of young people that spend a week out of their summer to assist the sick, something a lot of their peers wouldn’t usually do.

If you would like to support me, I am currently fundraising to be able to go on this amazing trip, and my crowdfunding page is: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/ella-lourdes

God bless,

Ella

O Dear White Rose,

Whose petals enfold our hearts,

Draw us to the centre of your sweetness, Jesus.

Amen

PARIS

After taking part in the preparation weekend for our upcoming pilgrimage to Lourdes, it has reminded me of the amazing experience I had back in 2015, making me even more excited for being there again in the summer. To me, Lourdes is a place full of hope and shows us what true faith is, to see thousands of people all on their own personal pilgrimages come together to share in their faith and the love of Christ is indescribable. When I signed up for the Lourdes pilgrimage back in 2015, initially I was extremely nervous as I didn’t feel I had a true understanding of what Lourdes was and I felt that my understanding of my faith was nothing compared to the people around me. However, shortly after arriving in Lourdes I realised that this wasn’t important anymore. It was about opening up my heart to Christ, understanding the love Mary our mother has for us and helping others to enter into this experience.

There are so many moments from this pilgrimage that have had a great impact on my faith. One was an experience I had at the Grotto, the place of which Our Lady appeared to Bernadette. I felt as though so far I had been struggling to really enter into the experience, but in that moment I truly felt as though she was with me and was showing me she was there with us every moment of our pilgrimage to comfort and reassure us.                                                   

I was lucky enough to be able to both assist and spend time with some of the most amazing and inspiring pilgrims from our diocese, who really helped to make the experience so memorable for me. One afternoon, after assisting a Lady to the basilica in the domain, we took some time to explore and spent time in adoration and praying the rosary in the Eucharistic tent. This will always be so important to me as it showed how faith truly brought people together. It showed me that people of different ages, genders and nationalities were all able to join in prayer because of this sacred site and Our Lady.

After meeting the young people, I will be traveling to Lourdes with, I am even more excited for what this pilgrimage will bring. I have enjoyed my gap year here at Castlerigg so much and I believe this experience will help me to carry on exploring and sharing my faith after finishing my year here.

Lourdes is a truly beautiful and incredible place and no matter where you may be on your faith journey, or what your understanding is of Lourdes, I would strongly encourage anyone to take the opportunity to visit this remarkable place.

God Bless, Paris

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Easter Retreat

Easter Retreat

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Katie - Castlerigg Team

I really didn’t know what to expect for the Castlerigg Easter retreat, I was so excited for it but I had no idea what it would be like. I have wanted to go for a few years but other things have always come up so I didn’t get the chance. Being part of the team at Castlerigg has given me the opportunity to get involved in such an important and inspiring retreat.

It was really great to meet young people who were so enthusiastic and so happy to be back at Castlerigg. The Thursday evening consisted of celebrating mass in the chapel and the blessed sacrament was removed from the tabernacle. Sister, Cleophas and I had also spent the previous day transforming the conference room in to a garden of Gethsemane so we spent an hour watching and praying with Jesus, time to reflect on the sacrifice Jesus made for us and how we can use this as an example to sacrifice ourselves for others.

I learnt that the cross is where the anger of people and the mercy of God meet and, because of the cross, we are saved from our sins. We venerate the cross in the Good Friday service to express the thankfulness we have for the sacrifice He made for us. I find it so difficult to even imagine the pain that Jesus went through to save us. We had the opportunity to see the stations of the cross through Mary’s point of view. This helped me to comprehend the sadness and the pain of Jesus and Mary on this day. We also got the chance to reflect upon the Passion of Jesus Christ and how we can relate in some way to each character of the Passion through a creative activity.

Holy Saturday helped me to understand about how we can empty ourselves of our sins and the things that get in the way of our relationship with God. In the evening, we had a beautiful service in the parish church. The music led by both the team at Castlerigg and the music group at the parish was really lovely. It was a brilliant service and filled us all with so much happiness and hope. When we got back, we had a late night Easter egg hunt in the garden at 11pm! The day finished with an Easter vigil party, which was so much fun.

I had a wonderful time on the Easter retreat, I am already planning on going next year! I met some of the most inspiring and lovely people and it was a real blessing having an opportunity to be part of it. I had so much fun but I also learnt so much as well. I always love going to the Easter services in my local parish but I often don’t understand the importance of some aspects of the different services so it was really good to get a better insight in to the Easter triduum. If you are thinking about coming to the Easter retreat one year, I would definitely recommend that you do because you will not regret it!

If you need any more convincing read what some of this years attendees had to say:-

 

Amy - Carlisle

Amazing experience, my heart is full of joy and has made me realise I want to be baptised.

Alex - Blackpool

Amazing and so relaxed. It brought me closer to God, even more than last time, I get to know more every time and it was great to see and get to know people.

Jess - Blackpool

Loved every minute! As a non-Catholic it has certainly made me think more about how to deal with different areas of life and how Jesus can work through them.

Jess - Fleetwood

It’s my first retreat at Castlerigg, totally different to what I expected, really feel welcomed into a bigger family. I understand the Easter message and walking through each stage of the Triduum made me understand so much more!

Ben - Bury

It’s amazing to see so many people and get the chance to allow our Catholic family to grow. Very thought provoking in our reflection time and this Easter retreat has helped me understand how to pray to God.

My Time in Lourdes, France

My Time in Lourdes, France

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I cannot wait to go back to Lourdes one day because my adventure was truly fun and amazing as I had to reflect on my faith and also to help children.

When Fr. John told me that I may have opportunity travelling with HCPT group 56 From Preston to Lourdes I couldn’t believe at first because I thought he was joking as Lourdes is one of the places I studied about during my High school and wished to visit.

Being a non-European citizen, the journey to Lourdes wasn’t easy at all as I had to do some paper work like applying for French Visa but I can’t thank enough both my team leaders at Castlerigg Manor and Mr. Richard of HCPT group 56 who provided me with necessary support.

Lourdes is well known to millions of religious pilgrims, but you don’t have to be religious, to enjoy a trip to Lourdes as it has a lot of attractions that everyone must enjoy ranging from good weather to nice hotels.

My aim in Lourdes was not to stay in Five-star hotel but to serve God through serving his people as HCPT takes vulnerable people especially children to Lourdes every year.

I am a person who believes that we don’t need to be strong church attenders in order for us to prove that we love God but we need to focus on helping people as the best way of serving God.

This year’s HCPT pilgrimage theme was summarised in three important words that is “YOU ARE IMPORTANT” indeed through sermons from different preachers, Priests, Deacons and Bishops I became to know that everyone is important and that we all deserve the same.

I can’t explain enough, my time in Lourdes but what I can say was a well spent worthy Easter week as I met different people but mostly to see a place where Mary met Benedetti, the little girl who became a source of faith to people both young and old in this world.

I remember many people in wheelchairs at all the processions and services, the pilgrims who waited patiently to take their turn in the baths near the grotto. Over 25,000 pilgrims gathered in Lourdes in the shrine, several huge basilicas and churches dominated the grounds.

My favourite moment was when my face was painted by our HCPT group 56 members and also to hold Group banner during torchlight processions for which Lourdes is famous, a flickering ribbon of light held by pilgrims singing hymns of praise in a long line of groups of men and women holding large banners aloft bearing the names of their cities and churches

I can’t finish my experience in Lourdes without talking about grotto the most respected small place in this world because I considered it to be the heart of the sanctuary.

CLEOPHAS TUKAMARWA

 

 

 

 

 

Lake District - World Heritage Site

Lake District - World Heritage Site

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Living here in Keswick is a real blessing and has really opened our eyes to the beauty of the Lake district that we are lucky enough to have on our own doorstep. It is so great to finally see it with the title it deserves as it has been named a ‘World Heritage Site’, sharing the same status as incredible places such as the Taj Mahal and the Grand Canyon.

We were lucky enough to go down to Crow Park, overlooking Derwentwater, joining Keswick’s community in celebration of this. The lovely weather, the picturesque scenery surrounding the Park and the excitement felt throughout the town made the day so special. Keswick’s theatre company by the Lake and St. Herbert’s Primary School helped us celebrate the occasion with wonderful performances, all building towards Prince Charles himself speaking and unveiling a commemorative plaque.

In light of the event he said:

‘‘Whenever I come here and, in the words of Psalm 121 ‘lift up mine eyes unto the hills’, I feel my spirits rise and I know the same is true of countless others.’’

It was brilliant to hear Prince Charles speak of the beauty of our home, sharing in his experience and hopefully helping us all to understand the importance of our Lake District and of its care and protection. Having such beauty around us can sometimes lead us to taking it for granted, so this day was a real wake up call to how lucky we are.

We were then fortunate enough to have a brief conversation about the day and our work here at Castlerigg with the Prince of Wales after the event, which was a great finish to such a lovely morning.  It was amazing to see so many people from Keswick and the surrounding areas turn up and share our love for the lakes, hopefully enjoying the day as much as we did. It was so great to see the future King of England have such passion for keeping the natural beauty of England protected and ensuring its recognition.

Paris and Ella - Castlerigg

SPUC Youth Conference

SPUC Youth Conference

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Early in March, a few of the team from Castlerigg attended the SPUC Youth Conference for a weekend down in Stone, near Stoke-on-Trent. The Society for Protection of Unborn Children was something I didn’t know a lot about until recently and abortion has always been a bit of a taboo topic for me as an eighteen year old girl. It’s difficult in today’s society, especially if you want to fit in, to know when it is appropriate to voice your views on such controversial subjects and how to do so without offending others.

The conference helped me a lot with this as I got to meet other likeminded young people who were not afraid to speak out and talk with passion about being pro-life and it made me realise just how important it is that people like us do share our views with others if we want to make a difference in the world. There is nothing to be ashamed of about being pro-life, in fact, it is something to be proud of and part of being a Catholic.

My understanding of abortion was quite basic before the conference and I’d never put a lot of thought into how this experience effects people. Abortion is the deliberate killing of an unborn child and since it became legalised in the UK in 1967, there have been over 8.4 million. That’s 8.4 million lives taken away from innocent, defenceless human beings. There are approximately two hundred thousand reported abortions every year in the UK with the NHS claiming one in three women will have an abortion in their lifetime. An abortion can take place up to 24 weeks and even later in some cases, yet statistics show a 39% chance of a baby surviving if born at 24 weeks. By 16 weeks, a baby can respond to sound, feel pain and is sensitive to light. Whilst psalm 39:13 springs to mind; ‘For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb’, I can’t help but feel like even without my faith this seems inhumane and unmerciful.

The talks at this year’s conference focused on the effects that abortion has on the mental health of women. I found this particularly interesting as I intend on studying psychology at university next year. On the NHS website it states, ‘women who have an abortion are no more likely to experience mental health problems than those who continue with their pregnancy.’ However I learnt from one of the speakers that medical research shows that the risk of suicide is around six times greater after abortion than after childbirth. Another thing that really struck me was the lack of information that women receive prior to the procedure and how little support they receive if they are ambivalent about such a fundamental decision in both their own and their unborn child’s life.

Whilst some of the talks were quite intense and some of the content was extremely upsetting and graphic, it was necessary given the sensitivity and seriousness of such an issue.

The evenings were much more light-hearted with a quiz on the first night with icebreakers to get to know people and a ceilidh on the Saturday which was good fun!

I really enjoyed my first conference and found it a really educational and thought-provoking experience. I have come away feeling proud to be pro-life and inspired by the amazing work other young people are doing to save lives and wanting to make a difference myself.

Hannah, 18, Castlerigg

Dear Papa Francesco, We The Youth Would Like To Say...

Dear Papa Francesco, We The Youth Would Like To Say...

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A couple of weekends ago I was invited to represent the Lancaster diocese at a meeting about the upcoming synod in Rome on Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment.

Coincidently my Fiancé was chosen to represent the Salford diocese! So we were both speaking from the point of view of a young person in the Church, as well as being a young catholic couple journeying towards the vocation of marriage.

The meeting was a relatively small gathering of around 12 people who had come to represent their areas from around the UK. The focus and aim of the meeting was to give input based on our experience of being young people in the Church as well as what other young people experience in their own communities. It was no surprise that all of us there work with young people in one way or other and so we all had a well-rounded view on various experiences the youth of today are dealing with.

We discussed many aspects of youth culture in the Church and all had different things we felt were relevant to our specific diocese, however there were some crucial points that we all agreed were widespread and should be fed back at the synod: Identity, Social Media and Fear of Being Authentic.

Identity. We talked about many issues plaguing the youth and so many of these stem from some sort of issue with their identity. To know the Father, and to have a relationship with Him, we need to know ourselves as children of God.

But how can we do that if we are having so many issues with who we are physically, emotionally and psychologically? It’s proven that it’s impossible for humans to think of further fulfilment (that of their spiritual wellbeing) if their basic human needs aren’t being met. The church needs to find a balance of being able to support the fulfilment of these needs in order to properly evangelise and catechise young people. In my opinion a simple way of fulfilling some of these areas is to simply be more hospitable, welcoming and accommodating to those seeking out the Church. Many can be put off when they don’t feel wanted or loved by the community they are seeking to immerse themselves in, which is why we see young people especially seeking this acceptance elsewhere.

We as a church are more than capable of providing an environment to allow this to happen.

Social Media. Social media is what our existence has become. It has rapidly grown into a norm for everyone and we live in a society where our lives are being broadcast to the world by the nanosecond. We have started to seek our worth and affirmation through a screen, from people we may never encounter in our physical lives. This is where we are falling into dangerous territory with how this is affecting the human person, in particular youth and their self-worth, esteem and again, identity.

It also fuels a disposable and relative culture that is rapidly growing amongst the youth. Friendships and relationships are thrown away and ended via a text, or even worse a public declaration on Twitter! Unborn babies don’t matter and are thrown away daily, we are changing gender, having cosmetic procedures to alter our look, and we are using people for our own gain whether that is sex, money or affirmation.

But, that’s not to say that it can’t be a force for good and a positive tool to be used. Like it or not, social media is here to stay and the church needs to use it and be present on the platforms that reach billions of people far and wide at every minute of every day. Pope Francis recognises this and is well known to people outside of the church due to his efforts. It’s now time for us to reflect this across the wider church.

The third topic that we felt was important to share was Fear. It appears that the Church is fearful to really be who she is. We are worried of offending, scared to speak truth into the lives of those we encounter, and we seem terrified that we will cause any more ‘bad press’. But, by being timid we are doing a disservice to the future of the Church. By not being authentic we are not offering the world anything different than what they are already having shoved down their necks. We need to shed the fear and live out our first vocation and shared mission of holiness – and that’s not to just be from the Bishops, your parish priest, or youth minister. We ALL have an obligation to uphold the truth and share it with everyone we encounter!

These were just some areas we spoke about, but there is so much more the youth have to say. Even though we won’t be in the meeting with the Synod fathers and won’t get the chance to voice our individual opinions we must continue to make our voices heard.

So if you’ve got something you’d like to say, ideas you want to share, issues you want to raise, then start talking. To each other, to your priests, to your chaplains, youth ministers, anyone that will listen! Do not settle for what we have in front of us, do not settle for injustice, do not settle for a church that is doing the minimum. We, the youth, are the future generation that will carry the church forward, it is our responsibility to make sure it not only survives, but thrives.

Keep the Faith,

Narquita

Pope Francis: “Can we change things?”

The youth shouted: “yes!”.

That shout came from your young and youthful hearts, which do not tolerate injustice and cannot bow to a “throw-away culture” nor give in to the globalization of indifference. Listen to the cry arising from your inner selves! Even when you feel, like the prophet Jeremiah, the inexperience of youth, God encourages you to go where He sends you: “Do not be afraid, [...], because I am with you to deliver you” (Jer 1:8).

 

Let Any Anxiety Go And Live In God's Hand

Let Any Anxiety Go And Live In God's Hand

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LET ANY ANXIETY GO AND LIVE IN GOD’S HAND

Anxiety gets into our heart and takes away our energy, sense of wellbeing, sense of security but mostly takes our faith both to fellow human beings and to God.

Most of the time anxiety leads us into negative decisions which end up affecting our life emotionally, spiritually and physically.  One of my friends called Jackson was put in prison for fighting with another friend of mine, John.  They had fallen out due to something so minor.

After serving his three-month sentence in government prison he asked me to act as a bridge between him and John in order for them to be friends again, which I did.

When he was asking for forgiveness from John, he said “I don’t know what caused me to fight, but I linked it to Anxiety”. Jackson apologised while tears rolled down his cheeks.

Anxiety is something everyone must learn to cope with when tackling our daily life challenges, but more especially it should be a time to draw close to God rather than going far from him.

I always think about the story of David and Goliath in the Bible, and imagine how the little boy David was nervous to face the giant Goliath.

After realising that he is too small to defeat the giant and warrier Goliath, David left everything in God’s hand.

“You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel”
1Samuel 17:45.

I’ve always found that the first step in overcoming the challenge of anxiety is you have to figure out exactly what you’re afraid of and to know that God’s hands are everywhere and he will support you in whatever you face. One step at a time, just let that anxiety go and enjoy God’s caring hand help and take control.

Once I spent three nights, unable to sleep because of all the anxious thoughts racing through my brain, and in the middle of a lot of questions that were soon taking over my life so I opened my Bible and I read:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Philippians 4:6-7

 The key to bouncing back is to learn whatever lessons you can from the experience so that you can avoid making the same mistakes in the next chapter or know the signs so you can stop the anxiety and say ‘No, you have no control on me.’ This will help you to overcome your fear, take a leap of faith and try again.

“When I said, ‘My foot is slipping, your love, O LORD, supported me.  When my anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul”
Psalm 94:18-19

Little steps can take you along way.

Cleophas Tukamarwa

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Radical Hospitality

Radical Hospitality

“Hospitality requires not grand gestures, but open hearts”- Radical Hospitality, St. Benedict’s Way of Love

The art of radical hospitality requires very little. Humility, Love and Availability.  When we lean into these three things our lives will naturally be at service to all those we encounter. Christ calls us to humbly serve Him through our hospitable posture, we must greet each other as if we are welcoming Christ Himself into our homes.

Last week our dear Sisters, Sr Sheinrose and Sr Maria Dee, renewed their vows in front of a small group of us at Mass. They took great care and time in preparing for the humble celebration, but they still found time to witness radical hospitality to myself and Ella (Volunteer) in so many ways, and its these small acts of love that I’d like to share with you all.

In order to transport the Castlerigg community to Windermere for the Mass two of us had to catch a very early bus to the sisters’ home. When we arrived we were greeted at the bus stop by Sr Sheinrose and she walked us the few metres to the little home. Act of love No. 1

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When we entered the house we could hear St Maria Dee busy in the kitchen preparing breakfast. I had not expected this as it was so early and they would have been very busy preparing for their special day. I took my boots off and left them by the door, Sr Sheinrose immediately rushed to the cupboard where she pulled out some slippers for me to wear! She was worried I’d be cold.  Act of love No. 2

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Sr Maria Dee appeared and we were ushered into their dining room, we found a beautifully prepared table with wonderful food. I was really over whelmed with the sheer thought, love and care that had gone into them welcoming us into their home.  Act of love No. 3

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After being well fed and looked after all four of us piled into a taxi to take us to the Church, where the Sisters’ took to busying themselves with the final touches for the mass. The rest of the Castlerigg community arrived and we prayed the rosary in preparation of the mass. It was during the mass that the sisters witnessed to us the greatest act of love. The renewing of their vows. They invited us to celebrate the wonder of Christs love in the Eucharist and allowed us to witness their affirming of vows. Act of love No. 4

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The sisters’ have served as a great reminder that all we have is to be shared, and all that we do should be an open invitation to all. Our faith isn’t a private or individual thing, it’s a gift that should be open and shared with all. Our lives and hearts should be open to all those we encounter to allow them to share Christs love that we as stewards of the faith have been gifted.

‘Your life is not personal property; you belong to God. We are simply stewards of what God has given us. We are to serve one another in love. Everyone is a guest – even those of us who live here. God is the host, but God also becomes the guest we receive in others.’ - Life Teen Rule of Life

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Keep the Faith,

Narquita

Volunteers' Conference 2018

Volunteers' Conference 2018

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At the start of January, the Castlerigg team joined other Catholic volunteers, retreat leaders, chaplains and directors from retreat centres from all over the country, for the annual conference in Swanwick, Derbyshire. This gave us the opportunity to meet other people who were doing similar work to ourselves and it meant that we could take a few days just reflecting upon the work we do and our faith before entering in to the New Year.

We met at Castlerigg Manor on the Wednesday and started our day with Morning Prayer. I really liked this because we all knew that we would have a busy and tiring day ahead of us and it was nice to spend a few minutes in prayer. Travelling to Swanwick took us five hours (we did make a few wrong turnings along the way!)

When we arrived, we were split in to our small groups and spent time getting to know each other. We also discussed our experiences in youth ministry. The rest of the evening involved celebrating Mass and getting to know some of the other volunteers.

On Thursday morning, Father David O’Malley and Anita from the Salesians gave the keynote address. We had the chance to learn and reflect upon the theme of this year’s synod of Bishops, “Young People, the faith and vocational discernment.” I found this interesting and it gave me a chance to think about my purpose and my vocation in life. This session also gave an insight in to what influences young people the most today, from social media and the news to the encounters we have with different people every day. The thing that stood out to me the most from this workshop was the importance of asking ourselves the question ‘Why?’ We face so many life-changing decisions, and it is important to take the time to really think and reflect upon the decisions we make each day.

For the afternoon, we were given the choice of several different workshops. The team split up so that we could all learn different things and share our experiences with one another. I chose to attend the CAFOD workshop in which we learnt different games and activities linked with the campaigns that CAFOD runs. I also attended a workshop, led by Fr David and Anita, called ‘Signposts and Discernment’. I found both of these workshops very insightful and helpful, and I am really looking forward to sharing what I have learnt.

In the evening, we had a reconciliation service led by St Vincent’s (a retreat centre based in Kent). It was a beautiful service and a good time to reflect upon what I had done throughout the day. After the reconciliation service we all celebrated with a ceilidh. I was so excited for this part of the retreat because I love to dance and the retreat leaders, who had been before, told me how good it is. I had a brilliant time and the whole team really enjoyed themselves!

The final morning started with a morning reflection, led by CAFOD. It was about their new campaign ‘Share the Journey’. The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness of people who are forced to leave their homes to flee danger. CAFOD are hoping to walk 24,901 miles, the distance around the world, to help us to think about the journeys that people all over the world have to take to escape danger in their homes. The volunteers at the conference were given the honour of launching the campaign and we all walked one mile on an Emmaus walk, putting more than one hundred miles on the totalizer! I have decided to continue this, this January but instead of walking, I am going to run!

After CAFODs morning reflection we spent some time reflecting on what difference this conference would make when we returned to our centres, and what we might do after our gap-years.

The conference closed in the chapel with our final liturgy. Each retreat centre received a box and a letter with the address of another retreat centre. We have the task of filling the box with gifts and items from our community and we will send box to Walsingham house, a retreat centre in Brentwood.

Although all the retreat centres in the country do similar work each one is unique, and throughout the week, we could share and receive ideas from people from the other centres. We also formed new friendships with people who were doing similar work to ourselves and we had so much fun. Conference was a brilliant way to start 2018 and I am looking forward to the rest of the year. We were encouraged to make a little pledge for our community so alongside the mission of the Youth Service we have also decided: “We will not be afraid to ask the question why, to both ourselves and to the young people, to have conviction with our answer and choose to trust in God and each other.”

Katie, Castlerigg

The Youth Service are recruiting for next year’s gap-year team. If you will be 18 or older this summer and are interested in growing in faith and sharing it with others please get in touch: team@castleriggmanor.co.uk or visit our website.

I Love Working with Young People!

I love working with young people, they have influenced my life and contributed to my own personal faith in so many ways. I have heard many profound things from the mouths of the young people I have encountered in my time of ministry, but occasionally those words said are too beautiful and moving not too share with.

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This week at Castlerigg we have had the wonderful privilege of working with St Ambrose School from Coatbridge (near Glasgow), and it was during our final few hours together, and during the celebration of the Mass, that one young man called Joseph shared his thoughts on the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-23).

He and his small group stood up to share the art work they had done to represent the Gospel for that day. He had in his hands a small exercise book in which he had written some notes on how he interpreted the scripture, and it’s this I’d like to share with you.

‘The parable is not about seeds, it is about faith and the word of God. A more understandable way to put it would be the way people receive the word of God is like walking. Some people try to walk but give up immediately, some people want to walk but they soon get tired and they give up. Others pick up the pace but fall back suddenly and completely stop…. But some walk until the very end, never faltering, never wavering, and they complete the walk until the end’.

Joseph, age 13 – St Ambrose, Coatbridge.

 His understanding of what our lives were made for and how our humanness can stop us reaching our fullness in Christ is why I do what I do. It affirms that the time and effort we put in sowing endless seeds pays off, and sometimes we are blessed enough to see some of the fruit in ways like Joseph, who so bravely and unreservedly shared his faith with his peers, teachers and the Castlerigg staff, sowing his own seeds of faith. It has given me great hope for the future of our church. Young people like Joseph will continue to share the gospel, but in the meantime we must continue to be brave and unwavering like Joseph, and proclaim with conviction and no hesitation the ultimate purpose of our lives.

Narquita

 

 

New Year, New Start, New Me

New Year, New Start, New Me

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We are half way through the first month of 2018. What was your New year’s resolution?

Many people go through their whole life saying that I didn’t have a good start to my life so that is why I shall remain where I am. The mistake that many people make is that they don’t seem to be aware that the beginning of their life does not determine their end. It does not matter what you didn’t do yesterday, you have the power to change your life in this new year as you begin a new journey of your life. I love this song “My Tomorrow Must Be Greater Than Today” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OD-IpBhGFCs&list=RDOD-IpBhGFCs&t=44)

Some of the team have shared their new year choices; Ella one of the volunteers here at Castlerigg is among the people who started the new year in a new style of being Vegan for January. She started this new year in style with non meat treat. She has even found a nice Vegan café in Keswick. Another team member Matt whom we used to share porridge every morning at our breakfast but, this New Year he decided to start enjoying cornflakes and not drinking coca cola, his favourite drink. Megan and Ella have recently donated blood to make a difference to someone’s life.

It is never too late to start on a new journey and take your life to the heights of greatness; the choice is yours. In John 10:10, Jesus tells us he came so that we can “live life to the full”. Believe in yourself and take action today, so that you can achieve your goals that you have set out for yourself. Let us open our hearts to God and ask him to continue to walk with us. It does not matter about the life you have lived so far; you have everything within you to live life to your highest dream. Let’s look forward and give our past to God. In scripture it says “No need to recall the past, no need to think about what was done before. See, I am doing a new deed” Isaiah 43: 18-19.

There is this belief that successful people have something special about them, and that is why they succeed, but that is not the case, successful people set goals, they make plans, they invest in themselves, they put self-education over entertainment and they take daily consistent action. Let us receive our blessings from God this New Year and be thankful for them. We thank God for the blessing of our self. Let’s start each new day with an open heart to enable us to be successful in doing good each day. You are more than you appear to be, you can grow the beginning stages of awakening require that you have faith in the journey and yourself, set big goals, you will grow into them, start now.

Cleophas - Castlerigg Manor

Christmas Message - Matty

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How do I feel about being at Castlerigg this year? It is interesting! It’s good to be able to work with both children and young people around Christmas time, because it adds a good sense of both joy and excitement to Christmas that you yourself may actually forget or put aside a little bit of as you grow older.

It’s good to be able to celebrate the build up to Christmas in a range of different settings and centres. I’ve celebrated the build up to Christmas in schools, working with children helping them to prepare for their Christmas plays and parties, and making things for advent, and I’ve celebrated the build up to Christmas in another retreat centre, where there were some Christmassy/advent resources and activities added into the program.

This year at Castlerigg, I’m looking forward to celebrating the build up to Christmas and working the advent retreat along with other members of the team as well as working one of the advent days in a school in Barrow along with the rest of the community.

I’m really looking forward to the next week and a half both living and working at Castlerigg in the build up to Christmas.

Merry Christmas 

Matty