During Half-Term we took a fantastic group of our local young people on a retreat to Coldwell Activity Centre. I’ll leave it up to the young people to tell you all about it but suffice to say God was at work and He is forming His new saints!
One of our Young Leaders, Prabhu had this to say:
As a young leader the retreat was one of spiritual education as well as obtaining the skills in order to proclaim my experiences of my faith. The retreat was focused around All Hallows Day. We began the trip with a few ice breaker activities so that all members of the group could grow in confidence amongst one another. After this, we split into smaller groups to learn more about one particular Saint and how their stories are relevant to today. To explain each Saint, each group had to perform a short play about their lives. It was here where many of the young leaders, including myself, realised that despite knowing the names of these great Saints such as: Maximillian Kolbe and Padre Pio; our knowledge of their lives was extremely limited.
The next highlight of the day was a celebration of All Hallows Eve, another opportunity to socialise. ‘It helped me grow in confidence and also bond with new people’ was the comment of Alfi. The party consisted of all members of the group portraying a Saint through their costume. After explaining who they are dressed up as, we embarked on an enjoyable evening full of games and music.
To end our first day together we entered guided meditation in which all members of the group chose what is the most important thing to them in their lives. Personally I realised how I waste a lot of time doing unnecessary things, and how I should be dedicating that time to growing closer to God. The meditation was the beginning of a series of events in which we learnt to trust God more. One of the young leaders, Richa, said the retreat, ‘allowed me to put my trust in God and encouraged me to learn more about my faith’. This was the view of many people; the lack of technology on the retreat made us understand how much time we waste on it during our lives.
The following morning was used to prepare for mass on All Saints Day, the group was split into three: preparing a short play for the gospel and organisation of the readings and bidding prayers. Nonetheless, for me, the main feature of the mass was the music. Throughout mass there was lots of singing, at the beginning of the celebration many of the younger members were shy to sing aloud. However as mass continued the young leaders took charge and showed that you don’t have to be able to sing well to praise God. That you are not singing for others, but purely for praising God through the words you say. This led to a wonderful conclusion of mass through ‘The Lion and The Lamb’, a song whose words had everyone praising God in full voice.
The afternoon consisted of a walk up a nearby hill. As we walked up we appreciated the company of one another but coming back down was where I realised the difference between having a Catholic friend and a normal friend. After being split into pairs, we were told to walk down the hill communicating about our experiences of God. It was here where I was able to fully open up about my life stories including God. Walking down with my partner, we were both able to have complete trust in each other. We were able to talk about various topics of faith that with a non-Catholic friend would be impossible. ‘This retreat was the perfect way to show how much dedication and love the young people of our community have for Christ’ said Tushar, and for me this event in particular highlighted that. After this we heard the truly inspirational story of one of our leaders. He told us how he had battled through various addictions and issues in his younger years and how by simply trusting God he overcame all of them. As a young leader this was amazing to hear. Although many of the issues he had faced did not directly relate to me, the implications of his story are very relevant to my life. As a young adult in college, many people question my faith and why I believe in it. The testimony that was told motivated me to always stay true to my faith, as without God we cannot live good lives.
For our second night together we watched ‘The Shack’ a film explaining how even through bad situations we must trust God to make the right decisions for us. That we mustn’t try to carve our own path in the world and that through trust in God all good things will come. After the film we entered a discussion in which some of the young leaders could raise their subconscious issues in entirely trusting God. We learnt that although it is a very difficult to have complete faith in him, we need God more than anything else in the world. That even if God does not give you all the materialistic objects you desire, he will give you true joy and happiness, something we all experienced during the retreat.
We began our last day with a demonstration of how the Holy Spirit affects us. This practical showed how the Holy Spirit entered us all through baptism, but without allowing it to flourish within us, it cannot fully influence our lives. We need it to help us so that we stay true to God in all aspects of what we do. Next we started preparing for the mass of All Souls, after which we discussed how the retreat helped us. As young leaders we found the retreat as a great experience to get away from the stresses of school life and just fully commit to God for a few days. Jomes described it as ‘an enlightening and enriching experience’, something that echoed through the group.
On the whole, the retreat was a fantastic few days away. I learnt how I need to trust God more in my life and spend more time learning about him. That now, more than ever, I need him to influence the decisions I make in the life that I lead. All of the young leaders felt that we are getting too caught up in this secular world and we need to maintain a close relationship with God so that he can help us in all that we do. The relationship must be one of complete trust in him, we need to allow God to change our lives without doubting the decisions he makes. Although this may seem scary, and difficult to do, through God our lives will be far better than what we dream for ourselves.
Here are a selection of some of our saint costumes – can you guess who we are?
A member of our ‘Anointed’ youth group, Jeny also shares her experience:
This All Saints Retreat really changed me, both as a human being and as a follower of Christ. It made me grow as a person, and it also widened my faith. Through this retreat, I gained and learned so much: I have gained more self-confidence, I’ve gotten a lot closer with so many people, I’ve seen people’s talents, I’ve learnt not to judge people by their appearance, as they could be the opposite of what I thought of them and I’ve also gotten a lot closer to God and my relationship with Him has changed in so many ways. “I felt like the retreat was a very uplifting experience and helped me to develop an understanding of my faith. It helped me to learn in more depth about All Hallows day and I learned about many different Saints” said Maria, this was mentioned by many of the young people.
I realised that I used to judge people a lot by what they looked like, wore or just their appearance, without knowing them properly, or not talking to them. This retreat got me talking to people I never thought I would talk to, people who I didn’t think were nice, just because of what they looked like. But once I started talking to them, I realised that they’re not bad at all. I’ve grown closer to so many people and my relationships with others have grown as well!
This retreat also made me realise that everyone has their own plan, but God also has a plan for us, it could be different to our own, but we must learn to accept it. We might make mistakes along the way, and we might choose the wrong path and walk through the path of thorns instead of the path that God has sown for us, but that is what makes us who we are. I have learned that if we are leading our lives in the wrong path, it is our own responsibility to change for the better and it should be because we want to change, not because we are forced to! God always wants to lead us in the right direction and wants the best for us no matter what, by accepting his plan, we are saying ‘yes’ to God and accepting him in our life.
I have also gained an understanding that everyone has gone through tough times in their life, I might think they had an easy life and everything fit perfectly into shape, but everyone has their ups and downs, but that’s all just a build up to our future selves. I heard the story of one of the youth group leaders, Joe, and when I heard the story I was in so much shock.
One of the sessions that we had was where Joe, one of the leaders, gave his testimony, he shared the story of his life and how he became who he is now. Personally, I thought it was a really inspiring story and even though he went through so much, he wouldn’t be who he is now if those things didn’t happen to him. I believe that everything Joe went through was all part of God’s plan to make him who he is now! It really made me realise that everyone does have their challenging times, and everyone has days, months, even years in their life, where nothing has gone right, and everything is going downhill! Joe told us how, as a teenager/ young adult, he went through a lot: rejection from people, lots of different addictions and he had to face a lot of problems. Joe tried to change who he was to make an impression on other people. He smoked, drank, became a womaniser, stole and stealing progressed to burglary. But he faced an incident and that incident changed everything. By trusting in God, his whole life turned around, he overcame all his addictions and problems. “It really inspired me to be a better person and that I can’t do this on my own. The only way I can do this is with God and I learnt that if I have faith, anything can happen” said Josna. I agree with this and so did many other people, all you need is faith! As I am in high school, there are a lot of people who question my faith and ask me why I believe in God. I believe in God because he helps me through everything. I believe in God because if there is ever a problem, he always helps me face them head on. I believe in God because He is like a friend who I can trust with anything, a friend who I know I can always rely on. By hearing Joe’s story and hearing how just by trusting in God his whole life turned around for the better, I am now inspired to never lose my trust in God… as He will always be around the corner if I need Him!
One of the activities that touched me the most was where we walked up a nearby hill. On the way there, we walked with our friends, and so, we had casual conversations, none of them really ‘God’ related. But on the way back down the hill, we were put into pairs. When we were put into pairs we were asked to walk down answering a few questions, eg. “How has your faith changed your life?”, “Have you ever doubted your faith?”, etc. Personally, sometimes I feel quite awkward when I talk about my faith with one of my normal friends as they don’t believe what I believe. But by having a Catholic friend, it can change everything. When I was walking down the hill with my pair, talking about my faith, I felt fine. I didn’t feel awkward or uncomfortable, I could talk freely!
Overall, I feel like this retreat really changed me. It was a real eye-opening experience. I have learnt and can take back so much. I have come to so many realisations and I know even more that I can trust God no matter what, it doesn’t matter what I’m going through, I can always reply on God to help me through everything. This retreat made me realise that my faith is more important to me than I thought before, I value my faith so much and I wouldn’t be who I am without it. I value my faith because it is what drives me to make great decisions. My faith in God has already helped me through so much and I really value everything God has done for me. I have realised that I spend a lot of time on technology, my phone, laptop, Tv, tablet. But I need to snap back into reality and be thankful for everything God has given me. On the time I am on my phone, I could be doing so much more productive things, and by coming on this retreat, I have realised that one of those things is praying to God, not just asking him for things, but to thank him for everything he has given me as well. I will ever forget this retreat, even though it went so quickly, I will never forget all the lessons I have learnt and all the memories I have cherished!