Having spent a frantic few weeks fundraising, the staff and pupils at Corpus Christi High School presented us with 20 Rucksacks all full of underwear, socks, sleeping bags, chocolate, t-shirts, shower gel and a New Testament. They also had a few items spare! We were blown away by their efforts and generosity especially in such a short space of time. The people who attend our Wednesday Drop-In were delighted to receive such a useful gift for Christmas and were so touched by the love and care that was demonstrated to them. If you would like to be involved in a similar project in the future then please get in touch.
On Wednesday 29th November 32 young people from the Seekers youth group came with us to Energi Trampoline Park. This group have huge amounts of energy to burn off so this was the ideal place for them! I was very impressed by the skills that many of them had – including even a backward somersault landed perfectly by one of them! I have lots of very blurred photos from trying to capture their fun as they moved way too quickly for my skills…However here are a few that came out okay. It was a great evening with lots of very hot and tired young people at the end!
Sunday 26th November was the Feast of Christ the Universal King and each year the Church in England and Wales asks us to celebrate National Youth Sunday on this great feast. So we gathered the young people who attend our groups together at St Clare’s and spent a few hours with around 50 young people exploring the theme of Christ the King and preparing for Mass. Then we joined the Parish for the evening Mass during which the young people provided the music, readings, bidding prayers including a sung response with sign language, and a dance with flags to the entrance hymn. They also made a banner which was displayed in the church.
After Mass the younger ones went home and we were left with around 30 teenagers for an evening meal to which we had invited the local Clergy. The theme for Youth Sunday this year was ‘Something to Say’. With the Synod approaching that will focus on Young People and Vocation the idea was to start (or continue) the conversation between young people and Priests. We had a yummy three course meal with each course accompanied by some conversation starters which started casually but grew in depth to encourage honest sharing. Judging by the questions that Fr Andrew was having to field, I think that was definitely successful! All the young people and the local clergy who attended found the experience rewarding and enjoyable and there were definitely bridges built.
Josna said: ‘Youth Sunday was a really good day to spend time together while worshiping God. I really enjoyed singing with others and praising the Lord. I also enjoyed talking to other priests and getting their insight on our faith’
Corpus Christi High School are generously helping us to provide a rucksack full of useful things and a message of love to each person who uses our Wednesday Drop-In over the Christmas period.
We went into School on Tuesday 28th and Thursday 30th to address two assemblies about the appeal. We took some time to explain some of the situations that can lead to people sleeping on the streets and to suggest some ways that they can help. This Advent each of the form groups will raise money and the School SVP group will then use that money to buy and fill as many rucksacks as possible.
We can’t wait to see the result!
On Wednesday 29th November we worked with around 60 Year 6s from several of the smaller Primary Schools around Preston. The smallest school only had 3 members of Year 6! St Andrew’s Parish, Cottam hosted us all for the day.
We explored the Advent theme of staying awake with a particular focus on prayer. We started the day by joining the Parish for their morning Mass and for the rest of the morning we played games that helped us think about communicating with God, listened to the Word of God in the Bible and made posters to share what our small group’s Scripture passage taught us about God and who we are in His sight. After a packed lunch and a run around outside we split the group in half and experienced two other ways of praying. One group came into church with Ruth to think about using our bodies to worship the Lord. We thought about different ways we use our bodies in the Liturgy, different postures we might use for prayer and sang some worship songs using our bodies to accompany the words we were singing. The other group stayed in the Hall with Joe to focus on using our minds in prayer. After learning about St Ignatius and his encouragement to use our imaginations and all of our senses in prayer, we were led in a guided mediation based on the Nativity story. Once the groups had swapped around and experienced both ways of praying we rounded off the day by hearing from the young people what they had learned, what had touched them and what they would be taking away from the day. It is always a pleasure to work with the Small Schools Cluster, to see the young people interacting together and of course even better to hear how they have encountered God through the day.
On Wednesday 22nd November we spent the day with Year 10 at Corpus Christi High School. The whole school had an extended learning day and the focus for Year 10 was Faith and Justice with a theme of ‘Called’. We led a workshop ‘Called to Relationship’ in which we set up eight interactive prayer stations each with a different aspect of God’s character for the young people to engage with. Each form group then came in turn around the different workshops and the response from the young people was great with many being able to share something that had touched them during the session. We ended the day with the year group coming together to celebrate Mass and we led the music for the liturgy.
When Rise Theatre came to town, we made sure that all our young people had the opportunity to watch the play too. Here is what one of them, Ben, had to say about it…
A few weeks ago I went to a play performed by Rise Theatre on the life of Oscar Romero. After enjoying a slice of pizza and a drink we entered St Wilfrid’s church and sat down for the play to begin. Throughout the whole play I was captivated. I didn’t know three actors could put on such an amazing performance. The life of Oscar Romero was hard for him yet he brought out the best of everyone and would never give up – I can certainly see why he is becoming a Saint. And the best thing is, I got so much out of the experience. It has affected my life drastically and I now feel my faith is stronger with God and my actions are influenced by Him. That night was one of the best of my life!
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!
The week started on Sunday evening 10th September with the return of ‘Anointed’. It is always wonderful to catch up with the young people who we haven’t seen over the summer and to capture the excitement they have being together again.
Also on Sunday, at the same time, we began a new group for Year 10+ called ‘Sent’ which is to cater for those who have grown up through our groups and will have a particular focus on going out with the Gospel. This group will make up part of the formation for our young leaders as well as those who we hope will join the young leader’s next year or who feel they do not have the time to commit to the full programme. As with all new groups we will have to see how this develops…
Having visited St Clare’s Primary School and emailed around all existing members it was fantastic to welcome around 30 young people to Seekers on Wednesday 13th September. It was a great mix of new faces and those who have been coming faithfully for a while. They are a lovely group and I can’t wait to see how they grow!
It was also brilliant to welcome back our faithful volunteers without whom it would be impossible to give the young people the great experience that they get and to offer a truly Christ-centred programme.
All the groups will be exploring the theme ‘The Kingdom of God’ over the next half-term in age appropriate ways. Many of our Sunday Gospels during the coming weeks speak about the Kingdom in either parables or in the attitudes that we might exhibit as members of that Kingdom. Our prayer for the groups is that they will be glimpses of the Kingdom where we all worship Jesus as King!