When I was younger I had this passionate dream of living on a canal boat with a border collie and working in teaching. As I grew up, though, I realised that life does not always go as planned and found myself very distant from my faith and studies in my second year of college. During this time I was offered a place to work up in the Lake District, at a Catholic retreat centre called Castlerigg Manor. I knew the centre very well, having gone there in my younger years – coming from Lancaster Diocese, I could hardly not know it!
In truth, I messed up my second year of college and left myself in a difficult position, facing an uncertain future. When this voluntary position was proposed to me I thought it would be an easy job, which would give me time to work out my next step. How wrong could I be? Having joined the centre I was suddenly working and living with people whom I did not know. I had to acknowledge and respect other people's opinions. Moreover, I had to work hard to allow the young people present to get all they could from the retreats which we planned and delivered. I found myself working very late hours and asking challenging questions about the job I found myself doing. It is difficult to explain what youth ministry is, but ultimately I feel it represents an opportunity seldom found in other jobs. Over the course of my time at Castlerigg I came to discover just how vital it is to be in these young people's lives.
To be among individuals wishing to know more about faith led me to want to do the same: these young people were directing me on a path closer to God. I found myself questioning many things during this time: ultimately, who is it that God wants me to be?
As you can probably tell, before entering youth ministry I was very focused on myself; putting my needs first was my priority. Spending a year focusing on prayer, world issues and thinking about other people's needs led me to see the world very differently. "What you do to the least of my brothers, you do unto me" is a strong message which prompted me to try and start to put others first. I also found that I loved being an inspiration for these young people. I loved sitting down and chatting with them, but most importantly I loved that God was starting to become the centre of it all. Youth ministry was never a job I wanted to do, yet I find myself sitting in front of this computer knowing that, come the autumn, I will be starting my third year with Animate. I have learned that life can surprise us, leading us to unexpected places. Yet these unexpected places might be the very destination God has called us to reach.
• Faith In Action follow-up meeting – 7 July, 5.30–7pm, at Lowe House, St Helens, WA10 2BE
• Life & Soul – 7 July, 7–8pm, at Lowe House, St Helens, WA10 2BE
• Lourdes Youth departure Mass – 10 July, 6.30pm, St Mary's, Lowe House
Keep up to date with the Lourdes and World Youth Day Pilgrimages on social media:
Facebook: Animate Youth Ministries
Instagram: @animate_youth Website: www.animateyouth.org