My connection with Animate began during my first trip to Lourdes in 2009. The experience I had that week was a real kick-start for my faith, which had been fairly dormant despite my regular Mass attendance with my family. I was inspired by the sight of other young people being active in their faith, and also the witness of the pilgrims that we serve in Lourdes. What started as a hesitant trip to the south of France became my first step on a path to discover my vocation.
As well as returning to Lourdes for the next five years (six this summer), in 2011 I travelled to Madrid with the archdiocese for World Youth Day. For the first week of the pilgrimage we split off and stayed with families in a small city called Ciudad Real and the welcome we received was one of the most humbling experiences of my life. They opened their community and their homes to us, complete strangers, speaking different languages and from different cultures, but united in faith.
The second week of the pilgrimage was spent in Madrid itself. Thousands lined the streets to catch a glimpse of Pope Benedict before the opening service; we attended catechesis sessions with 10,000 English-speaking pilgrims and caught up with our friends from Ciudad Real. Throughout the week it felt as if faith brought down the barriers between everyone we met, and I am still in contact with Spanish and American pilgrims I encountered. My highlight of the pilgrimage will forever be the overnight vigil followed by Mass the next morning. Despite the near-apocalyptic weather conditions during the night, being surrounded by two million people showed me that the Church truly is for all. It was at this moment that I realised I wanted to share my faith with others so they too could have the opportunities I had had.
While the rest of my classmates were applying for university, I was applying for a place on the 2012/13 Animate team. Come September I had packed for the short move from Widnes to St Helens, and I knew instantly that it was where God wanted me to be. Sharing my testimony with so many young people was unbelievable – in fact, I could not just stay for one year as I felt that I had more to give. There is a hunger for faith in the young people of our archdiocese; it is there and I only hope our ministry can help to plant a seed that one day will grow into something greater.
During my time here I too have grown, as a person, learning from those around me in community and the young people alike, and I have become more grounded in my faith. Finally, I have discovered that discernment can take you down many paths; Animate has afforded me an opportunity to explore a few of them, and it is something I will carry with me wherever I journey in life.
• Dates for the diary
27 June: Nightfever
Nightfever returns to the Blessed Sacrament Shrine on Dawson Street in Liverpool, starting at 7pm. Join us beforehand for 5.40 Mass.
12 July: Summer festival
Our Summer festival at Lowe House runs from 12.30–5pm and features different workshops exploring the theme 'The Joy of Mission'.
N.B. The author is pictured on the far right of both photos.