Tag Archives: youth 2000

Evangelisation: From the Mission Field #2

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“‘In the desert, people of faith are needed who, by the example of their own lives, point out the way to the Promised Land and keep hope alive’ (Benedict XVI). In these situations we are called to be living sources of water from which others can drink. At times, this becomes a heavy cross, but it was from the cross, from his pierced side, that our Lord gave himself to us as a source of living water. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of hope!” Evangelii Gaudium, 86

In this series of posts, “From the Mission Field”, I am sharing some inspiring stories… people open to the Holy Spirit, allowing him to do amazing things in their corner of the world. May these stories encourage us to keep fanning into flames the little fires we’re starting in our own little corners…

#2 Evangelising Birmingham – Collette Power

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I met Collette a few years ago at a Youth 2000 leaders’ weekend: straight away, it was like meeting a kindred spirit. As soon as I mentioned I worked for a parish in Balham, Collette shared her own passionate love for evangelisation, and we were off…

Collette is 26 and lives and works in the Archdiocese of Birmingham. Over the last few years she has led and developed the 2nd Friday project in Birmingham, a lay-led young adults’ movement with a focus on discipleship and evangelisation. She has now turned more towards parish ministry as well as freelance social communications work for the Church.

Collette, give us a snapshot of some of the evangelisation initiatives in your parish and in Birmingham – what’s going on?

During the two and a half years I led 2nd Friday, a small team of us – through the power of the Spirit – grew the group from six to over 100 young adults at each meeting. The meetings included Confessions, Mass and Adoration, teaching and fellowship. The focus at 2nd Friday has always been recognising how isolating it can be to be a young adult in many of our parishes, gathering young adults together for fellowship and formation and then sending them back to their parishes and places of work and study to bear fruit. We encouraged various works of evangelisation such as running the first NightFever in Birmingham, creating Scripture resources, founding the UK’s first March For Life, running a Life in the Spirit series, hosting a Youth 2000 retreat and much more.

This is separate from what I’m doing in my parish. Within the parish, I think you could sum up our work in one sentence: “If we aren’t leading people closer to Jesus, we are wasting our time.” Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Here are three highlights of the last year: each is incredibly basic in approach, but going back-to-basics has sparked something of a renewal across the parish…

We held a study group on finding God in the workplace and we witnessed some really beautiful conversions here. It was amazing to see parishioners realise that God wants a relationship with them Monday-Friday as well as weekends. Work is meaningful to God and He desires to meet people there.

Another little thing was offering parishioners something on daily prayer. We printed a sheet with a brief outline for morning and evening prayer and taught the parish to pray. People were encouraged just to add one minute in prayer to the start and end of the day in prayer and to increase this as they felt more at ease in God’s presence.

Finally during Lent, we organised a Life in the Spirit-style series, with the simple aim of helping parishioners have a more personal encounter with Christ. Each week we met for adoration, fellowship and a talk on the basic message of the Gospel. We were blessed with about 60-70 parishioners coming each week, including many who don’t do “extra-curricular”, lapsed Catholics and also evangelical Christians from the local churches. The climax was a night of renewing or making our commitment to Christ. I was moved to tears as I witnessed parishioners dashing to the foot of the altar to say yes to Jesus. About 120+ people attended this session and it was an incredibly graced moment in the life of the parish.

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These sessions also set a compass for “where next?” I was blown away at the final session when parishioners (and some of the unlikeliest people) were firing out ideas for mission. “We need to get out there and share Jesus with the whole of our town” was the common theme. It highlighted for me, what Pope Francis talks of in Evangelii Gaudium about an evangelising community going out in boldness because they know the Lord loves them and He takes the initiative. There is definitely an air of ‘holy boldness’ about the Church at the moment.

Going forward, we have a parish and school mission with the parish community next month. We are also looking at increasing adoration in the parish and are in the process of establishing cell groups.

Has it always been like this? How did it all begin?

No, it hasn’t always been like this. I left my parish to seek fellowship with other Catholics my own age and to grow in my faith. In doing this, I realised that there was very little on offer in my diocese for people my age and I ended up being asked to look after 2nd Friday. This was a catalyst for a whirlwind of young adult formation, activity and evangelisation in our diocese. In recent months I have felt called back into my parish to minister and witness in this setting. I would say the catalyst for renewal in the parish has been a small group of intentional disciples and our parish priest. We have got over “numbers”, focusing instead on growing this small group of disciples and in 12 months we have seen a domino effect in the parish as more and more people thirst to really know Christ. The witness of a life lived for Christ is very powerful and very attractive.

I think it begins when you recognise something is missing or not right in your community and you realise that you are being called to respond to that situation or need. At 2nd Friday there was the realisation that there was very little on offer for young adults in our diocese. In the parish, it was the realisation that we needed to renew our relationship with Christ, we needed to cultivate discipleship.

I truly believe that God places you in certain settings and shows you certain things because he desires you to do something about. Feel annoyed that there are no young people in the church? Does it irritate you that you have to travel outside of your parish to get faith formation? Maybe you wished your parish had more outreach to the poor or even a NightFever. Whatever it is, take it as a personal invitation from Christ to remedy that ill. He has no hands but yours. That’s how any mission starts…

Can you tell a couple of stories where you could see the Holy Spirit working? What has God done?

Parish mission flyer

Parish mission flyer

There are four stories (among many others) that I want to mention…

2nd Friday was really a beautiful gift from God. I was asked to look after the project, not even a year after coming back to the Church. I felt completely out of my depth but I begged God to send me young people and my, did He deliver! The Lord sent young people in their abundance, he sent priests to minister to us and he sent all the resources we needed to do his work.

Another story: years ago we hosted the UK’s first “March for Life” rather unintentionally. What started as a local event to mark the halfway point in our 40 days for Life campaign, ended up on Facebook six weeks before the event and we were soon welcoming people from across the UK. We had six weeks and no money to pull off this event; but through the power of prayer, the Lord sent us everything we needed. It was a testing time for all involved and we spent the best part of that six weeks storming heaven, but the Lord answered our prayers so beautifully and each time we received something we were back on our knees praising! “Thank you God for that power generator”; “We bless you Lord for sending us more helium”. The holy high we had at the end of the March was indescribable.

Another amazing thing that happened in the last few years: my friend, Lise and I founded a blog called ‘Generation Benedict’ in the wake of Pope Benedict’s abdication as a response to all of the negative press. The blog simply shared the stories of young people whose life had been impacted by the ministry of Pope Benedict. What began as a little idea quickly went “viral” and we were fielding interviews from across the world on the “youth and B16”. The blog was later nominated for a new media award and we received correspondence from the Vatican thanking us for our work. The whole project highlighted to me how God can use social media in such a powerful way to spread the Gospel and I’ve been hooked ever since!

Finally, we ran Nightfever in the parish about 18 months ago with the help of Youth 2000. It had an incredible effect on the parish, particularly how it renewed belief in the power of the Blessed Sacrament. It also made a great impression on our parish priest, who was initially very resistant to hosting Nightfever. He talked at Mass after the event of how the Lord changed his heart that night and how we just need to get out there and share the Gospel because people need it and God will equip us. This had a profound effect on the life and mission of the parish.

In your view, what are some of the key ingredients to fruitful evangelisation?

March for Life

March for Life

Prayer, prayer and prayer: essential! Pope Francis has often spoke about evangelisation starting on our knees in prayer, and this is so true. In prayer you cultivate your personal relationship with Christ and this is vital. Once your life has been touched by the life and love of the Risen Christ, you can’t help but want to share it with others. Prayer is also a vital place to test ideas for mission. Evangelisation is God’s work, we are just his instruments so we must always ask, “Lord is this what you want? Lord show me your will. Show me what you desire for our parish…”

I also think a passion for God’s people is another essential. When you launch a new initiative or project, it isn’t about ticking a box, it involves real people. Working with people can be really messy but God desires to enter this mess and it is where he works best. A passion for people means never giving up on a soul because the Lord thirsts for that person more than we can ever begin to imagine and he desires to use us to lead that person to Him.

Finally surround yourself with a good team! I am very blessed to have some close friends and priests in my life, to bounce ideas off, sharpen vision for certain projects and just pray together. We share a lot of the same desires and it is great to be able to encourage, challenge and inspire each other as we seek to do the Lord’s work.

From the outside, evangelisation in Birmingham seems to be flourishing… But what are some of the most difficult things that confront you? What discourages you and how do you deal with discouragement?

Youth 2000 Retreat

Youth 2000 Retreat

I think one of the hardest things is resistance to anything new in the life of the Church. You expect it from people outside the Church but when it comes from the people who should be on the same team: that’s tough. But I think that is probably a common experience across the Church and one that doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. I find criticism of what we do and even of what we aren’t doing hard but my response to that will always be “so what are you going to do about it?” The call to build the Kingdom is given to everyone, not just a few. If you aren’t happy that something isn’t happening in your parish or diocese, then maybe God is calling on you to do something about it.

I think one of God’s best gifts to remedy this has been working with an incredibly supportive Archbishop and also with Priests who have got your back. Archbishop Bernard has always been a great supporter of our apostolate, he would personally invite young people to 2nd Friday when visiting parishes across the diocese and would write and speak about our various initiatives. Unity with the our Bishop has always been important in our apostolate and knowing he supports our work, gives me a confidence that we are on the right path and helped me rise above difficulty and discouragement. In the parish setting, the support of a priest who believes in his young people and gives them real responsibility for mission in the parish because he values the gifts God has given them is a great remedy to discouragement. This unity with the Church brings a great peace in the face of difficulty.

How do you balance your work in evangelisation and the rest of your life?

To pay the bills, I work part time for Clinique at the moment. I don’t think “balancing” features in my vocab. To evangelise and share the good news of Jesus is such an integral part of my baptismal calling – it is hard to separate “evangelisation” and “life” because they are so closely tied. Through my secular employment, God has entrusted me this mission field and affords me many opportunities to share the Gospel here. For many people I am the only contact they have with the Church. So I pray for moments to share the Gospel throughout the day and to be able to spot the opportunities given to me to witness to the Gospel. The other night I was at an Irish Dance class (it is one way I take “time out” from Church “stuff”) but even in that class I ended up having a conversation with two ladies about IVF and contraception. I was able to speak about the beauty of the Church’s teaching into this situation and it just illustrated to me, we don’t get time off from the mission, even if we try!

If you had one piece of advice to a budding evangelist who wants to ignite a blaze, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid of doing something new for the sake of the Gospel. It’s from the Lord, he will send you all you need to accomplish it. I truly believe God honours those who seek to do His work; be confident that God has got your back. As the Popes have often reminded the youth, the Church needs your creativity, generosity and enthusiasm today not tomorrow. So be bold and dream big! And always stay close to the Church and your priests.

Any final words…?

Love Jesus. Love His Church. Love His people.

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Youth Evangelisation

Have just returned from The Weekend of the Two Youth Retreats. Yesterday, we held a diocesan Confirmation retreat led by Youth 2000; and today, I went to Salisbury to Expression, and led a workshop. I hope to write more about Salisbury soon, as their youth ministry is a beacon of light in our country… it is thriving and bearing much fruit.

On the subject of youth evangelisation, I love this little clip… A great clip to use for forming young disciples on how to evangelise.


Homecoming

I’m LOVING the videos from Homecoming, the Youth 2000 new year’s retreat. They really capture the joy, intimacy, mercy, and peace of encountering Jesus…


And the best youth ministry in the UK is…

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Maybe I’m ever so slightly biased, but it’s definitely one of the best examples of youth ministry there is.

And the reason Youth 2000 is so successful at enabling young people to encounter Christ, taste what life is like in Him, and so allow the Holy Spirit to transform their hearts – is because it’s all about Him – Jesus!

No gimmicks, no clever marketing strategies, (almost literally) no money… just young people passionate for their peers to experience the healing, transforming, beautiful love of the Lord.

This video is a wonderful example of exactly this – young people super-keen for others to experience the love they have experienced:

I’ve known Youth 2000 over the last ten years, and what has convinced me of the Lord’s guiding it, is the fact that – against all odds, with no official funding from dioceses, with extremely limited resources, and overcoming many difficulties – countless young people meet Christ, are converted, are transformed, through these retreats. Each year, the team of young people leading the retreat gets bigger, better, even more awesome. This year, over thirty young people aged 16-25 met for a weekend to pray for and plan for the Walsingham Festival – see more about Walsingham here.

Too often, we experience (still!) in churches – often at the parish Confirmation Mass – well-intentioned, older generations heartily singing ‘Here I Am Lord’ on the guitar, thinking that this is what young people like. What is unique about Youth 2000 is that it is all about peer ministry – young people evangelising young people themselves.

If you know any young person aged 16-25 – don’t hesitate to invite them to Walsingham this year (22-26 August).

As with any great work within the Church, it is often the hidden, little, under-resourced initiatives that are the most spiritually powerful and effective. This is definitely the case with Youth 2000. (Follow the new YouTube Y2konnected channel and see some of the testimonies or like the page on Facebook)

And finally, if you are too old for the festival, but have a heart for bringing young people to Christ – Youth 2000 finally paid off the bills for last summer’s Walsingham festival this spring. At the moment, young people are organising all the fundraising events you can think of (football tournament, music ministry night, a star-studded ball) to raise funds for this year’s festival (which in total costs £80,000 – participants are asked for a donation of £100 each, but many are students). If you are in a position to donate to this year’s festival and directly contribute to the evangelisation of the young, please contact the National Office who can advise you of a secure way of donating: info@youth2000.org.


A Little Facebook Miracle…

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Now, I know that there are lots of question marks surrounding Facebook and the human person – what anthropological principles is it built on / does it nurture? Is it yet another addiction for the young who are not yet fully formed in the use of their freedom?

However, as with any morally neutral tool, God can use it powerfully… Here is a little true story of just this happening very recently:

On New Year’s Eve night, during the new year youth retreat, one of the priests gave a powerful homily on Mary, Mother of God. He spoke movingly about how Our Lady had drawn him to his vocation. Specifically, it was through his praying of St Louis-Marie de Montfort’s 33 Day Total Consecration Prayer to Our Lady that led him to become a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal.

After the retreat finished, a girl at the retreat mentioned on Facebook that she and a couple of friends had decided to pray this consecration, aiming to finish on the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, 11 February.

No sooner had she posted, than young friends began commenting, saying they would love to join in too. She heroically began collecting email addresses, in order to send out a daily email with the prayers.

By the time the day came to begin the consecration, over 1000 people had pledged to pray this consecration!

I am happy to say I am one of them 🙂 Fr Sebastian’s homily touched me deeply. Throughout the lead-up to Christmas, I felt a strong call on my heart to give myself more fully through Mary’s hands to Jesus. In particular, I wanted to be more faithful to my daily Rosary. When I heard his homily on the brink of the new year, I was utterly confirmed in my conviction to do this. And when I saw the status inviting people to consecrate themselves to Our Blessed Mother, it didn’t take me a second’s thought to sign up.

I am sure this gives Jesus and Mary much joy to see so many people keen to consecrate their lives more deeply. However, please keep these young people in your prayers that they remain steadfast, persevere to the end and that this little Facebook miracle gives much glory to God.


New Year Youth Retreat

Br John Baptist's hand is now famous...

Br John Baptist’s famous hand (featured on all the publicity)…

WOAH. Dear readers, even now, over 24 hours later, I cannot contain my joy. I know I have written on this blog many times (e.g. here and here) having just finished at a Youth 2000 retreat, overwhelmed with joy and praise at what God has done. And this new year’s retreat was no different. How can you capture in a few words the freedom, peace, joy and contentment that comes from being filled with God’s completely-satisfying love and that forms us into a new family? We experienced what God became a tiny Child for, what he died on the Cross for – to transform us into new creations and create a communion among us that we could never create ourselves. It does not get ANY better than this! Today, Facebook is overflowing with statuses wishing we could turn back time and surround Jesus in the Eucharist again with our songs of praise. I think we tasted just a crumb of the glory that awaits us in Heaven…

Some of my personal highlights:

The joyful and untiring ministry of our priests… Many young people today are heavily burdened, are suffering deeply, and have a lot of brokenness in their hearts. There is so much damage that the devil does in young hearts through our broken culture and I know that Jesus wants to pour his grace out upon these young people. I saw this happening – through the whole retreat – through the priests. They heard hours and hours of Confessions, spent hours talking and praying with young people, no sooner had one young person left with a heavy burden lifted than the next one arrived. I saw – incredibly tangibly – the ministry of Jesus active in his priests. It made me realise with more urgency: we need more priests! Priests faithful to God and faithful to people; who are unconditionally surrendered to the Holy Spirit, and who understand deeply the joys and struggles of young people today.

Our inspiring, outstanding, star-studded team… I couldn’t get over how much God blessed us with our team this year. From the first day, when a group of new MCs (the people who lead the prayer in the retreat) arrived early for training before the retreat started, we were surrounded by a truly talented team of young leaders in love with Christ. A couple of times I looked around and thought God has given Youth 2000 the very best young leaders and musicians in the country 🙂 How generous he is… We are so immensely challenged by resources, and yet he sends the very best people. And what a great joy and privilege it is to work with them. I love you guys!

The endless praise! The greatest thing to do, when you are completely exhausted (as I was a couple of times during the retreat), is to praise God anyway. Truly, I think we could have kept going all night… How beautiful it is to praise Jesus.

Effective youth ministry really has a very simple recipe 🙂 The conversions that have happened over one weekend are countless… it works! Photos to come… In the meantime, one of the theme songs of the retreat:


It’s been ten years…

One evening this week I was in my sister’s kitchen as we prepared supper and suddenly realised the knee-high boots I was wearing were ten years old… Yes! I actually bought them when I was in sixth form. And am still wearing them today. Either I am a fashion disaster or they’re a seriously great pair of boots…

And then it got me thinking and I realised… It was exactly ten years ago this week that I had my conversion. I call it a conversion because it truly was. The first night of the Youth 2000 retreat I lay on the parish hall floor surrounded by strangers wondering what on earth I was doing there and, quite frankly, wishing I’d never come. The next night, I lay in the same spot, completely head over heels in love with the greatest Love of my life. This is no exaggeration. On that weekend I encountered Jesus’ love in the Eucharist and in Confession in a way I could never have imagined possible. It completely turned my world upside down and gave me a happiness at knowing him that has stayed with me ever since.

For those who know me, the past ten years have seen many crazy twists and turns on my journey with the Lord, trying every day to be led by him. This week, I have been full of thanks to him for entering my life and turning it around. Where would I be now, who would I be now, if I had not met him for the first time that weekend, in a small town in south-west England, ten whole years ago?

As Catholics I think it’s important we mark dates and the passing of anniversaries… Our Baptism (and even First Communion and Confirmation) and the other momentous events when the Lord called us closer to him. Let’s never let our gratitude diminish for what he has done for us. He uses history, the passing of time, for our salvation!