REFRESH (8-10 May 2009)
We held a major event for the 16-30s in May 2009 called REFRESH. On the weekend 8-10 May, young people 16-30 came together from all over our diocese and beyond to a weekend at Corpus Christi High School where they could grow in faith through meeting, sharing and relaxing with other young people, hearing great messages and joining in good worship and celebration – or just chilling.
Archbishop Peter celebrated the opening Mass.
Amazing ex-London gangster John Pridmore was there. Visit his site http://www.johnpridmore.com
We also welcomed Kaye Smith from Scotland, who spoke in a beautiful way about relationships. Her site is at http://www.one1love.co.uk
Joining us too were some members of the Friars of the Renewal, a great new religious order. Find out about them at http:// www.franciscanfriars.com
Fr Gareth Leyshon, Priest-in-charge at St Dyfrig’s, Treforest tells us more…
“What shall we do for the young people?”
Active members of Catholic parishes up and down the country ask the same question. The common experience of parishes is that, at some age between teens and twenties, young people vanish – some to university, and others simply lose interest in church life, or feel out of place there.
So let’s ask another question. When the young people do stay involved in church, what keeps them? Three things seem to help, depending on the temperament of individual young people: good friendships, a shared enthusiasm for a “good cause”, and coherent teaching that makes sense of our Catholic faith without ducking the hard questions.
There’s quite a few “good causes” around for youth at the moment. Many young people from our diocese go to Lourdes each year to help the sick. The Society of St Vincent de Paul now has full-time UK promoters for its youth and student branches, with a thriving group at the Cardiff University Chaplaincy. And our own Diocesan Youth Officer, Fr Martin Donnelly, has been encouraging the formation of Young Christian Worker groups to help our young people to “See, Judge, Act” where the Gospel needs to be lived out in their lives. All of these things are good – and they plug into young people’s natural enthusiasm to change the world for the better.
How, then, can we complement this by presenting the Catholic faith in a way which young people can relate to? One successful model has been used by the charity “Youth 2000” since 1990 – a weekend retreat centred around the Eucharist. If we really believe that Jesus is present in a unique way in the Blessed Sacrament, wouldn’t we want to celebrate Mass with joyful enthusiasm, and let our worship spill over into prolonged praise of Jesus present among us? Perhaps we could place the consecrated Host in the centre of the gathering, surrounded by blazing candles, and worship a little longer? Perhaps all night? A whole weekend? And encourage young people to come before Jesus and seek his help and healing? They’ll need encouragement, of course, so let’s have some young people talk about how they have already discovered Christ’s presence and help in their lives… and it works. Run by young people for young people, Youth 2000 is still going after 19 years, and has been the vehicle through which many young people (the present author included) found their vocation to priesthood, marriage, or the religious life.
Last year, after much praying and pondering about what the 3 Churches should be offering for young people in the 16-30 age group, Canon Matthew Jones called together a coalition of volunteers from the 3 Churches, nearby parishes, and the Cardiff University Chaplaincy. Initial discussions acknowledged that it would be important to provide some sort of ongoing and regular meeting for young people locally, but the team decided to make its first priority the running of a residential event at Corpus Christi High School, based largely on the model of weekend retreats run by “Youth 2000”. The weekend will run on the weekend 8-10 May 2009, under the title “Refresh 2009”. It would be a weekend for young adults by young adults, with two stated purposes: To allow participants to find out and experience the faith in its fullness alongside other young Catholics (they do exist!); and to offer solid teaching on being a Christian in the world.
Archbishop Peter Smith agreed to celebrate Mass on the Friday evening, and our key speaker for the weekend was “God’s gangster” – John Pridmore. A doorman (bouncer) in the East End of London, John dealt drugs and was involved in organised crime. But one day, God spoke to him unexpectedly. Soon afterwards, he found himself at a Youth 2000 event in Kent, where he made a (considerable!) confession and recommitted himself to the Catholic Church. After several years working in youth ministry for Youth 2000 in England, telling his story and leading retreats, John moved to work with parish and prison missions in Ireland – and shared a platform with Pope Benedict XVI at the World Youth Day in Sydney last summer!
“There is a river whose streams refresh the city of God” (Ps 46:4)
Almighty God, you are always leading us to new pastures and fresh waters;
we rejoice to call you Father.
Lord Jesus, we come to the streams of living water flowing from your side;
we praise you as our Lord and Saviour.
May the river of the Holy Spirit flow over all who come together
in the month of Mary, our Mother,
filling us to overflowing,
and so refreshing the city of God. Amen.
Mary conceived without sin – Pray for us who have recourse to you
Sts David and Winefride – Pray for us
Holy Martyrs of Wales – Pray for us