Last week, a strong turnout of 90 combined Year 9’s and 10’s as well as 90 combined Year 7’s and 8’s came to the Youth Village. The older age groups on the Tuesday and Wednesday and the younger groups on the Thursday and Friday. At the start of both retreats, the young people were full of curiosity about God and lent. After two nights of the retreat programmes that involved a wide range of different activities, they left with a message of hope and further understanding of the message and impact of lent.

The theme of the retreat was based on “Landslides”. The idea was based on the idea that each and every individual young person can make an impact on the world. For example, the small acts of grace that we do to other people around us can have a big impact on their lives. Through these things like compassion, caring and gratitude, this in turn can lead to a snowball effect that can encourage others in our proximity to do the same.

To engage this message to the young people, it was broken down to try and meet the youth where they were at. There was a series of fun games such as Capture the Flag, games of Football and rounder’s and giant Jenga to help break the ice. The reflective activities gave the young people an intriguing opportunity to be creative and find out who they were and what made them happy. The pupils helped put together individual collages from magazines of images that made them happy or that summarised who they were. The retreat also gave them an opportunity to think of people who had been positive and encouraging voices in their lives.

Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday occurred on the Calendar during this period with the year 9’s and the Year 10’s. Mr. Gardner did a talk and practical demonstration on the impact that baggage can have on people if they let it build up. He mentioned that how surrendering these baggages at the foot of the cross can help us grow and change for the better. As well as this, the College chaplain also provided the opportunity for the school pupils to receive the Ashes on their foreheads as a sign that despite all of us being sinners, we have God’s grace that we can turn to at any time. This was followed by an invitation for Adoration at the end of the Tuesday night. The reflective atmosphere across the retreat centre demonstrated how much of an impact that this hade made to these people. On top of this all the year 9’s and 10’s were given pancakes with chocolate to go with the common Shrove Tuesday tradition.

On a bright and sunny Ash Wednesday morning, the two year groups were warmly received at St. Mary’s Church by the congregation for the service. For wherever the young people were at on their life journey, this experience opened their eyes to the power of God’s grace and how the period of lent has given them the opportunity to divulge deeper into their faith.

On the Thursday and the Friday, the year 7’s and the year 8’s also took part in similar activities. One of them was a singing competition between different small groups all around the theme of the Voice. Their singing voices were put up to the test with the Carmel teaching staff on the judge’s panel, much to the amusement of the young people.

By the end of the two nights, many of the young people took on board positive messages that we can all take on board ourselves. Even if we make our mistakes, we ourselves are not a mistake. As well as this, God’s unconditional love is always there wherever we are or whatever we’ve done and that we ourselves can impact the world positively if we allow God to work through us to help us become who we were meant to be.
“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” St. Catherine of Siena.