New Groups Being Developed Following Return Visit to Stockton

Earlier this year, the YCW National Team visited the North East to catch up with existing groups and support the growth of new ones. From this, 3 parishes in Stockton were approached about how they could help with this and invited the YCW to speak at their Sunday masses.

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Marc Besford, National Training and Development Worker, returned this month to Stockton to share what they YCW is and does, and how we are developing young Christian leaders. He spoke about his own experience, saying: "I first set up a group in my own parish in Billingham three years ago and I have witnessed them grow in confidence and in faith. As leaders one example of authentic Christian action they undertook using the method was to help the local foodbank.

They identified that the growing use of the foodbank was a major issue and, having done some research, found that it wasn’t just people on benefits that used it but people who were in work and on low incomes - many of whom had families and struggled to feed them.

By then looking at Matthews Gospel and the words of Jesus - “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink” - they then spoke at all the Masses over the weekend and collected items for a month. The group took the collection down personally and helped with bagging up some of them items for families and they learnt that it wasn’t as easy as people may think."

By sharing this experience, it is important for young people themselves giving witness to being leaders, inspired by the message of the Gospel. 

As a result of the talks over the weekend, the parishes identified 3 new adult companions who could lead new groups from next month.

Youth Loneliness Training for YCW Adult Companions

Loneliness amongst young people is a growing issue of concern and the impact of it on the mental health of young people has been raised numerous times throughout the YCW National Action campaign, MIND! The Gap.

Research in April 2018, found that almost 10% of younger people, between the ages of 16-24 were “always” or often lonely, more than 3 times higher than people aged 65 and over.

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In 2017/2018 the Childline charity for young people, delivered 4,636 counselling sessions on loneliness with young people. The youngest was 10 years old.

In Manchester, over the past 18 months there have been over 145 suicides by young people aged between 10-20 years old. In the UK, suicide is the leading cause of death in young people.

In light of this, the YCW put on some training for Adult Companions on this topic.

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The session was run by Niell Watkins, a semi-retired psychologist, who has worked all his life in community education, project innovation and planning. He also has extensive experience in counselling, natural disaster relief projects and poverty alleviation projects.

Niell runs a programme called "Loneliness Connects Us All" and explores how our shared Christian faith can inspire us to do more to help alleviate loneliness.

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From the very beginning in the Book of Genesis, God says: "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." And then as Jesus sent out his disciples, He reassures them that as they go out into the world, "I will be with you always, yes, even until the end of time".

The attendees shared some of their own thoughts and experiences of working with young people in the YCW and discussed how they can best use this training to support YCW and IMPACT Leaders.

Marc Besford, who organised the training session, welcomed the chance to raise this important issue. He said: "Since we started our National Campaign on young people and mental health, we have been overwhelmed by the response. Loneliness is certainly a major factor in harming our mental health and young people are telling us that not enough is being done to address it. Hopefully this eye-opening training session will help our adult companions support our young leaders and we thank Niell for his hard work and eloquence on this topic."

Leeds School And College Faith Day

Last month, the YCW attended a Faith Day for schools and colleges in Leeds to help run a workshop on the YCW and our current national on mental health and young people called MIND! The Gap.

The day was held at Notre Dame Catholic Sixth Form College in Leeds and saw input from other charities, such as Missio and CAFOD, and discussed issues around homelessness and the environment.

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It began with a presentation from the Franciscan Sisters, who facilitated the day, which gave the young people an opportunity to reflect on their Christian vocations and what being a follower of Christ means for their lives.

This allowed the students to think more about how they can live out the calling of God to love one another and treat others as ourselves. But it also meant that as many of them moved on from education that they took the Gospel message with them in their work lives too.

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After this Marc Besford, National Training and Development Worker for the YCW, gave a short presentation about the YCW's work and encouraged the young people to learn more about how they can be leaders and make a difference in their own lives, local communities and the wider world.

Following this, the day ended with Mass and Adoration of the Blesses Sacrament.

YCW Collaboration With Caritas Salford

Last month, members of the YCW National Team met with representatives from Caritas Salford to help support a range of Task and Finish Groups. 


The groups covered topics that had been identified earlier in the year by a diverse group of charities and local parish representatives. They included: our role in advocacy - such as on mental health and justice & peace - and how we can better represent and connect with young people.

The YCW were asked to help share our joint missions around advocacy and young people, including a discussion about the SEE, JUDGE and ACT method, the art of accompaniment and leadership building programme.

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Marc Besford, National Training and Development Worker, attended the groups  and shared his thoughts on the projects: "This was a fantastic opportunity to help support local efforts across Salford Diocese. We have our HQ based here and a growing number of groups, so to be able to work even closer and share what the YCW does is something I really welcome."

Sandbach YCW IMPACT Group Raises Money For Refugee Sponsorship Plan

Last month, the Sandbach YCW IMPACT Group organised an incredibly successful coffee morning in aid of their Parish Refugee Sponsorship scheme.

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The Group have been raising money since last year after they initiated the idea of hosting refugees in the parish. Their efforts were the result of following the SEE, JUDGE and ACT method within their group discussions after deciding to explore the topic.

It also followed Pope Francis' call in 2015 that: ‘"Every parish, every religious community, every monastery, every sanctuary of Europe, take in one family".

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The coffee morning raised a total of over £1400. Some of this was a contribution by Barclays Bank who match humanitarian donations pound for pound.

As well as this, IMPACT leader Rebecca and her dad, Neil, organise a list for individual donations and house furnishing as part of the project to host a family.

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Kate Wilkinson, National President of the YCW in England and Wales, congratulated the Sandbach Group saying: "This is a fantastic example of young people showing their ability to lead and change the world for the better. Their passion and commitment for this project is an inspiration. Well done to all of the parish for supporting them, especially their Parish Priest Fr Michael Morton."

YCW Attends International Conference On The 3rd Anniversary Of Laudato Si'

Nearly three years after the publication of the encyclical Laudato Si' - On Care For Our Common Home - some of Pope Francis' prophetic words are continuing to ring in our ears. In Laudato Si', the Pope asked: "What kind of world do we want to leave to those who come after us, to the children who are now growing up?"

On the 5th & 6th July, the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development organised an International conference held in the Paul VI Hall, Vatican City, to reflect on what has happened to the environment during the last three years and how to plan for the future.

Marc Besford from YCW England and Wales represented the International Team of the YCW at this event.

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During the two days, participants were reminded of the urgency of dealing with climate change, including the need to adopt carbon-neutral lifestyles and seriously invest in non-carbon energy technologies, in order to keep the global average increase in temperature below the 2 degrees celsius which was agreed at COP 21 in Paris in 2015. 

The conference followed the See-Judge-Act methodology, which is central to the YCW. It attempted to look at the challenges in the area of justice and the environment in a holistic way, so that we could hear "both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor" (LS, 49).

Some of the speakers focused on the crisis in food production, especially for the poor. Others called attention to the plight of migrants and refugees and the lack of understanding and empathy among those living in rich countries.

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The conference also had 4 parallel groups focusing on areas for Climate Change, Serving Our Common Home, Churches and Religions and Indigenous and Young People.  

The Youth & Indigenous group came up with five areas for discussion at both the Synod for Youth in October 2018 and the Synod on the Amazon 2019: Formation for both young people and adults; participation of young people; integrity; inter-generational solidarity and urgency.

Young people didn’t just want to sit in a  room and talk about issues they want to tackle them head on.

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Pope Francis received participants at the conference in an audience in the Sala Clementina on Friday.

In his remarks to the group, Pope Francis said: “Your presence here is a sign of your commitment to take concrete steps to save the planet and the life it sustains, inspired by the Encyclical’s assumption that ‘everything is connected’. That principle lies at the heart of an integral ecology.”

Pope Francis noted the increasingly accurate assessments of the scientific community concerning the environment. “There is a real danger that we will leave future generations only rubble, deserts, and refuse” but he expressed his hope that concern for the state of our common home would be translated into concrete actions to preserve the environment. In particular, he called on governments to honour their commitments to the 2015 Paris Agreement “in order to avoid the worst consequences of the climate crisis.”

The COP24 Summit, he said, “could prove a milestone on the path set out” by the Agreement. He also mentioned the upcoming Global Climate Action Summit, taking place in San Francisco in September, while urging the support of “citizens’ pressure groups” to provide support. In addition, he said, financial institutions also “have an important role to play, as part both of the problem and its solution.”

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“All of these actions,” Pope Francis said, “presuppose a transformation on a deeper level, namely a change of hearts and minds.” He reiterated Pope St John Paul’s calls for an “ecological conversion,” and emphasised the role of religions, and especially Christianity, in working to that end. Finally, the Pope stressed the importance of making space for young people and indigenous peoples in efforts “to foster an integral ecology.”

Young people are at the centre of the upcoming Synod of Bishops, set for October of this year.

In his conclusion, Pope Francis expressed his gratitude for the efforts of participants “in the service of care for creation and a better future for our children and grandchildren.” Pope Francis encouraged them, saying: “Please continue to work for ‘the radical change which present circumstances require.’ For ‘injustice is not invincible.’”

After which all the participants had the opportunity to meet the Pope and shake his hand.

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