My year in youth ministry

By Gemma Smith

This period of Easter reminds me how much my faith has developed and my joy in God grown on my life's journey: from primary school to high school to Lourdes pilgrimages to finally being here at Animate. Easter reminds me also of my favourite Scripture passage from Corinthians: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud."

This comes up at almost every wedding but it has so many deeper meanings and I see it as God's love for us. He has abounding patience for us, and unconditional love, no matter how many mistakes we make – something which we should never take for granted but also rejoice in, especially at this time of year.

He displays his love throughout our lives and fills us with blessings, even when we feel we are drowning under life’s troubles. But not only do I see it as God’s love; I see it also as an example we should follow to love God and our neighbour. I believe Easter is a renewal of how we treat others, as Jesus has renewed us in his Resurrection; this is why I believe this piece of Scripture is very relevant at this time of year.

I first experienced Animate when they came to my school during my Year 8 for a mission week and again in Year 11 when I visited them for a eucharistic ministers' training course. Not until the past year, though, did I consider spending a year at Animate. My goals have always been to follow a career in science and I have a place at university for a science degree next year. Twelve months in youth ministry was not something I had considered before; I had initially wanted my gap year to be filled with travel.

However, my feelings changed when I went to the Flame 2 congress for young Catholics with a group that Animate had organised. I loved speaking about my faith freely – being able to discuss the different aspects of it – as well as celebrating it through both adoration and praise and worship music with thousands of people of my own age.

This experience left me wanting to help other young people feel able to speak about their faith as well. Animate offered a great opportunity to do just that. The deciding factor came when I visited Lowe House in the summer term last year and saw them with a group from Cardinal Heenan school. I loved the whole team's energy and commitment to the young people. I knew then that I wanted to be part of the 2015/16 team.

In my day-to-day life at Animate one of my favourite moments is our community prayer time. We have a morning and evening prayer which we take turns to lead in our chapel. This helps us think about different ways to pray, how we can bring God more into our lives and how we can help the people around us. They can be quite creative or more reflective, yet all offer something meaningful for us. Morning prayer sets me up to work with young people each day.

I am looking forward to university in the autumn but I cannot imagine not having done this year at Animate. I have learnt so much. I have grown in faith and met some incredible young people and I hope I have made some impact on them. I will take all of these experiences and use them throughout my life.