'You should know how very rewarding this experience is'

My year with Animate, by Tom Hallsworth

Little over a year ago I was in New Zealand, climbing mountains, exploring overgrown trails and sunning myself on beaches – or getting sunburned at least. Fast-forward 15 months and I am living in a retired Jesuit presbytery in St Helens. If that sounds like polar opposites, I can say for certain that I would not have it any other way.

I had flown out to New Zealand after finishing college to stay with my father and his wife and enjoy some sunshine. While there, I became involved with the work of the local Salvation Army. As a soldier in the Salvation Army back home, I was certain I could walk into any Corps building, or church, and be guaranteed a warm welcome – and I was right. I was soon helping with local community projects, collecting food donations and preparing Christmas hampers for the needy.

It was an inspiring time to see the impact of the Church in the local district and there was not a dry eye in the building when one young boy insisted on coming with his mother to thank the woman who had given them Christmas for the first time.

When I returned England, and resumed work at KFC, it was underwhelming to say the least, but it was at this point that an old connection with Animate led to an exciting new opportunity.

I was lined up to train as a shift runner in my KFC store, when out of the blue I received a message from Sarah, the team leader at Animate. I had been involved with Animate off and on for the past five years since a mission at my old school. In her message, Sarah asked if I would be interested in applying for this year's team.

After a short visit to Animate and some contemplation and prayer, I applied and joined up. Now, nearing the end of my year, I am really glad I did it. Indeed, I would urge any young people out there considering embarking on such an experience to know how very rewarding it is to work with the young people of Liverpool. Seeing Animate's work in schools – the energy the team bring and the effect this has on the faith of pupils and staff – is incredible ... and I just hope I might have had an impact on at least one young life during this time.

Recent happenings
Before Easter, St Mary's, Lowe House was the venue for a production of White Rabbit, a play by a Christian theatre group. It was great to see the church full, and the play – with its themes of redemption and new life – was perfect for the run-up to Easter. Another highlight of Lent was Palm Sunday Youth Alive at Holy Family, Southport. I called in a few favours and so we had some mates from the Salvation Army band play us into church for the entrance procession.

Looking ahead
The next Nightfever will take place on Saturday 2 May at the Blessed Sacrament Shrine on Dawson Street, Liverpool. The evening starts with Mass at 5.30pm after which there will be exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. We will take to the streets to invite people into the church from 7.30pm onwards. For more information, contact us on 01744 740460.