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Reproduced with kind permission from Catholic Voices.

Written by Lucy Savage

I signed up for the Rise Up programme during the summer holidays not entirely sure what it would be like in its pilot year. The whole experience surpassed all my prior expectations. 

'Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.'

Isaiah 60:1

This beautiful biblical verse is the main message of the Rise Up course, where you discover how important faith is in becoming the best leader that you can be whilst receiving guidance on developing leadership skills and qualities.

About Rise Up

The course, designed by Catholic Voices in collaboration with Westminster Youth Ministry, consisted of online and in-person content sessions with the wonderful team members in which we learnt how to develop our own faith and grow in confidence and knowledge to become youth leaders. Also, we had mentoring sessions with our individual mentors where we were given advice on personal spiritual growth, leadership skills, and preparing our 15-minute talks on a subject of choice to an audience of young people. 

The Rise Up course was full of lots of highs: learning the story of saints and apparitions such as Our Lady of Guadalupe, leadership styles and qualities, public speaking top tips, or safeguarding talks (as well as lots of fun introductory games!). My favourite part of the Rise Up course was meeting other young people who were extending their faith and looking for an opportunity to develop leadership skills in a Catholic setting. As most teenagers are, I was a bit nervous at first to meet a group of other young people but all of them were so generous with their friendship and we had such a fun time together both in the online and in-person sessions at the SPEC centre. All of the group are on a Rise Up WhatsApp group chat and still keep in contact which is wonderful as I have built connections with other young Catholics in the Diocese of Westminster who have similar interests in leading young people which I would never have had the opportunity to otherwise.

 Here are my top 5 lessons from the Rise Up course: 

Always come from a place of friendship with Christ

Jesus Christ was the ultimate leader. Through asking questions and telling stories, Jesus led and invited each person He met to love and follow Him. Jesus was always looking to transform rather than inform all those around Him which is so important in faith-based leadership.

We are all encouraged to lead like Jesus and become an active member in the Church. Through finding friendship with Christ, we are able to identify our areas of strength and opportunities for improvement in the qualities needed to become an effective leader which is why spirituality it is so important to Catholic leadership. In Rise Up we were all advised to grow spiritually by having an active prayer life as well as try our best to encounter God in each moment to help us to be effective leaders.

Charity seeking Clarity

In regards to leading other young people, we were given the helpful advice, ‘meet them where they are at but lead them to where God wants them to be.’ By coming from our individual friendship with Christ and through his mercy, help, and grace - developed in the first lesson - we can work for the purpose of the community, helping other young people to help find their path and own spirituality. For me there were two main messages I took away from these skills:

1. Honesty, Authenticity, Integrity, and Love (remembered using the handy acronym HAIL) from Julian Treasure’s 4 Cornerstones of Speaking

2. That your presence always speaks before you do, meaning that a calm yet confident demeanour helps to ease the person you are communicating with. The inspirational quote from St John Henry Newman sums this up perfectly:

'The heart is commonly reached not through reason, but through imagination… Persons influence us, voices melt us, looks subdue us, deeds inflame us!'

Being challenged in a way that reflects our belief

Leadership is not always about giving talks to large audiences but made up of small gestures that influence those around them which are often acts of humility. The most prominent example of a person leading through humility is Mary. Through her acceptance of God’s will to become the mother of the Messiah as well as her previous faithfulness to the Lord before the Annunciation, Mary shows wholehearted trust in God.

The Rise Up course demonstrated that all actions should be directed towards the glory of God rather than the individual.

The trust we have in God, as well as others in a team, leads to a sense of belonging and this belonging develops into believing and then behaving in a way that reflects the respect we have for God.

Be a courageous and faithful leader

God calls each and every one of us to become an active member in the Church and in one of the sessions of the Rise Up course we were given the advice, ‘God does not call those who are qualified but qualifies those whom He calls.’ This message stuck with me as I realised that by God’s grace, given through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, we are able to evangelise because He is always with us when we are trying to spread the Good News. For courageous leaders, there is a need to discern which, in a Christian sense, means to distinguish what is good whilst asking a question of love: ‘What does God think?’. In Rise Up, I learnt that through discernment we are called to holiness in a vocation where our God-given talents can shine brightly. Scripture, sacraments, fellowship, and prayer are all important in beginning and maintaining a close relationship with God which in turn leads to finding our individual vocation.


In Rise Up we were always advised to listen to the needs of others and to reflect on both their and our own work and development. Humility, openness, practice, and a willingness to embrace lessons are needed in order to be teachable. These principles form the acronym HOPE with hope being the most important quality of all. In the post-synodal document by Pope Francis called Christus Vivit, which lots of the Rise Up programme is based upon, the first line is “Christ is alive! He is our hope” portraying the importance of hope in all areas of faith especially in leading Catholic youth.

'Christ is alive! He is our hope'

Pope Francis, Christus Vivit, 1 

All the lessons I have gained from the Rise Up programme can be summed up in the quote from Christus Vivit I received at the last group session we had together:

'As you work to achieve your dreams, make the most of each day and do your best to let each moment brim with love.'

Pope Francis, Christus Vivit, 148 

The Rise Up programme is the most amazing opportunity for young Catholics to meet other like-minded individuals, learn skills not taught at school, and form their faith. Since starting Rise Up, my faith has deepened by having a more engaging and committed prayer life; I’ve learnt new things such as communication and public speaking skills; I am a more active member of my parish and have had the confidence to apply for more faith-based opportunities. As well as speaking to others about faith, I am feeling more confident as a member of the Church today.

Supported by the Cardinal's Appeal, Rise Up is a project of the Diocese of Westminster Youth Ministry to train, equip, and inspire young people in their leadership skills and faith formation, developed with Catholic Voices.

Photos: Aaron Britton