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The pandemic years have been tough on young people. Mental health problems are soaring and education has been missed. But across the Diocese, there’s a story of growing faith, and emerging leaders.

'I thought I believed in God, but now I know... I am closer to God.'

These are the words of one young person on retreat at the Westminster Youth Ministry’s Retreat Centre in Pinner recently. And their experience of finding faith is by no means unique. Already, thousands of schoolchildren and young people have been part of a retreat this year, and demand is higher than ever.

Andrzej Wdowiak, Director of Youth Ministry at the Diocese, said, 'More people want to come on retreats, and we have never had so many bookings during the summer. You can see how much the young people enjoy the space and the opportunity to discuss faith and life.'

The Retreat Centre is a key part of the work of the Diocesan Youth Ministry Service. Based in north London, it offers day and residential retreats for school pupils, as well as young people preparing for First Holy Communion or their Confirmation. In 2022, more than 3,500 young people from 32 parishes and 40 schools are expected to visit.

What’s more, young adults from the Diocese are lining up to volunteer as retreat leaders. 'We are spoiled for choice among the university graduates and local Catholics who want to lead,' said Andrzej. 'And if you get enthusiastic young Catholics leading retreats, it inspires those who attend. Seeing this domino effect fills me with hope for the future.'

There are plenty of reasons to be hopeful. Another aspect of the work of the Youth Ministry Service is outreach, and this, too, is growing.

In 2023, young Catholics from across the world will come together in Lisbon, Portugal, for the first World Youth Day (WYD) in four years. Andrzej is planning to take 120 young people from London, and is organising a series of events to build up to WYD.

In October, more than 500 young people will attend Westminster Cathedral for a day of worship, prayer, music, talks and conversation. Next March, a similar event, called Flame, will be held on an even bigger scale at Wembley Arena for around 9,000 young Catholics.

Alongside this, Andrzej is launching a year-long programme to train 40 future leaders from the Diocese of Westminster. It’s an exciting opportunity for young Catholics, culminating in a trip to Lisbon for WYD in August 2023.

'This is open to anyone who has the time and passion,' said Andrzej. 'The programme includes 11 months of workshops, some online and some in-person, covering things like leading prayer, mentoring, public speaking, running small groups and safeguarding. There will be four residential retreats at our centre and, in Lisbon, the leaders will be responsible for small groups.

'It’s an opportunity, in the wake of the Covid pandemic, for people to reconnect with their faith and sense again what faith in Jesus Christ can add to their lives.'

Anyone aged 17-25 is invited to apply, including Year 12 students who will be under 18 on 1 August 2023. They’ll need to be recommended by someone from their school or parish. At the end of the year-long programme, young leaders will be encouraged to support youth ministry in their parish or in the Diocese, and ongoing training will be provided.

'This is about helping young people in their faith formation, developing their Catholic identity and reconnecting them to the parish so they can play their part in the life of the Church,' said Andrzej. 'We know there are young people who want to be involved, and here’s an amazing opportunity to do so.'

To apply to the leadership course, or to find out more about retreats for young people, visit This work is only possible thanks to your generous donations to the Cardinals Appeal. Read more stories like this in the Autumn edition of the Mosaic Newsletter.