We were very delighted to take 50 year 7 students to the Briars Catholic Youth Retreat centre from Wednesday 25th October- Friday 27th for a spiritual retreat unpacking the theme ‘Defined’. The three days were jam-packed with activities exploring what and who we are defined by, and how ultimately what the Lord says about us is the most important thing.  

We had a very excited coach full of students setting off to Crich after lessons on Wednesday and arrived at the retreat centre in time for a warm welcome from the team and a delicious evening meal full of laughter and excited conversation- mainly about the struggle of making beds and who got to the top bunk first! Small groups were formed and named, and the young people spent time getting to know each other, and their Briars team leader, better with a scavenger hunt around the site. The day concluded with a calming night prayer. Students settled to bed and

 there was some sleep amongst the chatter and fun of being away with our friends. 

On Thursday morning, the students filled up on a wonderful breakfast and then gathered back in their small groups to take part in a type of prayer called Lectio Divina to start their day. There were lots of activities both together in small groups and as a whole group. We thoroughly enjoyed the outside team building activities, despite the mud and rain, morale and competitiveness was still high between the groups.  Once we all warmed up, after many hot showers and cups of team for the staff mainly, we started preparing for our celebration evening, with each small group preparing part of the Mass and some beautiful singing in our hymn practice too!

 

Fr Paul Newman celebrated a fantastic Mass and the young people all took on various roles in the Mass, making it a very personal and reverent time of prayer. Fr Paul commented on how much potential there was in the room, especially regarding the beautiful singing, prayers of intercession and expert bell ringing, from one of our altar servers.  All the young people were so respectful and participated in the Mass. 

Following Mass was DISCO time which was a fantastic evening for all- I think the staff may have had more fun than the students!! But after all of those Taylor Swift lyrics being screamed and some very enthusiastic Cha Cha sliding, it was time to end the evening with a night prayer lead by Bethany. It was a great chance to be still and reflect on our retreat and who we all are as unique children of God. We reflected on the powerful quote from St Catherine of Sienna: “Be who God created you to be and you will set the world on fire.”  

Our final morning came very quickly, bedrooms were tidied, bags were packed and beds were stripped. The morning was made up of morning prayer, small group games and some missions to take back into De Lisle with us. We all took part in a wonderful final liturgy where each young person and teacher received affirmations from others in their group. There was something very special about seeing each person beam when they saw the words that others had used to describe their good qualities. These words will be encouragement for years to come. 

We ended our retreat with one final meal, which was pizza, so a bittersweet ending as many students did not want to leave. The Briars team had made us all feel so welcome and we could not have asked for more- a massive thank you to Sophie, Annie, Bethany, Ben and Katie for all their hard work. 

Throughout the retreat new friendships were made and students learnt more about themselves and each other, and the world we live in. The De Lisle staff greatly enjoyed the company of the young people and themselves gained a great deal from the experience. It was a great encouragement for all to be rooted in the love God has for each one of us and to be grounded in our identity as his sons and daughters.  

 

Student Response:  

“My experience of the Briars was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had!”- Lily 7S1 

“The Briars was really good because it brought us closer to God in prayer and it gave us a break from life. We also did fun activities with our best friends and had a great time”- Santino 7M1 

“The leaders were really kind and made sure ALL were involved, it gave me a chance to make new friends in my year” – Rebecca 7M2 

“The Briars was a great experience for everyone who went, we had lots of socialising with others and connecting with God in Mass.” – Seth 7F2 

“My time at the Briars was wonderful. The briars team were so welcoming and warm-hearted. They came up with the best games to include us all and they had the yummiest food.”- Hailey 7S1