A friend who attended the group in Liverpool recommended I attended the group in Birmingham as I lived close-by, so I thought I would see what it was like. Having only lived in the area for a few years, I did not know many people in Catholic circles. I attended mass, but I only knew a few people in my parish. All the people I knew through church and going to Lourdes were from the Archdiocese where I grew up in Liverpool. It was due to this I wanted to extend my network and spend some reflective prayer time with fellow Catholics in the area.
It was May 2014 and I was in the middle of completing my clinical psychology doctorate. Although very enjoyable, it was also stressful and I felt I needed more quiet prayer time. I was hoping the Redemptorist group may be able to provide this. On my way to the first session, I had many thoughts fluctuating in my head; ‘what will it be like?’ ‘What will people be like’? ‘Will I enjoy it?’ I need not have worried, immediately the group made me feel very welcome. I had met Paul previously (who runs the group) in Liverpool, through our mutual friend, Pat, who attends the Liverpool group, so felt some familiarity. The rest of the group were equally friendly and I did not feel judged in any way.
Paul leads the sessions really well, but equally gives us space to say what we want to say. I really enjoy exploring topics which I had somewhat forgotten about. Having a focus for each session helpsraise my awareness of important elements. For example, we focused on the Holy Spirit one week, which I had not thought about for a long time. We touched upon using the sign of the cross and thinking about what the Holy Spirit means to us and that the sign of the cross is a prayer in itself. Short video discussions have been helpful to aid our discussion and reflections in many areas.
Another aspect I have enjoyed has been silent/quiet prayer time. Leading a busy life, I don’t always give myself the opportunity to do this and this has been a nice space to be able to do this. We also get the chance to say prayers aloud and share this with the group, which feels a supportive element, that we are not alone.
Gathering socially after the group session has been another nice space to develop friendships and to eat some nice food! This feels an important part of the evening and I always enjoy the evening as a whole and go home with a smile on my face.
The option of retreats and other activities provided locally and nationally are another great aspect of the group as previously I did not know all of this was occurring. It showed that not only was there a group locally, but we could congregate with others further afield. Lots for us to engage in and further develop and strengthen our faith.
It is also nice to hear visiting priests discuss the Redemptorist faith and what that stands for and we recently had Fr Maurice give an interesting talk about Redemptorist Spirituality. This culminated in a shared supper at the end of the evening with everyone coming together; a sense of feeling belonged, my Catholic family in the area. Long may this continue.
When I first heard about the RYM Young Adult Group at Bishop Eton I was a little apprehensive. Unfortunately friends of mine had been to Young Catholic Adult groups and had been disappointed. They usually fell into one of two categories: too spiritless and nothing ‘Catholic’ about them, or rigid and unaccommodating to anyone who doesn’t share the same views as the leader of the group!
I didn’t know what to expect, whether everyone would have the same outlook and approach to religion that I had, and whether the style of worship and activities would be what I’d have chosen. I decided to leave my prejudices at the door and a year and a half later, I’m so glad I did. The group was not what I expected, and not how I would have done things – it was so much better! When I opened my mind to the possibility that this might just be a group of normal people doing something a bit different to what young people might normally do, I found a new spiritual home among a new group of fellow Catholics whom I am now proud to call my friends.
What is most wonderful about this group is the balance between prayer and social activities. There is a clear separation of the two, and we all seem to gel together in both sets of activities equally. We come together to pray – that is our primary aim – and to learn about our faith through music, scripture, talks and each others’ experiences. After about two hours in the church, church hall, or wherever we choose to conduct the spiritual side of the group, we move on to the social side – for a walk, sports, bowling, pub, pub quiz, a meal, etc. There is always a buzz of excitement because this is where our second aim of the evening is fulfilled – to make and maintain lasting friendships.
It is so wonderful to find a group of people who share your faith. Religion isn’t exactly in fashion these days but everyone comes to the group with such honesty, humility and a thirst and passion to open up to God that there is no awkwardness and no apologies. We worship together with such fervour that it sustains us for the fortnight ahead. And yet it is still gentle – Paul’s gentle approach leaves space for silence, for reflection, for time to just be present.
The social element to the group is always fun. As tempting as it would be to just call it a night at 9:30 on a Tuesday evening after the prayer session, we’re all ready to go because we know it’ll always be a night to remember.
One of the highlights of this year was a weekend retreat to the beautiful Redemptorist retreat centre, Hawkestone Hall. I was fortunate to spend the weekend with 12 other members of the group, sharing meals, attending Mass, taking part in sessions exploring scripture, a really beautiful and profound healing service, and of course our usual late-night socialising! Before I probably would have considered myself a spiritual introvert, and probably would never have chosen to go on a group retreat, but this was an amazing experience which brought us all closer to God and closer together.
Overall I am immensely happy that I found this group, and proud of all that Paul has achieved during his short time here in Liverpool. Countless groups like this have been started and lost their appeal, but this group has gone from strength to strength, on some weeks attracting forty members! It has maintained many of the original members too, and we’re all starting to worry about where we’re going to go when we’re too old for the group! If you’ve heard about the group but haven’t yet joined us, then give it a go, you won’t be disappointed. There’s nothing to lose, and a lot to gain!
" Okay, I’ll admit, it was the Matt Damon grin that got me. However, that wasn’t his purpose when, early this year, Paul Murphy took to the Bishop Eton pulpit to announce the new youth ministry he was opening to young adults in the parish.
For all the novelty that an unfamiliar face in the pulpit might possess, that person also has to convince the congregation they are worth listening to. In sporting parlance, they need to win the crowd over. Paul did that. And he achieved it not just by flashing a smile redolent of a certain film star.
If the initial response was positive, Paul has since managed to hold, and then build on, an encouraging level of interest. Between March and July, more than 50 young adults participated, at one point or other, in the group’s twice-monthly meetings, normally held on a Tuesday evening.
The core focus of the meetings has been prayer and spiritual reflection. Any attending social activity is a pleasing corollary to the main event. There is a sincerity of purpose; the sole gimmick is guest speakers.
It is not only the uptake that is uplifting. What immediately appealed to me about Paul’s mission in Bishop Eton, St Mary’s and beyond was its underdog aspect: here was somebody willing to stand up and be counted. Thankfully his initial message fell on sympathetic as well as maybe sceptical ears – and it is to his credit that Paul has since taken other young Catholics with him in making similar acts of faith."
(Patrick, Young Adult Group)
" As soon as I heard that this group had formed I felt relieved and excited that something had finally arrived for young adults. It feels like such a big need. I have been going to Mass since my students days at the University Catholic Chaplaincy and although I am not a student anymore I have felt nourished in sharing my faith with other young people. There are a growing number of young adults, who have now graduated and still go to mass there as many of us share this desire to stay connected to other young people of faith.
The young adults group at Bishop Eton has provided a 'step into the gap' where young people from all walks of life are united in prayer. I feel it has been an exciting program so far due to the tremendous efforts of Paul and the ongoing commitment and enthusiasm of the group members. I feel relieved and excited to be part of this and so far the meetings have helped me feel more connected to other young adults with similar mind sets. The content of the prayer and discussions seek to include everyone and appear to be pitched perfectly to enable deeper discussion as well as structure. There have been automatic friendships that have formed which to me show the depth and life of the group as it stands. I have been amazed to see the numbers grow and grow, and feel this is due to the contagious nature of young adults sharing in faith and truth. I am aware there are others still being attracted to attend. This feels like a dramatic step in the right direction for the church and I look forward to seeing the fruits of what will grow in the next Academic year. Well done Paul."