Castlerigg Manor

Castlerigg Manor

of Lancaster, although it serves Catholic organisations from much of northern England and beyond.

The ministry of Castlerigg Manor is to run residential retreats/ courses for groups of Catholic young people. These groups come mainly from Catholic schools in the Lancaster, Salford, Liverpool & Shrewsbury Diocees, although occasionally from Catholic parishes as well, including Confirmation groups, youth groups and groups of altar servers. Current estimates suggest that since its establishment in 1969, Castlerigg Manor has worked with over 100,000 young people. The current demand placed upon Castlerigg Manor reflects the growing success of Catholic Youth Work projects.


Best estimates suggest that the building of Castlerigg Manor has existed since the late 1840s. It was originally a Manor House from which much of the land around it was owned and administered. It became a hotel in the 1920s. It was used briefly during the Second World War by the Army as a base for teaching soldiers the skills of driving in mountainous terrain.

In 1969 Monsignor Patrick O'Dea acquired the building on behalf of the Diocese of Lancaster together with the gate house which is now used as a holiday cottage. The Diocese had been involved in residential youth work in the 1960s at Lakeside House; a smaller premises in Keswick, which was fast becoming too small for the demand placed upon it.

Work & Mission - An Article

The following is taken from an article that was written by Jack Regan, the current Team Leader/ Programme Co-ordinator, in June 2004 and was published in the Catholic Voice; the newspaper of Lancaster Diocese:

"The task of writing an article about the work of Castlerigg Manor is a somewhat difficult one. Not because there is little to say, but because when you are caught up in the middle of something so busy and involved, it seems hard to encapsulate all that it is and all that it means to others.""Most of the UK’s twelve Catholic retreat centres came about in the immediate post-Vatican II period; a time which saw a real revival in youth ministry in the light of the council’s reflections on how the faith is applicable to the modern world. It was into this new exploration that Castlerigg Manor was born as a residential youth centre in 1969 The years since have seen an estimated 90,000 young people and teachers pass through the centre and a great many people, from Lancaster Diocese and beyond, devote a couple of years of their lives to its work. It is always nice to meet people who came to Castlerigg many years ago who still hold happy memories of the place and the current demand placed on us, though depriving us of much-needed sleep, is extremely welcome."For the uninitiated, allow me to explain that Castlerigg Manor runs courses for groups of school pupils and, somewhat less frequently, parish groups as well. The difference between us and many of the other Catholic residential youth centres around the country though is that we are not strictly a retreat centre. Although the word is often used, the work of Castlerigg encompasses many aims. We are partly a retreat centre, but the courses we run also have a slant on many other issues, such as interpersonal skills, social issues, justice and peace and others. All of the issues we address are set very clearly in the context of the Christian mission and the response that we as Christian individuals should give to Christ’s calling in our daily lives. This mixture of the reflective, the evangelical and the practical is proving very popular, a fact to which our increasing waiting list and the uptake for our open retreats bear testament – an impressive feat in an age when schools seem to need more and more convincing that taking pupils off-timetable for a week is a good idea. "Those who do take up the invitation are hit first by the surroundings. Being on the outskirts of Keswick, with the convert|3000|ft|m|abbr=on of Skiddaw hanging over us to the north and the straight view down the Borrowdale valley to the south is certainly an advantage, as is living in an 1840s building with its impressive tower and unique atmosphere. We always enjoy telling groups during the first night prayers about the history of the chapel: it’s humble origins as the house stables and the many items which have been donated since. The location is certainly special, but the experience of Castlerigg is really produced by the team and by the ministry that they carry out. "In carrying out my work at Castlerigg, I suppose I am driven by two key ideas: Firstly in training the staff at Castlerigg we are always keen to emphasise the importance in ministry of remembering very clearly both what you are ministering and who you are ministering it to. In other words we must proclaim the faith which has been handed down to us correctly and clearly, but in a way which helps young people to an understanding of how it is relevant to their lives and how it can be lived out in the real world. I suppose that the two largest dangers in ministering to young people are firstly to alter the faith to make it seem more attractive and secondly to present it as a dry exhortation with no exploration of what it means to this culture in this time and place. These twin, opposing dangers must always be in the mind of any youth worker. However they are combated simply by a belief that if the revelation of Christ really was, as the Holy Father says, the very essence of what it means to be human, then it must be the perfection of every culture, every time, every place, with no need for change, albeit certainly with a need for clear links to be made. Exploring the culture of the young and walking with them as they explore the faith into which they were baptised, helps us to see how the claims of Christ and his Church can be better presented to the young… It is perhaps in this exploration and guidance that the real dynamism and the ultimate success of our work lie. "The second key idea is that we at Castlerigg, as I have always strongly believed, are missionaries and not pastors. As a diocesan body we do not have a permanent presence in the lives of the young people and our ministry must always reflect that, tailoring our input appropriately and working in conjunction with the many other parts of the Church to which we belong: schools, parishes and, of course, families. Giving young people a great and memorable experience with no grounding in real life and no possibly of being picked up on by parish priests or schools would be reckless to say the least. Our ministry must always consider our ecclesial responsibilities. As Oscar Romero said, we are ministers, not messiahs… we sow seeds that one day will grow. We have a responsibility to make sure that what we do enables young people to take a wider part in the community around them and enter back into their normal lives with a renewed sense of Christ’s calling."This is an important point, but it is one which swings both ways, so to speak: the communities to which the young people belong must make sure that they do pick up and continue what we, and diocesan bodies like ours, are able to do; not expecting us to do all the work and not expecting a single retreat to change an entire life by itself. Youth work is the job of the whole Church and others must take the baton after the three or five days at Castlerigg is over."In order to be viable and useful to the Church Castlerigg must constantly adapt and stay in tune with the wider Catholic community. Although many things at Castlerigg remain constant, we pride ourselves on being very dynamic. Our course material continues to develop and to respond to changes in the world and we have been greatly advantaged this year by having quite a few staff with experience of youth work elsewhere, ranging from secondary schools to Benedictine Monasteries!! In addition, by the time this article hits the streets, our first ever SIGNPOSTS weekend will have taken place and we have recently started the well project from our website, something which we hope will provide a valuable ministry and personal reflection resource. "In summary, I believe that the work we do up here in the Lakes is extremely valuable and it is a great affirmation for Fr. Paul, myself and the rest of the team, to see the positive feedback and the overwhelming demand. We ask for God’s continued help and guidance in our work and we ask for the whole Diocese to keep us in their prayers, to do what it can to encourage the young to take up what we offer and to help in its continuation. "

Typical Components of a Course

A normal course will include one or many of the following elements:

* Creative educational sessions
* Simulation games
* Discussion groups
* Night Prayers - either as a large group or in smaller groups
* Liturgy
* The Sacrament of Reconciliation
* Mass
* Mountain or low level walks in the Lake District
* Art/ creative activities
* Planned performances by young people
* Social activities - including discos, games, quizzes
* Communal meal times, beginning and grace
* Workshops
* Meditation and personal prayer time

All of the activities at Castlerigg are done with the intention of transmitting, or enabling participants to better live out, part of the Gospel message and the teachings of the Catholic Church. The main aim of Castlerigg Manor, therefore, as a body of the Church, is to encourage a commitment to Christian faith and a willingness to live this our in daily life.

The Team

and University.

Many members of the team are from the local area and apply to Castlerigg having been to the Manor on-course as young people, although others (especially the older members of staff) come from other parts of the UK or even further afield. The vast majority of staff members will go on to educational or caring ministries.

External links

* [ Castlerigg Manor]
* [ Lancaster Diocese]
* [ Lancaster Diocesan Catholic Youth Service]
* [ The Vatican]
* [ The Catholic Church in England & Wales]
* [ Catholic Youth Services - England & Wales]

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