Sat 25th Oct 2014 | Last updated: Fri 24th Oct 2014 at 18:39pm

Facebook Logo Twitter Logo RSS Logo
Hot Topics


Youth 2000 offers gateway back to God

As the movement marks its 20th birthday Damian Arnold talks to young people whose lives have been transformed by the initiative

By on Friday, 27 August 2010

Young people are pictured outside the National Shrine of Our Lady, Walsingham, where Youth 2000 holds its life-changing annual prayer festival

Young people are pictured outside the National Shrine of Our Lady, Walsingham, where Youth 2000 holds its life-changing annual prayer festival

A group of young people, many of whom would not be out of place in a trendy nightclub, are becalmed in front of the Blessed Sacrament exposed on the altar, deep in contemplative prayer, magnetised towards Jesus. The holy rosary is recited and there are priests hearing Confessions all around.

This is not a typical model of Catholic youth ministry in Britain and yet Youth 2000 marks its 20th birthday this year with an abundance of fruits to celebrate since its founder, Ernest Williams, had a vision of young people around the world adoring the Eucharist and founded the lay evangelisation initiative in 1990.

The party will start rocking later this month at Youth 2000’s annual prayer festival at Walsingham, the biggest residential Catholic retreat for young people in Britain. The “rapping friar” Fr Stan Fortuna will be purveying his brand of divinely inspired hip-hop and freestyling lyrical. In between, the friar from the Bronx will be talking about how to be counter-cultural in world where to be Catholic and young is tough. He is the ideal man for the job, having even gained respect and recognition for his from a hip-hop community in the US that is more noted for its materialistic “bling” and lyrics steeped in gun violence and misogyny.

This is one example of the daring of an organisation with a very simple message that has transformed the lives of thousands of young people: the power and healing of Jesus exposed in the Blessed Sacrament.

The devotion that was popularised by St Francis of Assisi in the 13th century has caused a ripple that has spread outwards to young people in Britain who have been brought back to friendship with Jesus, active involvement in the Church and to evangelisation of their non-Christian and non-practising friends.

“We encourage people to pray silently and deeply before the Blessed Sacrament,” says the Youth 2000 website. “In our day-to-day lives we are surrounded by the TV, music and mobile phones beeping. The silence allows people to focus on deepening their relationship with God – for us to speak to Him, and for Him to speak to us.”

Youth 2000’s mission statement is to give young people aged between 16 and 25 a gateway back to God. The website is written to appeal to a young audience. Praying to Our Lady is a way of being “whisked to God” while praise and worship is a “hymn gym”. The weekly prayer groups convened around the country are places to “chill out not freak out”.

Young people are given the space to let God reveal himself to them. “[The prayer groups] are very hands-off,” says the website. “There’s no pressure for anyone to noticeably participate. You can just sneak in at the back and scope things out for the first week if you like. There is complete freedom to dip in and out.”

God was waiting for me
By Sophie Lawes

Youth 2000 at Walsingham 2009 was one of the most amazing experiences of my life so far. I’m going to tell you of my experience, and the aspects that meant the most to me, a young Catholic in Salisbury.

So many people question why there are not more young people in the parish, why young people stray from the Church: As a young person who stopped going to Mass the minute I left home for university, I completely understand why we might feel that way. I didn’t see why I couldn’t love Jesus and just live my life the way I wanted to.

On Friday, the theme of the day was Confession. Now, I wasn’t planning to go, because I had no plans or desires to change the things I was doing wrong, but as the night went on, I grew hungry for release and to be the person that God wanted me to be.

A lot of the talks were addressed to people who were too scared to go to Confession because of what they had done.

The speaker’s main answer to this dilemma was: “Jesus loves you no matter what.” It reminded me of what my mum used to tell me when I was little, and suddenly I wanted that, far more than I wanted the life I was

That evening I went to Confession. I found it really hard not to cry when I was confessing my sins.

I felt so bad that I hadn’t tried for Jesus, that I had even tried not to try. It was difficult to comprehend that He would still want me, without reservations.

I just felt so unworthy of God’s love. But the priest kept repeating to me: “I believe, Sophie, that Jesus loves you. Do you know that? Do you know that He will always, always love you?”

I felt that we had grown apart, but really it was only me who had turned my back and covered my ears. And He was standing right behind me, waiting. One of the most powerful things I realised over this weekend, despite being told it all my life, is that God is always there, you just have to accept Him. And the problems people have with accepting Him is the obligation that comes with it.

But I’ve realised that obligation is not a negative thing. In fact, it is a privilege to do what the Father wants, because we know that what He wants is good, is perfect, is love.

It led me in the right direction
By Carl Fisher

Several years ago at the end of August I decided to attend my first Youth 2000 festival at the Shrine to Our Lady in Walsingham. I had been to Walsingham before with my parish and was always the youngest.

On the poster Youth 2000 offered a few days of prayer and the chance to celebrate the Catholic faith with other young people: this intrigued me.

My journey began from Leeds where I was welcomed on to the coach that travelled down the country from Newcastle. This was my first experience of Youth 2000.
The coach was full of young people who were approachable, joyful and wanting to deepen their faith.

I wasn’t sure what to expect over the weekend but I did prepare myself for the worst. On the first night of the Walsingham festival Mass was celebrated reverently and the Blessed Sacrament was exposed and enthroned in the middle of the tent.
The evening continued with prayers and hymns of praise and worship. Everyone in the tent was singing praise to the Lord.

This was a different way of prayer I hadn’t experienced before and grew to understand.

After that evening the rest of the retreat was a whole celebration of prayer and faith. I had many opportunities to be with the Lord in the Eucharist. The talks were inspiring and encouraged me to deepen and carry on the important practice of my faith. Youth 2000 encouraged my faith in the right direction; it led me deeper into my relationship with Our Lord and His Blessed Mother.

I would recommend Youth 2000 to any young person who wants to learn or deepen their faith. It offers a great opportunity to be with other young Catholics join together in prayer and start new friendships.

Since the first retreat in 1990, Youth 2000 has inspired more than 70 vocations to the priesthood and the religious life; many of these priests celebrate Mass at the retreats. Many others have found their vocation to the married life and now bring their children to the retreats.

Youth 2000 has also spread to other countries. In May it marked its anniversary with a gathering in Rome with representatives from the US, France, Germany and Ireland. Each country brings its own charism. France is the latest country to be involved and the fastest-growing. In Germany it has become deeply embedded into diocesan life, and in the US it has been promoted vigorously by the big-bearded Franciscan Friars of Renewal. In Ireland some of the country’s Gypsy community has been evangelised.

In Britain, Youth 2000 organises five retreats a year around the country. These donation-only retreats are noticeable for how many people are going to Confession. One Y2K leader says: “In my parish Confessions were only available for one hour on a Saturday, but on these retreats they were 24/7. I hadn’t been to Confession for about 10 years but it was inspiring to see so many other young people who weren’t scared of going. It’s easier when there are 200 other young people around you going to the sacrament.”

Another says: “I did not realise the importance of Confession until I came to a Youth 2000 retreat. Then I realised that I needed to seek forgiveness and that I was in a place of sanctuary where I could find healing.”

Mothers are amazed when their teenage children return home with tales of voluntarily rising in the middle of the night, after sleeping on a hard floor, to be with Jesus, kept exposed in the Eucharist through the night.

For many the experience of praying the rosary for the first time is visceral. “I had never prayed a rosary before Youth 2000,” says one. “But I soon realised it was Our Lady leading me back to Christ.”

But some are confused and have questions. What is Eucharistic Adoration? What is the rosary and why do we pray it? It is the start of a journey of formation.

And having experienced the euphoria of “plugging back into God” the young people walk away with powerful tools to enable them to put Christ at the centre of their everyday lives: prayer and Adoration, the rosary and a network of supportive friends.

At the 1989 World Youth Day, Pope John Paul II said: “You young people have in a special way the task of witnessing today to the faith; the commitment to bring the Gospel of Christ – the Way, the Truth and the Life – into the third Christian Millennium, to build a new civilisation, a civilisation of love, of justice and of peace.”

Fourteen years later and two years before his death, the Pope wrote to Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, saying: “The growth of groups such as Youth 2000… are evidence of the desire of many young people to share in the Church’s life… You will find their enthusiasm and generosity exactly what is needed to promote a spirit of renewal not just among themselves but in the entire Christian community.”

The Youth 2000 Prayer Festival – Sanctuary Walsingham is from August 26-30. Visit

  • MJCarroll

    I have had some involvement in these Youth 2000 events and I can tell you now that the organisers of these events, and the youths involved, put the average 'pew sitter' to shame will the level of faith and worship displayed.

    Every Catholic 'pew sitter' should be forced to go to these events at least once to see just how far removed they are from the living worship that is ever present at these youth events.

    Beyond that ALL parishes should pay towards, and have collections so the young people can attend on a yearly basis.

    I have only admiration for all involved!!!!!!

  • TruthInHisWord

    Matthew 24:23-28
    23Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.
    24For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
    25Behold, I have told you before.
    26Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.
    27For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
    28For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.

    2 Corinthians 11:4-5
    4For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.

    Galatians 1:6-8
    6I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
    7Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
    8But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

    2 Corinthians 11:13-14
    13For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
    14And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.

  • Mamasnookems

    HOw do catholics think they get to heaven?

  • jacey

    And why do Catholics pray for the dead, seeing that “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgement” Hebrews 9:27. If the dead person is in Heaven he does not need prayer, and if he is in hell prayer is too late for him.

  • Leonie

    I have been attending youth 2000 retreats since 1999. I first attended this amazing retreat at the age of eleven and I thank God whole heartedly for the blessings and great graces that He poured out on me during these youth prayer festivals. It was such an inspirational thing to see youth who at first came to the festival with stories of pain, of emptiness, of longing, of disorientation with the “fruits” of our society- leaving the festival completely transformed, stronger in their faith, in their love for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, in their appreciation and love for Our Lady. You see the freedom in their eyes, the hope, the trust, the joy!!

    Walsingham is England's Nazareth and just as Jesus grew in wisdom and understanding in Nazareth and quietly prepared for His three years of mission and His victory over death and sin under the loving gaze of Our Lady and St Joseph, we young people came to Walsingham this weekend and have left filled with zeal for the Lord and ready for victory! Amen!

  • Mamasnookems

    I do agree with you, i was a catholic, i asked that question to see what other catholics say, i have been saved for 8 years and never looking back! I love Jesus with my whole heart and He is the only way! All the traditions of man does not make sense to me now since Jesus opened my eyes to see the truth! Praying to and for the dead is not good, i have family members that still have mass for my sister, how do they know that “they prayed her out of purgatory”.

  • Mamasnookems

    nobody should be “forced” to go these, that just turns people off.

  • Mike Carroll

    OK, the word 'forced' was a bit strong but, its still good to see and be involved in some 'living' worship once in a while.

  • Mamasnookems

    If the Pope said of Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life, (which is true) he should finish the verse saying, ” no man comes to the Father but by Me”. Instead the pope relied on Mary after he was shot, not on Jesus. How sad. Jesus wants our worship, and praise and lifting Him up …only. He is God. Pray to God in Jesus name, in His name only, no one elses! I love catholics and want to see all go to heaven and be “born again”, ask Jesus to come into your life and repent to God only, He will forgive, have faith in Him!

  • Mike Carroll

    Catholics are born again as well, you know. One third of the Catholic Church is technically (if not in practice) made up of Catholic Charismatic Renewal. It's a long story. Those 'in the know' are aware that JPII was 'Baptised in the Holy Spirit' or as you might call it, born again.

  • Mike Carroll

    If you are evangelical or pentecostal then you may also be surprised to hear that John Paul II could also speak in tongues.

  • Mamasnookems

    Well Jesus said that we “must be born-again to enter the kingdom of heaven”, that word was not made up. And we don't need a bishop to give us the Holy Spirit” during the sacrament of confirmation, God gives us the Holy Spirit when we ask Jesus to come into our lives and live totally for Him, not a church.

  • Lilbella18

    Hello Mamasnookems, I can see you love the Lord and I embrace you in Christ. I would however like to say, respectfully, that just as we have an earthly family praying and interceding for us, beseeching God on our behalf- we also have a heavenly family who are eager, who are hungry and indeed yearning for our salvation. They too intercede before the throne of God for us and their prayers are heard.

    Remember that prayer goes beyond limits and earthly boundaries. In scripture we are told that Mary was overshadowed and covered with the Holy Spirit (Lk 1: 35). For nine months God resided in her womb and wherever she went, He was there too. Scripture also makes it crystal clear that Mary is the mother of Jesus, the mother of God (Lk 1: 43). As an earthly child would be attentive to a mother's words, so Jesus was attentive to Mary and honoured her request at the wedding feast at Cana. Mary's words were “do whatever he tells you”, Mary's mission is thus to lead us to Christ. Just as through her “yes” Jesus became man, it is also through her prayers that many come to Jesus. There is no conflict between the desires of Mary with those of her Son. She desires that we “do whatever He tells” us! It is wise to listen to her and to honour her as mother.

    Part of my family is of African descent and the mother of a great chief, for instance, is always honoured and almost seen as “queen”. People approach her with requests for the chief and she does what she can. This is another way of seeing what gift we have in Mary. But all of us, including Mary, have no power except through God. Mary was humble enough to recognise this (Lk 1: 48, 49). Pope John Paul II knew that it was through the prayers of Mary that he was saved and of-course all glory goes to God! It's just like how your prayers can make a difference to someone's life or to a situation; you were the instrument, but all the same all glory goes to God.

    I find that my brothers and sisters who are not Catholic do sometimes misunderstand the role of Mary.

  • Leonie

    Hello again Mamasnookems.
    Thank you for bringing up these points. I believe I am “born again” precisely through what Christ did through the Spirit in my baptism. When Jesus said to Nicodemus in Jn 3:3 that he must be born again, he said this with reference to baptism. In Jn 3:5 Jesus refers to being born of “water and the spirit”, referring here to baptism, because after Jesus' discourse with Nicodemus John points to the fact that “After this Jesus and his disciples went into the land of Judea; there he remained with them and baptised” (Jn 3:22). It is a great thing to accept Christ as your personal Lord and Saviour, but in the Bible the story does not end there! One has to be “born of water and the spirit”, in other words, one has to be baptised. This is evident in the book of Acts, the disciples preached the Gospel, the Gospel was accepted by a large number and those who accepted it were baptised.

  • Mamasnookems

    Hello, you know that baptism by water doesn't wash your sins away? Just the blood of Jesus does. Baptism is an obedience of Christ of what He did, adults decide to follow HIm and be baptized, but babies have no say so in the matter and people think that washes away sins, it doesn't, it obedience to Christ.

    You have been very nice to me and not argumentive like some people can be. I am just saying what i know now what i didn't know as a catholic. I am thankful for my personal relationship with Jesus.

  • Petrus

    Hello Mamasnookems,

    As you like to quote the Bible, you might like to add John 3:5 to your list:

    “Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.”

    Which does suggest that baptism is rather essential, does it not?

    But then, when you give your interpretation of the Bible are you infallible? If you are not infallible then you have to admit that you can be wrong in the way that you interpret the Bible.

    When there are so many different interpretations how are we to know which none is correct? Which is more likely: that God created a book and left it up to each human being to decide what it meant, with so many people arguing that their interpretation is correct and therefore nobody knowing which one is correct, or that He left behind a Church which has the authority of passing on from generation to generation the Truth witht the result that people who follow Jesus can know the Truth?

    And how can you be sure what books make up the Bible? Have you researched the origin of each book or have you just taken somebody else’s word that the collection of books your refer to as the Bible is, indeed, the Bible? If so, how do you know that the selection is correct?

  • Runner4Jesus

    No one who has left this earth is interceding for us. The one who is though is Jesus before the Father as in Hebrews 7:25 (Jesus alone is our high priest) Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

    v.26 For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.

    There is no other name as in Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

    It is Jesus who intercedes for us alone and it is Jesus who saves us alone. No man living or dead can save us or pray for us and give us all we need. He alone is our Saviour.

  • Runner4Jesus

    What God called Mary to accomplish is complete. There is nothing else Mary can do now for anyone. Mary herself said in Luke 1:47 that Jesus was her Saviour.

    Luke 1:46-47 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord. verse 47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

    Mary can neither pray or save anyone whatsoever. Her calling was to bring forth the Saviour. Mary was conceived of the Holy Ghost. Mary bore him, but she is not the mother of God. She was a vessel God chose to bring forth Jesus.

    Luke 1:35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God:

    Joseph was told in Matthew 1:20 “for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost”.

  • Mamasnookems


  • Mamasnookems

    I am thankful that i can worship Jesus at home or at church or any where,even in my car! The only book I read is the bible,all 66 books, Holy Spirit inspired men wrote the bible, so I know the bible is directly from God not man! I read NKJ and King James. I trust in God in what He wrote in the bible so I know it IS the truth!

    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God” John 1:1.

    The Word is Jesus.

  • Daz

    Maybe if you listened properly whilst attempting to pray you would understand how Mary intercedes for us! Don't get tied up in the false ideology of lapsed Christian denominations. Remember, Christ, himself intended all Christians to unite; unity in his Church, the Catholic Church. In advance, thanks for trying to understand!

  • JamesH

    Yes, you can pray to Jesus anywhere, that's perfect.

    But for nearly 300 years after the death of the last disciple, there was no definite list of what books Christians should regard as inspired. It was a council of the church that decided what books should go into the Bible, and they sent the list to the Bishop of Rome for his approval: and it had 72 books, not just 66.

    The funny thing is, the bible itself doesn't actually say anywhere, 'Only the bible is the deposit of faith'.

  • JamesH

    Praying for the dead is an ancient Christian tradition, but the scriptural evidence is sound: 2 Maccabees 12 tells the story of some Jewish fighters against the Greek rulers of the time, who had been found to have amulets on them when they were dead. The fact that they were carrying things dedicated to pagan gods was taken as the reason why the battle had been lost, and they had been killed. So Judas Maccabeus sent an offering to Jerusalem for a sacrifice to be made for them, that they might be forgiven and so be allowed into heaven:
    “And making a gathering, he [Judas] sent twelve drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection (for if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead), and because he considered that they who had fallen asleep in godliness, had great grace laid up for them. It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.”

  • A Mcbrien

    Trying to get hold of Ernest Williams,

  • matt

    “the young people walk away with powerful tools to enable them to put Christ at the centre of their everyday lives: prayer and Adoration, the rosary and a network of supportive friends.”

    But we are also told to go out and meet Christ in the world, in the people who are in need. Putting Christ at the centre of our lives demands social action for justice and peace, and young people need to be equipped with the tools for this, such as Catholic Social Teaching and methods for implementing.

  • Elizabeth-Rose

    Catholics believe that when you die you can not change the state of your soul but if you ‘choose’ the Lord and Heaven rather than to turn your back or reject him (and therefore enter eternal damnation) when you die, Catholics believe you need to be purified before you can enter the beatific vision, Heaven… Therefore souls in purgatory need prayer as they can not now effect anything themselves (other than that initial ‘yes’ to God of course). I go to evangelical prayer groups and have experience of many Christian faiths but I still pray for souls in purgatory because I have personal experience of the Lord revealing to me (mainly through dreams and two visions) of the state of the particular person I was praying for. Gradually the dreams changed as we prayed for him – until one day when I was praying the Lord gave me a picture – as real as if he were in front of me – of him fully healed, fully wholed, fully free, fully alive and joyful in God’s presence (I didn’t see God of course!) Praise God for his love and mercy!