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Mass 7:30pm
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St Margaret's Youth Group, Shetland

Pope Francis recently tweeted, "Dear young people, be true 'athletes of Christ'! Play on his team". The young people of St Margaret and the Sacred Heart in Shetland are most definitely trying to follow this advice. Whether it's participating in the Parish, community or raising funds, the young people are there, reliable, confident and ready to help!

St Margaret's is the only Catholic Church in Shetland. There are no Catholic schools. Conscious that many young people leave the Church after Confirmation, we felt it was important to involve them within the Parish and community.

With this in mind, a youth group was formed in 2011, to give the young people from p6 through to the end of secondary an opportunity to meet and make friends.

Events have included football, archery, kayaking and wall climbing. We have social evenings involving team games, food and a period of quiet time to pray and give thanks to God.

In February 2013, our group went for a weekend trip to Aberdeen. Whilst there, we visited the Cathedral and various Churches for Mass. We had lunch with Bishop Hugh Gilbert and also met up with another Youth Group. It was a great way for the group to join in with other Catholics of their own ages.

During Lent, we held various social events to raise money for SCIAF. This included a cake sale, car wash, fun day and an 18 mile sponsored walk. In total we raised over £1500. This helped provide schooling for children and water for a whole village.

In December, we had a children's party, with an Advent themed puppet show and treasure hunt. This was very successful. We also cooked and served a meal for sixteen senior citizens of the Parish. The senior citizens were highly complementary of the group and one of them made the following comment:

"I wish to congratulate and thank the young people of our parish for the excellent Christmas meal which they served to us. They carried out their duties in a kind and courteous manner, and a lovely meal was enjoyed by all present."

Comments from parents were also very positive, congratulating and thanking the youth for their care and time given to younger members.

One of the parents said, "Thank you to all the young people. My child had a great time and loved the puppet show."

The hard work and dedication of the group has brought younger and older members of the Parish together.

From January 2014, the group will be taking part in the Caritas Award. The award aims to encourage the youth in their Faith journey. This will take about one year to complete and will help them to share their gifts within the wider Church. It will involve regular meetings for study and prayer and time spent helping the Parish and community. The group will also be joining the Society of St Vincent De Paul for young people.

We have been supporting the Salvation Army with their food bank. This has helped raise the group's awareness of the needs of those less fortunate and hopefully will be a regular activity and a chance to be involved with other churches.

With their confidence building, members of the group have begun participating in parish life. Some have become Altar Servers and readers; they clean the Church and assist in the counting of the weekly collections with adult supervision. One young person is part of the Parish Pastoral Council.

A trip to Poland has been arranged in April 2014. We will be visiting the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy, Auschwitz; spend some time with the Albertines, helping with their work in the poor communities and visit Magis Youth Centre run by the Jesuits.

Some of the youth comments are as follows: "I have been in the youth group since it formed and I have enjoyed meeting up with others. I hope to be able to put the award on my work CV!

"As part of the award, we plan to meet for prayer and study. I am looking forward to learning more about my Faith."

Pope Francis recently said, "Dear young people, Jesus wants to be your friend, and wants you to spread the joy of this friendship everywhere."

The success of our group is down to three things - learning about our Faith and putting it into action, being aware of the needs of each other and the wider community and spending time together and having fun!

Andrea Lavery, Youth Coordinator