In Thanksgiving for Brentwood Catholic Youth Service

Brentwood Diocese, purportedly, has the best Youth Service in the Country. This is more than just conjecture, it is the opinion of many people involved with Youth Work I have spoken to over the years, and was certainly affirmed by all who attended Sunday's  wonderful Mass of Thanksgiving at Brentwood Cathedral.
Brentwood Cathedral

Brentwood Youth Service has been a success due to the involvement of many characters over the years, but perhaps it would be reasonable to say none more so than Sarah Barber and her husband James, here pictured together in Lourdes at a joint Brentwood/Liverpool pilgrimage in 1987.

Sarah & James Barber a long time ago!

Sarah has been Diocesan Youth Director for twelve years and has made a huge contribution to the spiritual life of young people in our diocese over that time. She has now secured a position with CAFOD, which is very exciting. I'm sure she will continue to make a huge contribution to the life of the Church in her new role.

Fr. Stephen Myers (nearest), Fr. James Mackay (next), Fr. Dominic Howarth (furthest) with Will up by the altar

Fr. James Mackay incenses the altar

The Mass was con-celebrated by three of our Brentwood clergy, Fr. James Mackay, current Youth Chaplain, the previous one, Fr. Dominic Howarth, now our Vocations Director, and Fr. Stephen Myers, the chaplain before Fr. Dominic. As I have often commented, we have such a wealth of talented priests in our diocese, we are privileged to have such great men to lead our youth and enrich their spiritual lives.

Missing was the great Fr. Pat Sammon, a great son of Mayo, who ended up in Essex leading the youth when I was a boy. My first conversation was one of great shock when I told him the distant and wild part of Ireland where my family hail from only to find out he knew my mother! Fr. Pat also introduced me to Cardinal Basil Hume when I had just turned 18, although I have to say I had no idea who or what he was, apart from Fr. Pat's boss in some sense.

Fr. Pat Sammon who is much loved by all us old yoof

Fr. Pat Sammon (right) pictured on pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1981 with a very youthful looking Fr. Martin Joyce on the left.
It appears that the first documented pilgrimage by the Brentwood Diocesan Youth Service, one where the pilgrims were wearing their now infamous Brentwood Blue T-shirts, was some 30 Years ago. Whilst we know that there was Diocesan Youth work happening before then, we don't have dates or records to give us an anniversary, so this year was chosen to celebrate the inauguration.

My youngest son John before Mass as the huge and very enthusiastic orchestra assembles behind him

I have the Youth Service to thank for many wonderful friends I have made over the years, but most importantly, for my marriage. Louise and I met on a HCPT/ BCYS trip in 1989. It was a trip on which I met many life long friends, people who are very dear to me and I still spend time with today. It was an opportunity to mix with other young people who shared your faith and convictions, and certainly ours was not the only spark that was first kindled on pilgrimage to Lourdes.

Spiritually, it provided an interesting alternative to what was going on in the Parish on Sunday and tried to be relevant and enjoyable. I certainly found it to be those things, and greatly enjoyed the Masses we had and the spirituality we could share in Catholic company. I also found it a wonderful way for me to be Catholic in action. I never felt like I was living out my faith more than working with the sick and disabled in Lourdes. Labouring in the baths on a hot day, carrying wheelchairs round the Stations of the Cross, or entertaining in hotels and guest houses so that full time carers could have some well deserved respite.

Louise really had the bug. She had been to Lourdes before and went many times afterwards. We both traveled many times with ACROSS, I wasn't to travel again with BCYS, but Louise did lots of times.

Now my two eldest sons have reached the age where they can travel to Lourdes and will be part of this summer's pilgrimage. I think they are both much better prepared spiritually than either Louise or I were. Their faith is far more sophisticated and discerning than either of ours was when we went. They have taken part and enjoyed numerous Brentwood Youth Service events and I hope they will find Lourdes with a peer group a real highlight.

Brentwood Youth Service 1989. Can you spot Louise?


  1. Replies
    1. Well spotted indeed Father!

    2. With grateful thanks for such lovely comments. I have however only been Director for the past 4 years and previously served as Events Manager for Fr Stephen and Fr Dominic. Sunday was such a joy and being part of the BCYS has given me much more than I have ever had the chance to give. Many people deserve thanks for the achievements of the past 30 years but perhaps none more so that our Bishop who has given us unstinting support, and resourced us generously. I know many other Diocese would benefit from such an investment. Am really looking forward to Summer Lourdes and am delighted to have at least 6 children of previous BCYSers travelling with us. I always prayed that the BCYS would still be going strong when my children were old enough to take part. Now I'd ask everyone's prayers for the appointment of a new Director. Thanks again


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