Me and my Salesian-ness!
My name is Rick Netherwood, otherwise known to most people in the world as ‘Woody’! I’m a twenty-five-year-old youth worker who’s originally from the hometown of Streatham, where I grew up on a council estate as the youngest in the family of Mum, Dad, two brothers and one sister (with the Salesian sisters two minutes round the corner).
Since those days growing up in ‘the ghetto’, I’ve become a bit of a Northerner, having now spent almost a third of my life up here. I am currently Team Leader of Animate Youth Ministries, the youth ministry team in the Archdiocese of Liverpool. Six years ago, I started out as a volunteer, completing two and a half years before becoming Performing Arts Co-Ordinator, and then taking up my current role after another two and a half years. Over this time, I have been studying part-time for a degree in Youth and Community Studies at John Moore’s University, which was recently completed to a 2:2 standard. I have to say, I wouldn’t be where I am today, and on the career path I currently tread, if it wasn’t for the Salesians.
Back in the day, I used to pop round to the youth club run by the sisters to pick up my older brother with my mum. My sister and I followed in his footsteps, joining the girls' and boys' club when we were old enough (although I was never allowed to join the girls' club!). Over the years it was a regular event in my life to head to the convent on a Tuesday night, and later, a Friday night, for some fun and friendship (to be honest the faith bit wasn’t really a big thing!). As time went on, being at the club helped me to understand what faith, and particularly Salesian spirituality, was all about. It really felt like a home, somewhere that I was comfortable being me, and the other people were just like family – particularly Sr Mary! It was like a school because I learnt so much about life and how to love others unconditionally as the sisters did. It was a playground, because there was nothing quite like going to the common and having a kickabout, or showing people who’s boss on the table tennis or pool table. There was also time for God at the ‘Goodnight’, but looking back, God was with us all of the time we spent there.
My time at the club lead me to working at Savio House with the SDB’s, spending a year as a volunteer working with young people from across schools in the North West. It was the best year of my life and helped me realise I loved working with young people. It seemed that God had given me the gifts needed to walk with young people where they are and hopefully help them become the amazing people God created them to be. I continue to be inspired by the Sisters that I grew up with, and try my best to create a similar ‘Salesian atmosphere’ in all my time spent with young people. Once you experience a Salesian community you can’t help but feel drawn in and ‘part of the family’ which rubs off on every part of your life and the way you live each and every day!