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Attendance three times higher than last year, at the Walsingham Youth Pilgrimage

11 August 2023

Walsingham Youth Pilgrimage

A service held on the final day of the Walsingham Youth Pilgrimage, in Norfolk, last Friday

A service held on the final day of the Walsingham Youth Pilgrimage, in Norfolk, last Friday

NUMBERS attending the Walsingham Youth Pilgrimage last week were three times higher than last year, it was reported this week. A total of 308 young people, representing 18 dioceses, were present, compared with just over 100 in 2022.

Among them were six young people from St Mary’s, Willesden, accompanied by the Vicar, the Revd Christopher Phillips. “When the sacraments are offered to young people, and presented in a straightforward way, where it is normal and they see other people just like them are engaging in it and receiving them, and you can see fruit being born in the people around you, it just goes to show how much power they have to change people’s lives,” he said this week.

Originally allocated to sprinkle holy water during the healing service, he had been asked to take confessions because of a long queue of young people seeking to make one.

Being a young Christian could be “very isolating”, he said. “It’s seen as counter-cultural, and so, if you are in any way public about your faith, that does leave you open to teasing, or worse. . . A lot of parishes have really struggled with youth work since the pandemic; so actually I guess there will be many for whom going to church is also quite a lonely experience. . . So, to come away and to be part of something bigger is a really important thing for your spiritual life.”

A talk on the Divine Office, by Sister Carol, of the Society of St Margaret, reminded young people that, “even if you can only manage to say just one of the liturgies . . . you can unite your prayers with those of all of your brothers and sisters around the world.”

Clips posted on social media included footage of young people listening to a Catholic contemporary music band, CJM. Fr Phillips, who had seen some of the young people from St Mary’s dancing, said that a younger generation of Catholics were “quite open” to such music, “and see no need to dismiss it, because if the Spirit is in it it will be evident — and it was certainly evident last week”.

The theme for the week was “Illuminate: Shining as lights in the world”, with talks on subjects such as Mary, the “Light Bearer”, carrying Christ into the world. A talk by the Vicar of St Stephen’s, South Kensington, the Revd Philip Barnes, included a “smell test” for the Bishop of Fulham, the Rt Revd Jonathan Baker: the last aroma was that of chrism. “We’re anointed to be a holy people, shining with the light of Christ in our lives, so that more of his love is visible in our hurting world,” Fr Barnes preached.

A video featuring young pilgrims was posted on social media by the Walsingham account. Temi, from Manchester, said that, at the shrine, she was “able to feel God right next to me”. Grace, from Belfast, said that she was the only teenager from her parish, and that the group that she had joined from London had been “really warm and welcoming”. She had enjoyed the combination of modern worship and traditional liturgy.

Elly, from Chichester, who was going for the first time, described how God had been “with us through everything . . . even through the storm last night”.

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