.On March 11th 2017, many young people and adult leaders from Lancaster Diocese made their way down to the SSE arena – Wembley. Their reason?...to join with over 8,000 other young people from across the UK, for the largest gathering of young Catholic’s in England, at the CYMFed Flame youth congress!

Two groups within that large group were a group of students and staff from Our Lady’s Catholic College in Lancaster, and some of the team from Castlerigg Manor in Keswick.

Lucy Richards, who is in the sixth form at Our Lady’s, tells us a bit about the day she and her fellow students had. “The day started extremely early (4:30am in fact!) as the very generous Mr Seddon drove the group to Salford in our school minibus, and from there we made our way with a large group to Wembley Arena.

We arrived in London at 10:30am and the event began with song, drama, prayer and an opening address from Mike Pilavachi who inspired everyone gathered to really know our own worth. He used a memorable anecdote about the price of a bride in certain cultures; that even the most wonderful bride ever would cost 5 cows. And how that we, as children of God, have received a much greater price paid for us, in Jesus’ sacrifice.

The theme of Flame this year was 10,000 reasons to be thankful, inspired by a song from Matt Redman who sang live throughout the day. Many of his songs were very inspiring and were about becoming closer to God.

The event had a strong emphasis on social justice, with Cafod volunteers Ryan and Leah sharing about their time visiting refugees in Lebanon, and Fr Augusto Zampini Davies encouraging us to make a difference. Rise Theatre Group presented a wonderful drama focusing on the Refugee crisis and encouraged us all throughout the day to go to the front of the arena to have a close look at the refugee boat which had sailed from Lampedusa to London. This was a powerful imagery and really brought home the reality of our brothers and sisters across the world.

We were lucky to sit in the sun over lunch and meet up with Cardinal Vincent Nichols. There was also a powerful address from Cardinal Charles Bo, From Myanmar, encouraging us with his words “Hope has no expiry date”, and to place our hopes in God’s hands.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols closed the afternoon by leading over 8000 people in prayer and a time of Adoration. It was a really powerful experience to bring an arena full of people to total silence, before the presence of God.

It's fair to say all of the staff and pupils thoroughly enjoyed their experience at Flame. One student said, "It was a great atmosphere. It made me feel closer to God and has inspired me to help others". Another said, "It was a fun experience and brought young people together. Towards the end, nearly 8000 people put their phone lights into the air as a sign of hope- that was a memorable experience".

In light of attending Flame 2017, we would like to bring back a range of things from the experience to our school, parishes and communities. This includes "Different ways of praying and more acting and singing in liturgies" and to "bring young people together more". We would also like to look into ways that we can help and support the charities that we heard about during the event. We would like to thank our local parishes for their kind donation of travel expenses, we are most grateful and you are definitely on our list of 10,000 reasons to be thankful to God.”

Sarah from the Castlerigg Manor team was also present at Flame, and tells us a little bit about what the Castlerigg team experienced that day. “Six Castlerigg Team members were privileged enough to be able to experience Flame 2017 in the SSE arena.  The team drove down the night before and were welcomed at the Briars Retreat Centre in Derbyshire, where we spent the night. Personally, I had really wanted to go to Flame because despite growing up a Catholic, I had never been to a large-scale event aimed at young Catholic’s. Moreover, this event looked amazing and every person who had been previously to Flame 2 sang the event’s praises, whilst telling me I needed to go. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was expecting heading into the event, I knew it would be a loud noisy and busy affair but ideas of what was coming were unknown.

When I reflect on the event, I realise how much it truly gave me without me noticing fully at the time. Flame 2017 provided me with such an immense amount of inspiration from all the people I met and heard from, to change the world around me and to truly put my faith into action. I could see by being gathered together in the arena with so many other young people, and getting #FLAME2017 trending on twitter, the affect that so many aimed towards one goal could have. The whole day gave me such a sense of community with the thousands of other people gathered. I know, and have felt many times, that it can feel like you and a few others are the only young Catholics around. However, the powerful message that Flame gave me was that I am not and have never been on my own in the Church; there are so many young people just like me, wanting to change the world with our faith!

I think that ultimately my favourite part of Flame has to have been Matt Redmond; however, Fr Augusto gave him a close run for his money. As anyone that has been to Castlerigg for a retreat probably knows we have a special love for hand actions in the songs we sing, especially We Are the Free (by Matt Redmond). So understandably me and many of the team that were there too, ecstatically raved along with actions when this song was sung by Matt towards the end of the day!

I wish to pass onto others who were not able to attend the event, the inspiration I received but also in particular the sense of community that I felt that day. Hopefully I can do this in welcoming everyone who comes through the door of the Manor to the Catholic community, because I know how impactful and important this community feeling was, and is to me.”

Lucy – Lancaster & Sarah - Keswick