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This weekend the new team travelled to Walsingham in Norfolk, to attend the Youth 2000 festival. First and foremost, our thanks to those who got us there, especially Fr Alf from St Wulstan’s and St Edmund’s Fleetwood, in his Parish minibus! Walsingham is a picturesque village which has a strong history as a place of pilgrimage for Catholics. In 1061, Richeldis De Faverches prayed to Our Lady the Mother of Jesus and Our Lady led her in Spirit to Nazareth, in which Mary told her to build in Walsingham a replica of the Holy House of Nazareth, where Jesus grew up. When she achieved this, Walsingham became as famous as Jerusalem as a place of pilgrimage for Catholics in the Middle Ages. The original Holy House was destroyed in the reformation, but the ‘Slipper Chapel’ and Shrine remain.

The Youth 2000 festival brings together over a thousand people mostly ages 16-35, as well as inspirational speakers from all over the world and dozens of priests and religious. The festival is centred on a huge circus tent, within which Jesus can be found 24/7 in the Blessed Sacrament. We gathered in His presence every day to hear from speakers such as Anthony Gielty and Mary Bielski. We prayed and sang uplifting songs of worship, and to celebrate mass.

We could also spend some time in quiet with Jesus late at night or early in the morning. Phelim took the brave calling to spend some time in adoration at 3am on Saturday Morning. He reports that he enjoyed taking some time reading the story of the road to Emmaus from the Gospel and simply reflecting on a busy day in the tranquillity of the Lord. We let him off for having a bit of a lie-in the next morning…

We all got a lot from the weekend, which for many of us was the first opportunity to take part in such a joyful and vibrant celebration of our Catholic faith. It was emboldening to meet and get to know so many other young people, as well as priests and religious, who are faithfully living out their lives as followers of Christ. It served as an important reminder that our faith is not something that should be restricted to one hour on a Sunday, but something that should soak through our entire lives; and fill us with pure love and joy!

Patrick, who had never been to a Youth 2000 event before, was struck by how passionate people were about their faith: ‘I think it’s good for people to have a space to do that in an increasingly secular world.’ He also enjoyed the healing night, and found the testimonies really powerful. People with ailments such as chronic back pain found they had been taken away after being prayed over.

The theme of the festival was ‘Share in the Joy’. Since arriving at Castlerigg just over a week ago, we have been getting to know each other as we embark on this year together. By sharing in the joy of Christ in such an enthusiastic way at Walsingham, we have certainly grown closer as a team and as friends. As the old mantra states, ‘the family who prays together stays together’!

As many of the speakers reminded us this weekend, Jesus brought us all to Walsingham for a unique reason, and the same is true for us as we begin our year at Castlerigg. We can’t wait to get started, and look forward to sharing the joy with you soon!