Walsingham National Youth Pilgrimage 2008 – Megabite!

Two weeks in a field. Two weeks in a damp field. Attacked by hailstones, and now covered in a light dusting of mud. Sleep-deprived, over-caffeined and with the tinge of a hangover never too far away, close to falling asleep at the wheel on the way home and utterly, utterly renewed by the spiritual invigoration that is the National Youth Pilgrimage to Walsingham.

The actual pilgrimage runs over 5 days, but needs at least another 10 to get it ready. This in itself has been preceded by a number of meetings: creative, technical, playful, funny, productive, frustrating, joyous and sparky. A shed-load of emails in between and before you know where you are, you are sat on the College Lawn meeting 9 young people from a variety of places and backgrounds who will form the ministry team and actually make this event.

Fr. Wealands had Cathedral commitments until the weekend, so I took a much more active role in supporting, pastoring, encouraging and mentoring the team, who were ALL so motivated, so skilled and so willing to muck in and get involved. Some years the Youth Ministry teamhave had to be dragged, kicking and screaming to do any work, but ask and woosh – it was done! In the past I have had to sort out major rifts and fix big cock-ups and soothe ruffled egos, and this year it was like a dream: they kept me from lifting anything heavy, told me off when I tried, learned how to do stuff with my mentoring and walked with me on the journey to make this pilgrimage happen.

My contribution to the whole thing is quite small: the vast majority of the creativity is in the hands of Fr. Wealands, and both Fr. Philips. I push the buttons, but it is a ministry which can set the tone of the week. It needs to be done well. The prep week is the hard one for me: long nights of crunching video. This year, I travelled lighter – set up a network, got everything on a shared drive and linked everyone’s laptops. On site, mobile internet kept up the momentum.

I joked at the beginning of the week that 50 weeks of grinding tedium in the parish were validated by these two weeks and the spiritual renewal it gives to me and my ministry. The first part was the joke, the second part I truely mean. Without ministering at this event, my missionary zeal, my commitment to the Gospel, my passion for Evangelism would be unfed and would ultimately die.

We looked at the heart of the sacramental life: the Eucharist and use four F-words

  • Freedom – liberation of faith using Exodus as a model
  • Fellowship – togetherness using the Last Supper
  • Forgiveness – The Road to Emmaus
  • and er.. Fanks – Our Lady’s Magnificat

In the prep week I celebrated Mass on the feast of Peter Chrysologus and found this quote:

He is the bread sown in the Virgin, leavened in the Flesh, molded in his passion, baked in the furnace of the sepulchre, placed in the churches, and set upon the altars, which daily supplies heavenly food to the faithful.

How appropriate for this week themed on the Eucharist, and so appropriate that we used these words as the Blessed Sacrament was brought in for adoration on Wednesday Night

Weds Late Night – Exposition and Benediction – a most beautiful and powerful all-nighter. The Ziggurat lit from below and strong spots on it all night as groups engaged in prayer until 8am the folowing morning. You could sense the prayer-soaked big top in the morning.

The Da Vinci Tableau. One-by-one they pealed off and grabbed a young person and put them in the tableau. “It will make a theological point so obvious I needn’t state it here” (Fr. North). All are invited. All are welcome. The priests venerated the altar from the people’s side with the tableau of young people insitu and the whole mass was celebrated on this (double-wide) altar.

On thursday, Lou went to get some more stock from the Cash-and-Carry at Holt and texted me to say that there was a storm, with some hail and that it was heading our way. Within the hour, there were hailstorms of biblical proportions. The big top was awash, the electrics had to be lifted off the ground in the Cafe and the whole campsite was deep, deep under water: tents broken, bedding soaked, pilgrims damp.

Some parishes, of course, made the most of the adversity:

…and in the Daily Office the morning after: God will send hailstones like pebbles (Psalm 147:17) Ha Ha Ha.

The final mass was so up, so joyous: 950 kids singing “Dancing Generation”; Priests conga-ing through the fun. “Hail! Mary” ha ha ha

This year’ highlights


Annunciation First Visit:


Visual Intercessions:


So proud of Emma’s animation for the Story of David & Jonathon:


More images can be seen at the Facebook Group: http://www.new.facebook.com/group.php?gid=15856477513

Videos can be found via my YouTube Videos: http://uk.youtube.com/user/simonrundell