Richard Norman reports on this year’s Walsingham Youth Pilgrimage

The Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham was last month ‘Alive with the Vision’ as over seven hundred pilgrims made their way to Norfolk for the Youth Pilgrimage 2011. Eschewing the comforts of Richeldis House for four nights under canvas, young people from across the country and further afield came together to celebrate the 950th anniversary of Lady Richeldis’ vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Youth Pilgrimage was, as ever, a balance of prayer and party, with liturgies and discos alike taking place within a soaring marquee erected for the week in a field above the Shrine. Each Mass involved the wonderful music of CJM, the Catholic answer to the Evangelical worship band, as well as the latest video technology. In addition, Bishop Lindsay Urwin led well-attended Bible studies each morning, and pilgrims took it in turns to watch before the Blessed Sacrament throughout the night on Thursday. In their free time, young people and their leaders had trips out to the seaside, as well as craft activities and sports provided on-site.

Visible effect

As a new deacon, it was a great privilege for me to assist Bishop Norman Banks at Benediction in the Shrine grounds following a candle-lit procession of all the many hundreds of pilgrims from the Roman Catholic Shrine along the Holy Mile. Walsingham’s youth ministry is such an important part of the work of the Shrine, and the Youth Pilgrimage is the key yearly event in this ministry. The spiritual effect on young pilgrims is powerfully visible, as they come to a deeper love of the Mass in a more easily recognizable idiom, or as dozens line up to make their first confession or receive ministries of healing and prayer. The result is a positive one for all concerned, particularly for the parishes from which the pilgrims come and for their clergy: the Walsingham Youth Pilgrimage is the sort of good news of which the Catholic constituency of the Church of England can be justly proud, and of which it is in such great need.

‘Godparents’ scheme A new opportunity to participate in the Youth Pilgrimage this year was a ‘godparents’ scheme by which Catholic people in the parishes could sponsor – financially and by prayer – one young person’s attendance on the Pilgrimage. In return, each godparent received a postcard from their godchild written during the course of the week. I was very pleased to learn that at least one of my parishioners at home had done just that, and had been thrilled to receive her card, which had been a stimulating prompt to her prayers.

I returned tired, damp, sunburnt, smelly and with a cold, but joyful, thankful and – I believe – ‘Alive with the Vision’. Now to begin planning for next year… ND