The YR4God Team introduce themselves and report on the Families Pilgrimage to Walsingham
We are Samantha, Christiane, Stuart and Alice, this year’s YR4God team at the Anglican Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. YR4God is a new scheme, now in its second year, for eighteen- to twentyfive-year-olds. We live and work around the Shrine for a year, focusing on youth and children’s ministry, and helping the Shrine to reach out to all people who come here on pilgrimage. It is a volunteer scheme with each member raising a contribution of £1,100 towards the scheme. We receive pocket money each month and all our accommodation and food are provided by the Shrine.
We arrived in Walsingham at the end of September, so we have been here for a quite few weeks now, and what an amazing few weeks it has been! We have been busy getting stuck into life around the Shrine. We have been working in the different departments around the Shrine complex, for example: the Shrine Shop, the Hospitality Department, the Welcome Centre and the Sacristy. We have been meeting the different members of staff and they have instantly made us feel part of the Shrine family.
Activities for all
Our day-to-day life is centred on the daily round of prayer. We begin and end each day with morning and evening prayer and go to all of the Pilgrim Masses and Pilgrim Liturgies. One of the highlights of our time here so far has been in the Healing Ministries, and we have been privileged to administer the Laying on of Hands and Sprinkling to pilgrims. This has had a very positive and profound impact on us and our spiritual life.
We get involved in the Ministry of Welcome at every Pilgrim Mass and other Liturgies and take part in serving, reading and helping the Sacristans. We have even been known to carry the image of Our Lady in the processions.
Over the last couple of weeks we have been heavily involved in organizing what turned out to be a very successful and well-received Families’ Pilgrimage weekend. This is one of the specially dedicated pilgrimages that the Shrine offers every year. People come as family groups and we offer appropriate activities for every age group, from primary school to grandparents.
Our theme this year was ‘Holy House – Holy Family’. The title refers to the Holy House of Walsingham, which reminds us of the Holy House of Nazareth where the Annunciation took place. Through imaginative drama over the course of the weekend, we explored Jesus’ birth and early childhood as a member of the Holy Family. It was really hard work but it proved fruitful and everyone enjoyed themselves, including us.
We began on Friday evening by introducing our families to the Lady Richeldis de Faverches (played by Samantha) who, 950 years ago, lived in Walsingham and had three visions of the Virgin Mary asking her to build a replica of the Holy House of Nazareth. Richeldis took us on our First Visit to that house, something that all pilgrims do when they first arrive here. The Families Pilgrimage’s First Visit started off a little differently from the usual liturgy, with a drama of the Annunciation (with Alice playing the Angel Gabriel). We were taken on a short walk through the Shrine gardens where we encountered some Shepherds watching their flocks, and the Angel Gabriel appearing to them to announce the birth of Jesus. Led by the Shepherds, the families made their way into the Shrine Church through the Holy House to encounter a Nativity scene where we sang carols and said prayers.
Drama and workshops
On Saturday morning it was the Epiphany in the Shrine Church. Time for yet another drama with the Three Kings going to a shopping mall to buy and explain their gifts to some very startled shopkeepers! A few songs and prayers later, we joined in age-appropriate workshops, arts and crafts and games around the village and Shrine, while Bishop John Salt OGS led the adults through Mass and Stations of the Cross.
Following a free afternoon (or for us, an afternoon of dressing up the Refectory!), we had a big 950th birthday tea party followed by a disco with party games for the young people, while the adults had a rather more laidback service of Healing and Reconciliation, led once again by Bishop John. This included the Laying on of Hands and Anointing and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
On Sunday morning, the theme of our Mass was the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, or Candlemas. Our worship began at the Roman Catholic Shrine with the blessing of candles. We proceeded to walk the Holy Mile back to the Anglican Shrine carrying banners and singing the traditional Walsingham Pilgrim Hymn. We were led by Mary and Joseph (played all weekend by Christiane and Stuart) carrying the baby Jesus, in the beautiful sunshine that our Lord provided for us that day.
When we reached the Shrine Church, candles were lit and placed on pricket stands arranged around the altar, creating a lovely prayerful atmosphere for our Mass. The Gospel drama of Jesus’ Presentation in the Temple had Anna and Simeon musing with the children about why this story is so important in our own Christian lives.
During the Mass, families were invited to offer a seven-day votive candle, with a photo of their family group, at the altar as a symbol of their desire to shine as lights in the world, and as a sign of their prayers continuing to burn in the Shrine after they left for home.
Our final act of worship was Sprinkling, Benediction and Last Visit, involving one final drama during which Richeldis was mobbed by news reporters wanting to know about the 950th year celebrations and what Sprinkling is and why it is so important to the life of the Shrine. Sprinkling is a very important and unique part of pilgrimage to Walsingham. No pilgrimage here is complete without it. After her visions, Lady Richeldis de Faverches was shown where to build the Holy House by a spring of water sent by Mary. Water from this spring is believed to have healing properties for the pilgrims who come and drink the water in faith. It is also a sign of Jesus, the Living Water, who Mary spent her life pointing to, and still does in the Holy House this day. To end our weekend celebrations, we released the 950th year anniversary balloons into the sky.
Checkoutthephotos ofthe festivities, taken by Shrine photographer Graham, on the Shrine’s website and read more about us and our YR4God at