On the 11th March 2017, a group of pupils from Our Lady’s Catholic College Lancaster travelled to the SSE Arena in Wembley to join 8,000 other young people at the National Catholics Youth Congress, Flame2017.
The day started extremely early (4:30am in fact!) as the very generous Mr Seddon drove the group to Salford on 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 how 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 “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 adoration and it was a 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.