To be a pilgrim…twelve young people serve on national pilgrimage
Fr Stephen Gallagher reflects on the involvement of young people from his parish in the National Walsingham Pilgrimage, a key event in the yearly calendar for Anglo-Catholics.
A pilgrimage mainly revolves around two key events: a journey and an arrival. The process of leaving one place intentionally for another can bring about an opportunity for both reflection and revelation in someone’s life, and the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham has become such a place for the arrival. This year, I was privileged to watch twelve young people from my parish play a part in the National Pilgrimage.
“The bit I enjoyed most about serving at Walsingham was the procession around the streets and the Benediction. It was a great experience.” – Cheyenne, a young server
Walsingham has been a place of pilgrimage since the year 1061, when a vision of the Virgin Mary was given to the local Lady of the Manor, with the instruction that a replica of the Holy House of Nazareth be built. The Shrine became a major pilgrimage site and pilgrims down the ages have come to visit the Holy House, to pray and to reflect on Mary’s “yes” to God and to remember how Jesus, the Son of God, grew up within a human family under the care of Mary and Joseph. The statue is a focus for devotion – a visual aid – and not something to be worshipped in itself.
The Shrine welcomes many thousands of pilgrims every year from all over the country, who find it to be a place of healing and renewal. Young pilgrims are especially welcome and take an active part in the National Pilgrimage. A Youth Pilgrimage is also held at the Shrine every summer (this year on 30 July – 3 August).
“A wonderful way to boost the spiritual development of young people is to encourage them to experience and be involved in pilgrimage.” – The Most Revd and Rt Hon Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury
And so it was, on Monday 28 May 2018, the young servers from the Parish of SS Peter & Paul, Enfield Lock, were invited to provide a serving team of twelve for the National Pilgrimage, attended by over 2,000 pilgrims from all parts of the country.
The pilgrimage was a great success and I felt honoured by the presence of the youth at this national celebration. We are extremely proud of our young servers who represented the Parish with great distinction at such an important and high-profile event. I asked them all to share how they felt throughout the day:
“It was a great experience, although tiring. I felt privileged to be there. I also felt like a community of the serving team representing my Parish.” – Salome
“I felt honoured to be an Acolyte. It was a great experience.” – Naomi
“I was extremely happy to go and visit Walsingham. I had the job of carrying the cross…this was a great experience and I felt honoured to carry it during the pilgrimage and in procession around the town.” – Nana
“When we attended the Walsingham service, it was really eye-opening. Yes, it was hot and yes, our feet hurt in the end, but it was worth it. I hope we can go again next year.” – Chi Chi
More about the history of the National Pilgrimage
Following its destruction during the Reformation in 1538, the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, containing a replica of the Holy House of Nazareth, was restored in 1931 by the then Vicar of Walsingham, Father Alfred Hope Patton. The huge influx of pilgrims soon made it clear that the little Shrine Church was not going to be big enough to contain the numbers of pilgrims arriving.
In 1938, the Whitsun weekend saw a huge influx of pilgrims to Walsingham to witness the blessing of the newly enlarged Shrine Church. As had become customary, there was a great procession from the Parish Church to the Shrine . It was estimated that the procession took “one hour less three minutes” to pass the Common Place and that 6,000 pilgrims passed through the Holy House. In the report of the weekend in the 1938 Our Lady’s Mirror (the forerunner of the present Walsingham Review) the intention was announced to hold a similar day pilgrimage “as an annual event every Whit Monday.”
Levi is the Creative Lead at Capital Youth, an initiative run by the Diocese of London Children & Youth Support team. He volunteers in youth ministry and leads worship at Christ Church W4 in Chiswick. Levi completed a degree in Applied Theology before working in marketing and design in the corporate space, bringing both worlds together in his current role at Capital Youth.
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