FLAME 2023 called to the young people of England and Wales to RISE UP. After 3 years of challenges with Covid the young people did just that and set off for the largest Catholic gathering of young people in England and Wales, the FLAME congress.
With all 150 tickets allocated, the young people of Hallam Diocese set off at 6:30am to Wembley OVO Arena. Three coaches left Hallam picking up groups from: All Saints, St Bernard’s, Notre Dame, St Mary’s, St Pius, The McAuley and Mount St Mary’s as well as St Oswald’s and St Paul’s parish groups. We were accompanied on the coach by our own Bishop Ralph who is the national Bishop of youth for England and Wales.
The day was packed with scripture, inspirational talks, praise and worship and music. The keynote speakers were Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop Costelloe, Robert Bilot and David Wells. Music was led by Adenike, Faith Child and Guvna B with worship being led by One Hope Project. The event concluded with Adoration led by Cardinal Vincent Nicols. FLAME2023 was given life by the 8,000 young people and their leaders who attended.
We had front row seats so it was impossible not to be involved in the singing and it did not take long before we were jumping up and down with Guvna B. the young people said of the experience, “Seeing so many young people celebrating their faith together brought me so much joy” “It was a pleasure to feel part of a Diocesan, national and international community all at once”. The messages from our speakers were about the challenges and rewards of rising up from their seats and being active people of God. Archbishop Costelleo urged the young people to rebuild the Church so that it does not fall into ruin and Cardinal Tagle shared who helped him rise up on his own journey of faith. Our young people said later “Personally I feel motivated to rise up” and “I feel grateful for those people in my life who help and care for me” another was moved by the talk from Faith Child who said running away from God is not Cardio.
I believe our young are thirsty for experiences of faith, they immersed themselves into the day and it was a privilege to be with them. They experienced church together and expressed it in their own words “It was a great opportunity to partake in different forms of worship, be that through music or through adoration, and to listen to many speakers with different perspectives and messages.” They even thought “Adoration was so powerful – I didn’t think it could inspire 8000 young people to sit and listen to God”. They were able to connect this experience with belonging to the Diocese “FLAME made me realise how important faith is in my life and that my family, school and parish communities are integral in this”.
Hallam Youth allowed the spirit to move them in the arena at FLAME. It was a mountain experience we know but due to the pandemic this was the 1st such experience for so many already in their final years at school. I pray that going forward we may continue to offer our young people encounters with Christ through different experiences and walk with them on their journey of faith.
A special thanks must go to the local Catenians and The Guild of Our Lady of Ransom for their financial support. Finally thank you to all the staff and youth leaders who promoted FLAME and gave up their Saturday, it could not be done without support from you.