Religious from several congregations joined forces to be a presence at a large gathering of young people for a weekend festival over Pentecost at Alton Castle in Staffordshire. The youth event was entitled : ‘World Youth Day @ Home.’ In the words of the organisers: “Many of us were keen to respond to Pope Francis’ invitation to World Youth Day in Panama this year, but for many of us from the UK, it was too far to join in the celebrations.”
The Religious who were present ran a ‘Listening Hub’ – inspired by the appeal made by Pope Francis following the Synod for youth, faith and vocational discernment:
“Priests, men and women religious, while they do not have a monopoly of accompaniment, have a specific task which arises from their vocation and which they must rediscover, as they were asked to do by the young people present in the Synodal Assembly, in the name of so many others.” #93Post Synodal Document
The aim of the Listening Hub was to provide a space for young people - offering an opportunity to talk through aspects of their life in which they were seeking some guidance or direction.
Those members of congregations who participated described it as a very fruitful experience:
Carmelite Sr Susan Thompson: "It was great to be able to spend some time with our young people and experience some of their enthusiasm. I would like to think that the time we spent together was of mutual benefit in each of our faith journeys.”
Fr John Mcgowan OCD : “I went in great part because I was at World Youth Day in Panama; it was a way of bringing back wonderful memories. So I wore the lanyard I had been given in Panama with all the memorabilia that people exchanged; badges, medals, pins, even a koala bear from some Australians; I must have looked like a hippy. It was a well organised event. I loved listening to David Wells, who has a gift at communicating something deep in a way that is so understandable. I was impressed with John Pridmore, an ex convict: he held those youngsters as he spoke to them of his life and his conversion. Rise Theatre was also impressive: theatre is such a good means of sharing the gospel. It was great to meet my fellow Religious. I knew most of them, and some have become friends. I was pleased to see two of our enclosed Carmelite nuns; one from Notting Hill Carmel and one from Wetherby. The young people were attracted to their witness. Events like this reinforce my belief in the faith of young people. I am now a believer in youth. I pray that the fruits of the 2018 Synod on youth will be seen and soon.”
Sr Patricia Ako Egbe, Handmaids of Mary, Ministers to the Sick: “Incredible! To start, Alton Castle was a very suitable venue; isolated with a natural panorama of the surrounding green forests and valleys inspiring meditation and contemplation. I was fortunate to be at the listening hub. There was sincerity and profoundness in the conversations. I thought there was a need for listening and sharing. The necessity to listen to young people who carry a world within of brokenness, fears, confusion, etc., yet a profound yearning for the transcendent. The need of accompaniment is indispensable in order to advance in their quest for the transcendent, & thus distance themselves from excessive pre-occupation of their brokenness, fears, etc. This created a space and an environment of listening to the Spirit - the beginning of healing.”
Sr Dorothy Paul. Franciscan Sister Minoress: ‘The gathering at Alton Castle was my first experience of a ‘world youth day at home’ event. To be among many young people and experience and listen (through the listening hub) to their enthusiasm and struggles with the Church was a privilege. Also, it was a joy and very uplifting to be among so many priests, religious and even some hierarchy, I found it very uplifting and a great hope for the future and a great sense of Church’.