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Rt Rev. Philip North, Bishop of Burnley and his team of leaders once again took a group of young people from our diocese on a pilgrimage to Walsingham over the summer holidays.

The pilgrimage took place from July 29 to August 2 and had the overarching theme of 'Wonderfully Made: Your Body, Christ’s Body. Reports and radio coverage of the Pilgrimage follow, including an article written by Bishop Philip. 

At the pilgrimage the young people thought about what it means to live in a body.

In a culture where so many get stressed by body image, what does the Gospel tell us about what it means to be physical?

This year they were also joined by Christians in Sport and Ambassadors Football to explore how sport and faith can go together. 

If you want to know how the pilgrimage went ... how better than to hear first-hand? 

Bishop Philip recorded a series of reports which were aired on BBC Radio Lancashire.

You can listen to the reports as part of this programme. Listen at 01h 10m 40s; 01h 53m 00s; 02h 26m 45s and finally at 02h 52m 25s. 

And you can also see further information including the full pilgrimage event programme here on the Walsingham website.

Pilgrimage overview by Bishop Philip

The group from the Blackburn Diocese that attended the annual Youth Pilgrimage comprised 32 young people along with 10 supervising adults, including three of our curates, Chris Dingwall-Jones, Tom Woolford and Eddie Carr. 

The young people came from seven different parishes while a further four were from the Cathedral. Total attendance at the Youth Pilgrimage is around 850 and the Blackburn group has grown markedly in recent years to become the largest there.

Walsingham has been a place of pilgrimage since the early twelfth century and, following the Reformation, was restored in the 1920s and 30s. At its heart is the Holy House, a replica of the peasant dwelling in which Mary said ‘yes’ to Gabriel at the Annunciation.

God’s call and our response therefore lie at the heart of Walsingham’s message. It is for many people a place of conversion, of refreshment and of healing. The Youth Pilgrimage takes the traditional devotions of pilgrimage and resets them in a way that is relevant and challenging for contemporary young people, the vast majority of whom are drawn from inner urban and outer estate contexts.

The pilgrimage takes places in a marquee just outside the village and young pilgrims spend the four nights’ duration under canvas. The theme this year was ‘Wonderfully Made’ with attendees encouraged to think about their bodies, made and redeemed by the saving work of Christ.

Each morning our young pilgrims attended a Bible Study (based on 1 Corinthians) and a Pilgrimage Mass (with a Worship Band called CJM). Two afternoons were taken up with a range of activities (including a football competition led by ‘Ambassadors for Football’ and which our girls’ team won) while on the third afternoon we took the young people to Hunstanton.

On Tuesday evening there was a Rosary Procession; on Wednesday a late-night liturgy, with opportunities for healing and confession and on the final night there was a disco.

It was moving to see the extent to which our young people threw themselves into the experience. Particular highlights included a Mass on the Wednesday when they served, led intercessions and presented one of the readings.

There was also an open mike ‘testimony’ session at one of the Bible Studies when a boy from our group spoke movingly in front of several hundred people of what his faith means to him saying: ‘If I didn’t have Jesus it would be as if half of my heart was ripped out’.

It was clear that the Pilgrimage had a huge impact on the faith formation of those who attended. Many made their confession for the first time, many made or renewed a commitment to Christ and there were numerous significant conversations about faith and life.

Diocesan Communications Manager Ronnie Semley arranged for BBC Radio Lancashire to broadcast a series of short recordings that we made during the course of the pilgrimage.

The young people loved this opportunity to engage with the media and it enabled some good, positive coverage about the Diocese’s commitment to young people.

The grant from the Diocesan Board of Education's own Vision Fund* which paid for the cost of the coach was of immense help in managing costs of the trip and, looking ahead we hope that, with further appropriate support, our Diocesan group will continue to expand.

* This fund is distinct from the general Diocesan Vision Fund operated by the Diocesan Board of Finance (DBF). Find out more about the DBF Vision Fund here, including application details. 


Ronnie Semley, August 2019