Young Catholics come together for “great celebration of faith”

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At the end of an exciting week in the Catholic Church, following the election of Pope Francis, the Catholic Youth Ministry Federation brought its Congress to the North East for the first time in CYMfed’s short history.

The Sage, one of the region’s most iconic landmarks, was the setting for the third CYMfed National Congress. 650 young people, youth ministers, teachers, chaplains, clergy, consecrated religious and parishioners from all over the country gathered to gain inspiration and support for their own ministry with young people. The programme included inspiring liturgies with music by young volunteers well worthy of the famed Sage acoustics.

Started in 2009, and based on inspiration from the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry in the USA, CYMFed has seen great success including, three congresses for Youth Ministers, along with organising ‘The Flame’ Congress in 2012 which gathered over 8000 young people in Wembley Arena for a day of prayer, reflection and celebration. The National Youth Symbol, a key feature of the liturgies at the Congress, was blessed by Pope Benedict XVI at the CYMFed led events for the papal visit in Westminster Cathedral and Hyde Park. The launch of two publications, ‘Mapping the Terrain’ and ‘Called to a Noble Adventure’ has been another part of CYMFed’s work and this was added to last Saturday with the launch of its latest publication ‘The Story’. This book, a reflection on the four pillars of the Catechism and containing faith stories of young people from across England and Wales, has been put together as a celebration of the Year of Faith.

The Congress was a great celebration of faith by inspirational speakers from different generations. Bishop Luc van Looy, the Bishop of Ghent, reminded us of the need for a culture of scripture and the huge power of symbolic acts in our lives. He affirmed the power of stories and reflected upon the number of messages shown through parables and the influence of the Father in all our faith stories. Bishop Luc spoke of the importance of letting young people know that they are loved; rather than being something which can be taught, “Education is a question of the heart”.

Christopher Pilkington, an Executive Producer for Youth Programming for Endemol and an active volunteer with young people in his own church, inspired everyone to use the art of story as Jesus did and gave an insight into how television programmes ‘hook you in’ with the power of the story. He reminded us of how Jesus’ teaching draws us in: “If you know the resolution, what is the point of engaging?”

Throughout the day there was the opportunity to hear the faith stories of two young people, part of CYMFed’s latest publication, ‘The Story’, which features the faith stories of 53 young people.

Those working at every level within youth ministry felt encouraged and equipped to return home to inspire and affirm the young people with whom they work. Fr Dermott Donnelly, Chair of CYMFed said, “We gathered in a most beautiful venue as people of faith, to share it and celebrate it. It was a truly inspirational day hearing people of all ages and ministries in the church witness and encourage one another”.