CYMFed National Youth Conference

Catholic Youth Ministry Federation

On Saturday, 24th March, many of our young people who travelled to Madrid last year for World Youth Day, took part in a day long conference for young people put on by CYMFed in Wembley Arena. Nearly 9000 young people packed the arena from around the country, along with 16 Bishops and an Archbishop, for what was one of the most uplifting experiences one can imagine. The aim behind the day, to empower the young Church and give them encouragement not only in their role in the Church, but in the wider society. Through a parallel theme of “sport,” to aim to do their best in absolutely everything, not necessarily actually winning, but always satisfying themselves that in all that they do, they can look back and say that had done their absolute best.

The day was split into three parts and after the opening liturgy, some key note speeches from some very inspirational people. Lord Sebastian Coe gave a welcome via a video, talking about The Olympics and how valuable that is as a medium for young sports people not only to try to fulfil their goals, but also to be able to live in daily life the values of the Games. He encouraged all our young to use the inspiration gained from watching these talented people, so that in their own lives they can aim high, to try to achieve whatever it is they want in life. A message was read out by Bishop Kieran Conry from The Pope saying how much he valued his visit to the UK in 2010, and that he hoped and prayed that our day would fill our young people with inspiration and enjoyment.

Paschal Uche (the young man in the Piazza of Westminster Cathedral who welcome The Pope on behalf of all of the young people of the UK in 2010) along with David Wells acted as our MC’s.

Bridget Parker spoke on how she used her Christian Faith back in 1972 to deal with being selected to ride in the equestrian events for Team GB at the last minute (6am in the morning of the day of the event she was transferred from the reserve team, to the main team). Fr Timothy Radcliffe OP (a Franciscan friar) spoke to us in his usual humorous way about fulfilling our goals and not allowing anyone to put us down: we all have an important role to fill in life, and one is no more important than another. Jason Gardener MBE spoke about his Christian Faith and how that helped him in his troubled career to ultimately achieve his Olympic Gold medal. He is also one of a very few number of athletes who have run the 100m in under 10 seconds, and is an ambassador for the Youth Sport Trust.

With the weather outside being so warm and pleasant, we piled out into the open air to eat our sandwiches at lunch time, and caught up with the many friends we made whilst out in Madrid last year.

Cafod led a very moving presentation in the afternoon from young people from Manchester who, back in the summer, travelled to Africa to help in various projects. They took the joy of sport to many seriously poor towns and villages and, along with the aid being poured in from Cafod in water sanitation projects and so on, helped inspire some of the young from these townships, some of whom now have very clear ideas of what they want to do with their lives, and will not allow their poverty to stop them. The Mizen Family spoke about their own experiences after the murder of their 16 year old son Jimmy took place in 2008, and how their Faith helped them through: rather than being angry or bitter, they bring messages every time they speak of hope, peace and reconciliation, rooted in faith. Stef Reid, a 28 year old Paralympic athlete from America (who holds the World Long Jump Record), spoke about her accident which initially ended her sprinting career. However, through her belief in God and faith in his guiding hand, how she not only went on to become a very successful Paralympic athlete, but how she works to inspire others. Debbie Flood from Team GB (5 times World Championship Gold Medallist), spoke about her amazing journey to being able to represent our country this year in the rowing, and how her faith saw her through the agonising hours of training and preparation.

Sr Catherine Holum CFR, a Franciscan Sister of the Renewal from America (currently working in the Leeds Diocese) spoke about her remarkable journey to Olympic Gold at the age of 17 in speed skating in the 1998 winter Olympics, and how she then had her “calling” to become a nun and inspire and work with young people. She offered a unique insight into the links between faith and sport.

The above speakers were interspersed with music and drama, including music from Indecisive.

Fr Christopher Jamison OSB from Worth Abbey and Director of the National Office for Vocations calmed the mood down in preparation for our closing liturgy, which was led by Archbishop Vincent Nichols and included a Liturgy of the Word, homily delivered by the Archbishop, and Exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

We are told that our young people are the future of The Church. That of course is true. However, it goes beyond that, as the future of our society, of our moral values, the care and respect of those less fortunate than ourselves, all rest with our young people. Having had the privilege of travelling with them to World Youth Day and working with many of them in our own Young People’s Group, to spend the day with them again in Wembley cannot be described in any way other than a privilege. They are an inspiration to all, and it was a great joy to see them being so excited about the day, and also being proud to be Catholic.

Our young people are a credit to themselves, and their parents. For us as leaders, it is one of life’s great privileges to be able to work with them, and we thank them for the inspiration they give us. Many who travelled with us are doing their A Levels or are now at university, and we wish them well in all that they do both now, and in the future: you will always be in our prayers.

Andrew Richardson