‘Significance’ is the theme of National Youth Sunday, a day which we celebrate on the Feast of Christ the King – Sunday 24 November.
It was the theme of this year’s Flame Congress, when 10,000 young people descended on Wembley Arena in March and reflected on their significance to God and the unique vocation each has received to explore and fulfil.
It is a theme, moreover, inspired by Pope Francis’s Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, ‘Christus Vivit’ and in his address to young people to mark National Youth Sunday, Cardinal Vincent Nichols points them to paragraph 115 of the Pope’s work, where he writes: ‘For him, you have worth; you are not insignificant. You are important to him, for you are the work of his hands. That is why he is concerned about you and looks to you with affection.’
The Cardinal, in his message to the young Catholics of England and Wales, goes on to say: ‘I really want to encourage you to make your way and feel part of the Church, to feel part of your Church, to feel at home there and know you have a part to play. I want to encourage you to play your part to be the apostles of today. I want you to be the digital disciples of Jesus, the digital apostles, people who understand the digital word and can use it to let other people know something of the joy and consolation of faith.’
Of course, we have an example closer to home of young disciples doing significant work – namely, the Animate Youth Ministries team, a group of young adults living and working as a community in Liverpool Archdiocese.
Their work with some 10,000 school pupils per year is overseen by Father Simon Gore, Director of Youth Ministry in the diocese.
‘Working with young people both reminds me of, and gives me, the hope I should always have as a child of God,’ says Fr Simon. ‘I am fortunate that I’m able to see those moments of grace and blessing perhaps more often than many others.’
For Fr Simon, National Youth Sunday is ‘a chance to celebrate the young people in our parishes and schools’ and, to this end, it is worth highlighting their involvement in faith-related activities. Working with the Animate team, 2,700 pupils over the last year took part in high-school day retreats, while 4,500 were involved in school mission days or weeks. Another 1,046 participated in the Faith in Action Award.
And all of this before the summer when around 500 youngsters departed on the Archdiocesan Youth Pilgrimage to Lourdes.
Fr Simon adds: ‘At times I, and maybe most of us, can look at the world and see bleak horizons. And yet I then take part in a retreat here at Lowe House in St Helens with a group of Year 7s, or I look at the final piece of a Year 11 pupil aiming for a gold Faith in Action Award, or I see a young person so engrossed in talking to a pilgrim in Lourdes that they’re ignoring everything else around them and I suddenly start to see the world a little differently.’
Thus National Youth Sunday is a moment not only to recognise young people as a gift for the Church, but also to enable youth ministry and affirm their contributions. To support the Animate team on this National Youth Sunday, there will be collections at Mass, while for those willing to consider more regular financial support, gift-aid forms can be downloaded from animateyouth.org. The Animate team also welcome practical support, such as bringing youngsters to Youth Alive Masses, helping with the Faith in Action Award Scheme or assisting with Lourdes fundraising.
Fr Simon adds: ‘If you’d like to offer support in this way, please contact Animate and we can let you know the different ways you might be able to be involved.’
• To learn more about National Youth Sunday, and explore it at home or in your parishes and schools, there are resources available on the following website: nationalyouthsunday.com