More than 400 children and parents joined the Diocese of East Anglia Children’s Pilgrimage to Walsingham where they learnt about following Jesus like Norfolk’s St Walstan.
Pilgrim groups were in attendance from Norwich, Sawston and Cambourne, Cambridge, Thetford, Wymondham, Huntingdon, Downham Market, North Walsham, Peterborough, Ipswich, Great Yarmouth and Gorleston, among others for the event, which took place on Tuesday 30th May.
The pilgrimage started in the village of Little Walsingham, outside the parish Church of the Annunciation, where young pilgrims were greeted by Bishop Peter Collins. A procession with banners and music was headed by a miniature statue of Our Lady of Walsingham, Youth Services Director Hamish MacQueen on his guitar and Fr Pat Cleary. They processed along the old railway line Pilgrim Way to the Walsingham Shrine, stopping for prayers along the way.
Outside the Chapel of Reconciliation, the statue of Our Lady was greeted by youngsters strewing rose petals along the way.
Opening the Mass, Bishop Peter said: “Thank you all for being here, doing that long pilgrimage walk and coming to pray to Mary our Mother for her help and guidance in our great pilgrimage of faith.”
In his homily, Fr Pat Cleary spoke about sheep and their shepherd. He said: “Sheep know their shepherd and follow him, knowing that if they keep close to him they will be safe. Jesus wants us to be like sheep and follow him because he knows the way, like we followed the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham along the pilgrim path.
“Jesus was clear on how we can do this. He said love God and love your neighbour as yourself. We can all do this today whatever our age. Everybody is our neighbour said Jesus.
“Walstan was a 12-year-old Anglo Saxon prince who lived near Norwich 1,000 years ago and who had a lot of money and nice things. But he realized that he would be better off if he gave away everything and followed Jesus as a poor person. So he went to work on a farm, where he even gave away his shoes. Several springs of water sprung up to refresh him. Today we look to him as a saint of the church.
“We could ask ourselves that, if Jesus stood right in front of us today and said ‘follow me’, what changes would you make in your life so that you can follow Jesus the shepherd a little more faithfully,” said Fr Pat.
Prayers were led by children from Sawston and Cambourne, and youngsters from Wymondham brought flowers for Our Lady.
The pilgrimage was brought to an end with a dramatic representation of the life of the young St Walstan, led by Ciaran Losasso, including a procession and the ‘miraculous’ appearance of three springs in the shrine grounds
Organiser Chris Storman, said: “The day went beautifully well with the new twist of the local St Walstan story and drama at the end. It was only the second time we held the Mass outdoors and, apart from a little rain, everything was perfect. It was great to see so many families here.”