Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB has told youth from the United Kingdom that the Church needs their energy, their enthusiasm, their restlessness and their idealism.
“And when I say the Church needs all this, I am really saying that God is asking this of you,” Archbishop Costelloe said.
Archbishop Costelloe was speaking at the 2023 Flame: Rise Up, National Youth Congress, held at Wembley’s OVO Arena in London, Saturday 4 March.
The Congress was organised by the Catholic Youth Ministry Federation of England and Wales, which includes the Catholic dioceses of England and Wales plus religious orders, movements and organisations engaged in youth ministry.
More than 8000 youth from schools, parishes, diocesan groups and religious groups, gathered in the colourful arena holding up lights from their mobile phones in what is the first gathering of its kind for Catholic youth in the UK since 2019.
Every diocese in England and Wales was represented, with much cheering during a diocesan roll call.
Many groups commenced travelling to the Congress in the early hours of the morning and faced a lengthy journey home afterwards.
Complete silence filled the arena as a statue of Our Lady of Walsingham was processed to the front at the start of the six-hour event.
Students from St Angela’s and St Bonaventure’s schools in East London produced a short drama about the angel inspiring Mary to rise up and visit Elizabeth.
The Church, said Archbishop Costelloe, wearing his Salesian scarf, is always in danger of getting stuck and closing in on itself; thankfully God constantly does things to shake us all up.
“In our time God has given us Pope Francis,” Archbishop Costelloe said.
“He keeps reminding us that we have to become a missionary Church, a Church that doesn’t stay hidden inside its buildings but gets up, gets going, and takes some risks in order to share what we have with others,” he said.
Focusing on the theme of the Congress, which is based on the 2023 World Youth Day to be held in Portugal, Mary arose and went with haste, Archbishop Costelloe explained that Mary is often described as the very first and very best disciple of Jesus and for that reason she has a lot to teach us, that she really does matter.
“Mary is all about helping us to be the best disciples of Jesus that we can possibly be so she is always pointing us away from herself and directing us towards him,” Archbishop Costelloe said.
“Remember what she said to the waiters at the wedding feast in Cana? The wine had run out – a very embarrassing situation for the new bride and groom – and Mary had gone to Jesus to see what he might do.
“Although she wasn’t sure just what that might be, she simply turned to the waiters and said, ‘You do whatever he tells you’.
“That’s her message to us as well; that’s what she most wants – that we do whatever the Lord is asking us to do,” Archbishop Costelloe said.
Archbishop Costelloe also spoke about St Francis of Assisi, drawing on the words of Pope Francis’ when he spoke at World Youth Day Poland.
“This was the modern Francis putting into contemporary language the words the other Francis heard so long ago.
“So maybe this is what God is saying, ‘Young people of the UK, get up off your couches, go and help rebuild my Church, help it to set out on new and uncharted paths. Help stop the Church from falling into ruins.’”
Pope Francis also sent his greetings and encouragement to participants at the Congress, in a message signed by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin.
The Holy Father assured the young Catholics of his “spiritual closeness” and prayed that “Almighty God will richly bless their time together”.
He expressed his hopes that “through adoration, music, testimonies, and the sharing of friendship with Christ and with one another, all those present will grow strong in faith and love and bear witness courageously to the Gospel message that sets us free.”
Reproduced with permission from The Record, the news publication of the Catholic Archdiocese of Perth.