Columbans at Flame 2

9th March 2015 - by Ellen Teague

Columban missionaries were out in force last Saturday at the Flame 2 youth event, organised by CYMFED – the Catholic Youth Ministry Federation. More than 8,000 young Catholics packed the Wembley Arena, where Cardinal Luis Tagle, Archbishop of Manila was keynote speaker.


Columban Education Worker James Trewby was one of the organisers and Columban workers ran lunchtime activities for young people who had travelled from around the country with their youth workers and 18 bishops. Cardinal Vincent Nichols, who led a time of Adoration at the end of the day, met with a Columban group during one of the breaks.

Cardinal Tagle – who presided over Mass at the Columban house in Manila a year ago – is a good friend and collaborator with Columbans in the Philippines. His lively presentation focused on the theme of mercy and was interspersed with cheering and clapping from an enthusiastic audience. Strong on social justice, he urged the young people to respond to the lack of mercy in the world today amidst such issues as hunger, poverty, and war. He called on them to “spread the flame of God’s mercy to heal our wounded world”. He thanked CYMFED for “this wonderful encounter with youth in Britain”. “We are very proud of him and to see him be so popular with young people here” said Filipina Columban lay missionary Ger Samson, who is based in Birmingham.

Flame 2 participants received a special Apostolic Blessing from Pope Francis who urged them in a message, “to offer yourselves passionately and honestly to the great work of renewing your society and helping to build a better world”.

Cardinal Tagle expressed concern about human rights abuses facing Filipinos in the diaspora, particularly the poor working conditions of many domestic workers and victims of human trafficking. “Our young people overseas are very vulnerable, and we must encourage them to find a home in the Church” he told Ellen Teague in an interview. When he circulated during breaks in the day’s programme, he was happy to be besieged by young Filipinos, particularly for photos with groups. Cardinal Tagle also appreciated international action to address the increasing number of environmental disasters facing the Philippines, knowing that young people have anxiety over sustainability issues. “Even in my first diocese as a bishop 13 years ago I saw effects of environmental problems”, he said, “but I also saw that concern for the environment and stewardship of creation are not well integrated into Christian discipleship”.

Huge contingents of young people were organised by the Salesians, Redemptorist Youth Ministry, Westminster, Southwark, and Clifton dioceses. A Hexham and Newcastle diocese chartered ‘Flame Train’ brought 610 young people and their youth workers from Newcastle. Photo tweets from early morning last Saturday showed young people on trains and ‘Flame’ coaches on the motorways. At Wembley they met up with many diocesan bishops, and some joined their bishops on the podium as Cardinal Vincent Nichols presided over Benediction to conclude the day.

The day was full and varied, with inputs ranging from Dominican Fr Timothy Radcliffe to Baroness Sheila Hollins; workshops by Catholic organisations such as Pax Christi, St Mary’s University, CARJ and the Columbans; uplifting music from Matt Redman; and a flashmob. As they left the young people indicated they had truly found Flame 2 inspirational.

Fr Dermott Donnelly, CYMFED Chair and Director of Hexham and Newcastle Youth Services, told Ellen Teague that “God truly spoke to over 8,000 people in that hall” and he felt the power of young people was shown in their enthusiasm and faith, “particularly when the whole crowd used the lights on their mobile phones to join their individual lights to the whole gathering”.