After their summer pilgrimage was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, a creative group of young people from the Brentwood Catholic Youth Service (BCYS) instead decided to organise a tremendous charity challenge. For 18 hours - the same time it would have taken them to travel by coach to Lourdes - they will be baking, cooking, walking and doing various sporting challenges, all to raise money for charity. Some of the challenges will take the full 18 hours, some will be things that involve 18 events - one young person is cooking food for 18 curry nights, and another - a talented artist - is painting 18 pictures. In addition, 44 young people will walk from Brentwood to Lourdes - they have divided the distance between them, and they will each walk 18 miles that night; a total of 792 miles.
The '18 Hour Challenge' will raise money for BCYS and the international development charity CAFOD's 'Summer of Hope' appeal, and will take place from 4.30pm on Saturday 25th July to 10.30am on Sunday 26th July. The number 18 is also symbolic as it is the number of times that Our Lady appeared to Bernadette in Lourdes. The young people hope that their imaginative challenges will help them to raise a total of £1,800 for the charities.
Beth Warren, who is co-ordinating the social media for the event, said: "Although we cannot gather in Lourdes this year, which is very sad, we hope that events like the 18 hour challenge will bring a flavour of Lourdes to pilgrims of all ages from across the Diocese, as well as raising money for CAFOD, and for our own Youth Ministry. Young people in the Diocese are brilliant in their creativity and enthusiasm, and we look forward to the 18 hour challenge as a wonderful launch for our virtual pilgrimage, 'Lourdes in your Living Room'"
Fr Dominic Howarth, Episcopal Vicar for Youth Ministry and Pastoral Care in the Diocese of Brentwood, agreed with Beth. He said: "The heart of the Lourdes pilgrimage is prayer and service - and we are already seeing superb examples of both of these elements as we prepare for the 18 hour challenge and 'Lourdes in your Living Room.' Throughout the week young people will be leading prayers and music, and we have also heard of several parishes where young people are "IT support" for older parishioners - helping them get online so that they can access the pilgrimage. This kind of service makes such a difference for those of all generations, and it is a true expression of the love of Christ and the graces of Lourdes. The summer pilgrimage normally involves over 250 young people and a similar number of adults - we look forward to 2021!"
The "18 hour challenge" event is part of CAFOD's Summer of Hope. The campaign aims to inspire the nation to remain hopeful this summer through recreating cancelled events, virtually - while also supporting communities in developing countries through fundraising.
Donations from the group's fundraising will go towards CAFOD's coronavirus appeal, which is currently scaling up its support to local aid experts. These local experts are providing food to vulnerable families, as well as improving handwashing and sanitation facilities across communities.
Read more about BCYS here: www.bcys.net
Donate to the group's challenge: www.bcys.net/donate
Find out more about CAFOD's work at: www.cafod.org.uk/coronavirus
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