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Students unite at their first Walsingham conference

In June 2023, Notre Dame students nationwide attended their first national conference in Walsingham, united by the theme of “sowing the good seed”, inspired by St Julie, their Order’s foundress. Alex Savage reports.

Notre Dame students from all over the country, including Norwich, travelled to Walsingham for their first-ever National Conference, accompanied by Alex Savage, their chaplain in Norwich. The theme was inspired by a quote from St Julie, the foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame: “Let us always go on sowing the good seed.”

The weary pilgrims were greeted by Deacon Rick Jones. He explained that Walsingham became a shrine so people could share Mary’s joy at the Annunciation and be inspired to say ‘yes’ to positive opportunities in their lives.

St Julie was so inspired by Mary’s example, she decided to say ‘yes’ to devoting her life to ensuring all young people have access to quality education. This is why she named her Order and schools ‘Notre Dame’ (Our Lady).

For many of the students, this was the first time they had been on a residential trip. Therefore, simply saying ‘yes’ to attending took considerable courage. However, the team at Elmham House was wonderful at making everyone feel welcome and at home.

Over the three days, the young people made new friends, shared opinions on global issues, and prayed together. They were given lots of opportunities to say ‘yes’ to taking the lead and to find inner courage.

At the end of the conference, the teenagers were asked what they had gained from the experience. They provided feedback with phrases like, ‘it was very special to meet other young people from around the country face to face’, ‘I’ve now got the confidence to say yes to more opportunities in my life’, ‘it was really special being allowed to carry the statue of Mary on the Holy Mile’, ‘learning about the lives of Mary and St Julie helped me to develop my own faith’.

The students returned to their schools with a newfound enthusiasm to sow seeds of Hope, Love, and Joy in their own communities.

Photo by Alex Savage.