How it all started
"Let the children run with the Spirit".
This is the vision that has guided our founder, Dominican Sister Maria Natella, when she started what was to become Fanning The Flame in 1991.
Through her experience as a teacher and youth worker, she saw a great gap; many young people are seen in church for their Confirmation and first Communion programmes, never to be seen again. They miss out on the joy of living and growing in faith every day! What could be done to teach faith and make it come alive?
After a long time of prayer, an image of a seated old lady, representing the Church, grew in Sister Maria's heart. The lady may be old, but her heart is young and strong as ever. Later, a picture of a child joyfully running, flying a kite near the old lady, appeared: "Let the children run with the Spirit".
The call to help young people "Fan The Flame" of their faith, combining both joy (the child flying a kite) and wisdom (the old lady looking after the child), was clear.
The first mission
Sister Maria decided to act in response to what was received, and put together a team to organise a week long mission in her area, which took 3 years to prepare, involved many Catholic schools, colleges, and 17 churches, and culminated in a weekend of activities and celebration at the Guildhall in Southampton. The 1995 mission was a great success, and amazingly the £15,000 necessary for its preparation were raised during the preparation.
It appeared quickly that a single week-long mission was not enough, and that the Fanning The Flame movement needed to grow and keep momentum. Thus, a summer camp was organized at St. Joseph's House of Prayer (as it was then known), in Ashurst. Thirty eight young people from the ages of 12-18 came.
During camp amazing changes took place; both children and adults experience prayer in a way they had never experienced before. The Holy Spirit was truly present, and has been faithfully with us since then.
A steady growth
Since that first Mission in Southampton in 1995 the following growth has taken place:
Weekly Children's Fellowship held in:
- a school in Southampton
- a parish hall in Gateshead, Tyne and Wear
- a school in Stockton-On-Tees
Youth Fellowship held in church halls in:
- Christchurch, Dorset
- Chichester, W. Sussex
- Salisbury, Wiltshire
- St. Dominic's Priory, Lymington, Hampshire -- a residential camping week with young people from the ages of 8-25.
This is a growing streamed event. In the year 2004 we had 85 young people attending the camp with 35 adult helpers. In 2005 the number of young people attending rose to 107. The young people come from Chichester, Salisbury, Southampton, Bournemouth, Christchurch, Devon, London, Herefordshire, Liverpool, Belgium, France and one American family who are resident here for a couple of years. The young people come from a mixture of social and faith backgrounds yet during the week all feel at home and safe enough to be themselves and participate at their own particular level.
- Stockton-on-Tees - this is a non-residential week. Three days for the youth and then two days for the children. In 2004 they had 100 young people take part over the five days. Held in the premises of a Catholic School.
- Ledbury, Herefordshire -- this is a parish based event and the young people share what they have been doing during the week with both their parents and the parishioners. This might take the form of a Healing Night, Service of Reconciliation or Taize Evening around the cross.
For those who come to the Summer Camps -- held twice a year.
A series of training weekends for the adults and young leaders who are involved in the different activities of Fanning The Flame.
Other events that are a direct fruit of Fanning The Flame:
- Two parish Missions in Ledbury.
- 2004 Hereford Catholic Conference -- now an annual event.
Events held in the past:
- Youth Fellowship in Southampton ... now at the stage of planning the start of a Young Adult Group with those who have been through the Youth Fellowship in the past and have now returned from University.
- Two series of Life in the Spirit seminars.
- Several Youth Alpha Courses with the young people giving their own talks after training.
- The Musical 'Agape' held in three of the churches in Southampton.