Lancashire and Salford Relay of Prayer for London Olympics

Stonyhurst College deputy head teacher Andrew Gordon-Brown
Image caption Stonyhurst College teacher Andrew Gordon-Brown took part in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics

Thousands of youngsters attending Catholic schools in Lancashire are preparing for next year's Olympics with a Relay of Prayer.

It involves all 208 schools in the Salford Diocese, which covers a third of Lancashire's Catholic parishes.

They will transport a specially created torch 449 miles during the eight months leading up to the start of the games.

Father Paul Cannon from the Salford Diocese said he hoped the event would "bring people together".

He said: "The aim of the relay is to mark the significance of the Olympic Games by looking at the links between religion and sport."

Following a launch at Thornleigh Salesian College in Bolton, each school has been randomly assigned a country that is talking part in the Olympic and Paralympics Games.

'Go on skis'

The pupils have to learn everything they can about their country before the Relay of Prayer begins in November.

Image caption Bacup opera singer Sean Ruanne sang to the audience

Mr Cannon said: "On Monday 28 November the torch will leave Thorneyholme Catholic Primary School in Dunsop Bridge and it will travel to every school.

"Each school will carry the torch to their nearest neighbouring school. They can travel by any means they want. They can go on horseback, ride a bike, walk or go on skis as one school in the Rossendale Valley is threatening to do.

"They then lead an assembly to the school receiving the torch based on what they have learned about their assigned country. So they pass on what they have learned as they pass on the torch."

The relay will culminate at with a special service at Salford Cathedral on Friday 6 July 2012.

The 1600 youngsters and teachers who attended the Relay of Prayer launch at Thornleigh were joined by Bolton Wanderers manager Owen Coyle and Olympic diver Nick Robinson-Baker.

'Working together'

Bacup opera singer Sean Ruanne sang to the audience and was impressed with their enthusiasm for the event. He said: "When you look at all the children here today, it shows the children, the schools, and the Catholic Church are all working together to build a better community."

Stonyhurst College deputy head teacher Andrew Gordon-Brown, who was part of the South African rowing team in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, said he sees the Relay of Prayer as an obvious initiative to take part in.

"We have brought 12 of our youngsters here today who are all keen on sports. Hopefully there is an excitement from them that the world's greatest sporting occasion is coming to the UK and we have a year to celebrate that.

"To launch something now which will run around the diocese will really get that spirit going."

One of the pupils from Stonyhurst, Beatrice Smith, said the relay is also a good way of making the Catholic faith relevant to young people: "The thing is they are now making it much more exciting and getting everyone involved.

"This is a really great way of getting young people interested and it is really great."

Joe Wilson presents the faith programme on BBC Radio Lancashire from 06:00 each Sunday.

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