Dunkeld Diocese to establish ‘School of Catechists’ for new evangelisation, Our are hoping that a catechesis programme beginning this weekend can help bring lapsed Catholics back to the fold and ‘create a Church of missionary disciples.’ In a pastoral letter released last month, Bishop Stephen Robson of Dunkeld revealed that 2019 would be a ‘Year of Re-Evangelisation.’
These efforts will begin this Saturday, January 12 with a conference on catechesis held in the diocesan centre in Dundee. Bishop Robson revealed this week that an encounter with Pope Francis in September had inspired the initiative.
“The idea is partly mine and partly taken from what Pope Francis said to myself and the other bishops of Scotland at the Ad Limina in Rome in September last year,” he said. “I was very impressed by Pope Francis. His vision of missionary discipleship is something that really struck me but more than that his manner was so open, especially about making our parishes places of missionary disciples. All we can do now is try.”
Between 80 and 100 delegates from each parish in Dunkeld Diocese will attend the conference on Saturday. The bishop said the event gives him a ‘great deal of hope’ despite being ‘accurately aware’ that the Church has lost most of its traditional structures, all bar our schools, that help form our young Catholics.’
“Each parish is sort of like the parable about sowing seeds,” he said. “You can sow seeds on stony soil, little soil but the seed that falls on good soil grows, yielding 30, 60 or hundredfold. Hopefully we can use that parable for our parishes. It may only take a seed to spread into a powerful turnover. New Evangelisation is all about that: spreading out to touch the hearts of those who have fallen away from the Faith and can be brought back through Jesus Christ.”
Bishop Robson also stated that his experiences as a priest in St Andrew’s & Edinburgh Archdiocese, serving in parts of Scotland that didn’t have Catholic schools, has helped to develop his tools for catechesis. In those areas, he said, ‘we had to cater for the young people and it made me realise how much we as Catholics in Scotland rely on the work of our Catholic schools to form our young people.’
“I realised how much work had to be done in the parish without the schools being there and over period of time we managed to catechise enough people in the parishes to run classes on a Sunday afternoon after Mass for one hour from young children to teenagers,” he said. “There was very little expertise available at that time and therefore it was mostly religious Sisters who taught lay people within our parishes to prepare and train the young people coming to Mass.”
Training the trainers
Bishop Robson said the purpose for Saturday’s conference is to create a platform to ‘train the trainers’ who already have a ‘deep and meaningful Faith’ and can ‘pass on the tools in order to fulfill the Pope’s ambition of creating missionary disciples in each parish.’
The event will be led by Bishop Robson, vicar general Canon Kevin Golden, and Mary O’Duffin, RE advisor for Dunkeld Diocese. They will propose a programme for each parish to take forward and distribute materials to catechise children and adults. The series will be made available online for those unable to attend on the given dates in Dundee.
Bishop Robson, who has had four ordinations to the priesthood in his diocese since becoming bishop, revealed there are currently three students in Rome and one post-graduate student.
He said one of the big problems with getting Catholics catechised throughout their lives is that after they receive childhood Sacraments they might not encounter the Faith again.
“In Dunkeld we have moved the age of confirmation from Primary 4 to 7 because there was some children being baptised and receiving First Communion and Confirmation but then not receiving any form of catechesis for the rest of their lives,” he said. “This is a big issue because I would say for a lot of people there are gaps in their spiritual lives and if we can catechise people properly then perhaps at some level we can fill those gaps and bring people back to the Faith.”
There was an estimated Catholic population of 681,500 in 2016, but a Mass attendance of just 144,330.
“People leave the Church for all sorts of reasons: laziness, loss of Faith, scandals of abuse, marriage difficulties,” Bishop Robson said. “What is important is about giving people the opportunity to come back. Many people are waiting for that opportunity and there is a great programme in America that has been successful at doing that called ‘Catholics Come Home,’ and we’ve taken a bit of inspiration from them.”