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I Thirst....

Creating Vibrant Parishes



The more the Church, whether on the local or the universal level, gives catechesis priority over other works and undertakings the results of which would be more spectacular, the more she finds in catechesis a strengthening of her internal life as a community of believers and of her external activity as a missionary Church…… She is bidden to offer catechesis her best resources in people and energy, without sparing effort, toil or material means, in order to organize it better and to train qualified personnel. This is no mere human calculation; it is an attitude of faith. (CT #15)


Catechesis for adults, since it deals with persons who are capable of an adherence that is fully responsible, must be considered the chief form of catechesis. All the other forms, which are indeed always necessary, are in some way oriented to it. (CT #43 emphasis added)

So said St Pope John Paul ll in Catechesi Tradendae in 1979.


As a lay Catholic in my mid-forties who’s lived in a number of Dioceses (hence various parishes) you could be forgiven for thinking that, that call to action by our Pontiff 41 years ago would have meant that I’d be part of a well-formed generation. A generation for whom the benefits of well catechised elders would have provided a rich and warm womb in which to develop and mature our own faith; allowing us to encounter and uncover a deep and personal relationship with Jesus Himself. That as beneficiaries of decades of ample faith development opportunities within our Catholic communities our resulting fruits would by this time be positively overflowing in the areas of parish community, the workplace, family and be spilling out to those in society most in need of care, mercy and the healing touch of Christ.


Instead, history teaches us that when adults are not well informed in faith matters then younger generations are even less informed. My own experience bears this out; shockingly poor catechetical instruction as a child was followed by very little opportunity to remedy this by way of communal adult faith formation. I was left parched and thirsty. Very thirsty! I had been thirsty at school (a catholic one!), thirsty at university, thirsty in my parishes, thirsty in my places of work and thirsty to find catholic friends of my own generation with whom to walk, show mutual support and grow in faith on this pilgrimage of life. I was always thirsty, looking for wells of water but never finding any more than a few sparse drops to drink; all the time painfully aware that saints are not made alone, but in clusters.


Sadly, this experience is all too common. Is it any wonder that in most parishes there are now 3 missing generations where anyone under 50 is regarded as the ‘youth’, or that when lonely and isolated 20/30/40 'somethings' try to facilitate some kernel of community for friendship and support with others at similar life stages, older generations will complain they are excluded? Yes, this really does happen and it’s simply because everyone is thirsting! Thirsting for opportunities to grow in faith together with others, thirsting for a deeper understanding of our faith and unsure of where to go for explanations, thirsting for truly catholic friendships and thirsting for a shared sense of community. The only places bucking this pattern are a handful of parishes in our biggest cities which thanks to immigration are now vibrant and have many groups catering for the diverse social and cultural needs suited to the differing life stages of their members.


But all is not lost, my dear parched brothers and sisters. Praise be to God for Scott Hahn’s books! Praise be to God for online Catholic theology courses! Praise be to God that tertiary Catholic education has returned to Scottish soil for the first time since the reformation! Praise be to God for our dear Nashville Dominican Sisters who have stepped into the breach here in the Highlands to try and fill every gap they can with their fervour to bring everyone they meet into that personal, loving and tender relationship with Our Blessed Lord! Treasure is indeed returning to this land, a treasure;


'hidden in a field which someone has found; he hides it again, goes off in his joy, sells everything he owns and buys the field’ (Matt 13:44).


I have found that treasure (or rather have been led to it by Our Lord Himself!) and would like to share it with you. It’s the treasure of quality, Catholic, adult faith formation, theology and catechetical materials, courses and resources which are now available to access in Scotland! Some are free, some heavily subsidised and some still quite expensive but the great thing is there are lots of options, including at what level you would like to delve in.


There’s everything from a series of short 5 min video courses on Thomas Aquinas to over 80 hrs of lectures on his Summa Theologiae, from one-off modules on a particular aspect of Theology to Basic/Advanced Catechetics Certificates, right through to post-graduate ‘Masters’ courses. Video courses, audio lectures, mentored certificates, independent study, academic curriculum the choice is yours!


I’ve detailed some of the options available here in the hope that it may enable more of us to slake at least some of our thirst as like in any personal relationship, the better we get to know someone, the closer we become. Then miracles will happen; as the closer we become to Jesus, the more our sacramental lives will deepen, the more we will want to share His Good News and the more we will begin to change our communities.


The more adults we have in our parishes who are well formed the more we will be able to support our priests re-invigorate these parishes. When adults are well formed, parishes will spring back to life almost organically as children’s catechesis, men’s groups, book clubs, women’s groups, young adult groups, youth groups, etc begin to form and traditional ministries become re-invigorated as is already being seen with the likes of Legion of Mary & St Vincent De Paul ministries in university cities.


We might yet see the day when our parishes once again become the centre of our communities and our lives. People coming together with other parishes for Eucharistic processions, parish patron and important feast-day celebrations, conferences, retreats, formation courses, film nights and please God we can then increase how we reach out to the most vulnerable with projects such as 40 Days for Life, Nightfever, soup kitchens, showers and beds for the homeless etc etc.


Now that’s a parish community I want to be part of and to be honest I think you do too. We just need to begin re-building!


“Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst…… The woman put down her water jar and hurried back to the town to tell the people ……

'Come and see’.” (Jn 4:15, 28, 29)




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