The Catholic Missionary Society which has carried out parish and school missions and courses around the country for about 100 years, is to be disbanded and replaced by a new National Agency for Evangelisation next year. The ten-strong team based at the Chase Centre in Hampstead will be returning to their dioceses and the property sold. The Catholic Media Office issued the following statement yesterday: For some years the bishops have been consulting widely on the best way of implementing in England and Wales the insights of the Decade of Evangelisation, and the Holy Father's repeated call for a new evangelisation. The Catholic Missionary Society has naturally been the major partner in this dialogue. After due consideration, the bishops have now decided to set up a national Agency for Evangelisation, whose basic aim will be to foster a culture of evangelisation among priests and people: sharing the faith rather than just keeping it. The main work of the new body will be to assist parishes, both directly and through diocesan structures, to empower and train lay people to share their faith in daily life; and to help parishes bring the values of the gospel to bear on local realities. Its structure will be that of an Association erected by the Bishops' Conference (Canon 312, no. 2), to which many lay people and clergy can belong. It will seek to learn from and work with the new movements, and to promote small groups and basic communities in parishes. These changes could be viewed as the natural evolution of the CMS as a society of priests performing parish missions, and the creation of something new. Alternatively, it could be seen as a return to the original inspiration of the CMS, founded by Cardinal Vaughan for the evangelisation of London. It is recognised that all change is painful, but the members of the CMS are working as constructively as possible towards the end of the Society as they know it and the birth of a new body. Parish missions will continue until Summer 2003, when the new agency will begin. The work of the Catholic Enquiry Centre will continue under the new body. It is hoped that all who supported the CMS, and many who did not, will contribute their ideas and active backing to the new agency. Fr Peter Wilson from the CMS, said the team were coming to terms with the news, which he said had come 'out of the blue'. The new agency, he said, was not a rebranding of the CMS, but rather an administrative body. Fr Peter expressed concerned that it meant an end to parish missions. Kristina Cooper, editor of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal's Good News magazine, said: "It's obviously sad for people who have been part of the mission movement. Change is always difficult. But I think it is wonderful that the Catholic church is looking at evangelism in a new way. Times have changed and evangelism is more than just parish missions. This new agency is looking to involve lay people much more and reaching out beyond the churches. It will be very interesting to see how this develops."
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