A new parish-based, lay-lead initiative has been launched to support Catholic considering coming back to the Church. The first European 'Landings' training workshop took place at Ealing Abbey in June. It was based on a very successful North American model devised by the Paulist Fathers ten years ago. More than 60 people from 10 dioceses in the UK and Ireland took part.
After the course, they went back to their own parishes to set up Landings groups. Ealing completed their first Landings sessions just before Christmas. Members who took part in the summer course will be meeting again later this month to assess the course.
Organiser Pauline Gilbertson said: " I am sure that we all know someone who has been away from the Church and might, under the right circumstances, consider coming back. "While some people are comfortable returning to the Church simply by celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation and then attending Mass once again, others may need more support as well as a period in which to explore their faith."
She explained: "A typical parish 'Landings' group meets for one and a half hours per week over an eight to ten week period, and consist of parishioners who have been trained in this ministry - some of whom have themselves been away and have 'returned' - and inactive Catholics who are exploring the possibility of returning.
"Landings is not the 'saved' ministering to 'sinners'! It does not claim to answer everyone's questions but through it people can, when necessary, be referred to specialist help." Pauline said that Landings offers returning Catholics: - a supportive community within which they can ask questions, discuss issues, deal with difficulties; - an opportunity to be with ordinary Catholics who are trying to live their faith; - a safe environment in which to come to terms with recent changes within the Church and themselves.
She said, for the 'active' Catholics who take part in Landings, it provides - an opportunity to share their faith; - participation in the Church's mission to welcome those who have been away; - a chance to grow and learn from each others' spiritual journeys. Future UK workshops are planned during the course of 2002 in the Dioceses of Portsmouth and Westminster.
For more information about "Landings" groups in the UK, or to register for a training workshops, contact Pauline Gilbertson in writing c/o the Parish Office, St Benedict's (Ealing Abbey), 2 Marchwood Crescent, London W5 2DZ; by e-mail to LandingsUK@hotmail.com or by leaving your name and number on the 'Landings' answerphone: 020 8862 2164.