Representatives from across England and Wales gathered on Saturday for a conference about ministry and outreach to non churchgoing Catholics.
Three bishops, representatives from 19 dioceses and from a broad cross section of Catholic organisations were among nearly 90 delegates who came together to pray, share experiences and good practice. The focus of the day was the needs of those who
are baptised Roman Catholics and who for different reasons never or rarely participate in parish life.
Fr Christopher Jamison OSB, Director of the National Office for Vocation and former Abbot of Worth Abbey, gave the main address. He participated in The Monastery on BBC TV, followed by The Monastery Revisited in 2006, attracting audiences of between two and three million viewers. In October 2010, he presented The Big Silence, a BBC TWO series that followed people trying to build silence and meditation into their daily lives. The title of his conference address was 'Purpose before Pews: What does the Church offer?' which emphasised that the starting point for this area of ministry should not begin necessarily with an invitation to attend Mass, but rather the offering of support to help people to find their purpose in life.
The delegates had gathered in response to an invitation from Bishop Kieran Conry, Chair of the Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis, who said: 'It is very encouraging to see so many representatives from the dioceses and other Church organisations filled with enthusiasm for this area of the Church's mission. In this address Fr Christopher challenged people's assumptions about what our aims should be and asked if our first questions should be about what our society means by "happiness" and "spirituality". A day well spent. I would strongly urge people and parishes to examine and use the resources being made available.'
Bishop Edwin Regan (Wrexham) was the main celebrant at the conference Mass, whilst the homily was preached by Bishop Richard Moth (Armed Forces) who said: 'We're being invited to look at things from new angles. The Gospel passage of the day - the Prodigal Son - focuses on one way of reaching out which is the way of love... The love of the Father should be the foundation of our approaches to people within the Church, our families and to everyone... In the parable, the other son was a prodigal too in many ways; he might be described as someone who was "resting" from his faith because he was full of resentment. We need to think about what we can learn from him too. The key to this ministry is that people find love in us and our communities.'
The event was organised on behalf of the Bishops' Conference Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis by the Home Mission Desk, in partnership with a national core group made up of representatives from dioceses and networks across England and Wales. Sheila Keefe from Keeping in Touch (KIT, Diocese of Portsmouth) is a member of the national core group and said: 'There was a wonderful unity of focus and purpose at the event which was the climax of months of careful planning and preparation. This area of ministry is repeatedly named by parishes and families as a priority and it was wonderful to come together as a team to share our experiences and be challenged so that we can better reach out to people with respect and love.'
This event is part of an ongoing project to equip and resource parishes for this area of ministry. It is a constituent of the Papal Visit Legacy Programme 2011 which is called 'Some Definite Purpose': www.catholicchurch.org.uk/Catholic-Church/Media-Centre/press_releases/Press-Releases-2011/Papal-Visit-Legacy-Programme
Over the next few weeks the resources from the conference will be added to the Home Mission Desk page on the Bishops' Conference website including a summary of the main address, workshop handouts, slides, links and other related materials to support parishes in this area of mission. Please see: http://www.catholicchurch.org.uk/Catholic-Church/Home-Mission