London: conference plans 21st century agenda for religious life

 More than 160 leaders and members of religious orders met at Heythrop College, London last Saturday to take the first steps towards developing a 21st century agenda for religious life in Britain. Last Saturday, 18 October, they heard the Steering Committee's plans for the newly formed Religious Life Institute. 'The mission of the Institute is to foster a theological vision of Christian religious life through study and research' said Sr Gemma Simmonds CJ, the Convenor of the Steering Committee. This will be achieved through programmes of study that she hopes will be available from 2010 onwards both for those with a general interest and for those wanting studies accredited by the University.

In his key note address to the meeting, Father Gregory Collins OSB of Glenstal Abbey described how religious now face a context that is different to the context that followed the Second Vatican Council. 'In this new phase, he said, we need a vision of religious life in which we see our symbols afresh.' He spoke of the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as symbols through which religious transform our world, a transformation that Christ makes real in the Eucharist. He encouraged religious congregations to find ways to be visible in Church and society, echoing Fr John McDade, the Principal of Heythrop, who said that religious life is an integral part of the Church that has been too hidden in recent years.

The Institute will be based at Heythrop, a specialist college of London University that offers courses in Theology, Philosophy and Psychology. The development of the Institute is supported by the Conference of Religious in England and Wales.

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