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18 October 2014
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Letters Extra

Lay ministry course provided source of inspiration and joy
07 August 2014

Having attended the two-year lay ministry course Education for Parish Service twice, I think its closure is a tragedy (The Tablet, 2 August). Nothing could have enhanced the love of the documents of Vatican II more than watching Fr John Farrell OP, whose copy was falling to pieces in his hand, mouthing along with us without looking at the text when he asked us to read pieces that had particularly moved us; so too his lectures on the writing of St Paul, which must have inspired many a Reader at Mass. Or more mundane, the humour of the Liturgy tutor who said it was not the place of the choir to mortify the flesh of the congregation. There was also the friendship and stimulation of meeting fellow students of conservative or liberal view (many nuns amongst the latter!). Our differences were explained by Clare Watkins’ brilliant lectures on Models of Church. Hope for ecumenism and insights into other denominations were revealed to us by Sr Cecily Boulding OP, who had represented the hierarchy in meetings at international level. I speculate on what she would now become in the Anglican Church!

My first course was at Kensington Square. The following year it was moving to Allen Hall. The excitement of studying with seminarians was huge among those in the year below me. They thought this would be a marvellous influence in collaborative ministry, and give insights to the seminarians into the minds of ardent lay Catholics whose talents they could later use.

Alas this temporary arrangement did not last. Now with the closure of the Centre for Catholic Formation in Tooting Bec I write this letter as I wish the union with Allen Hall could be reinstated for the above reasons. The space is there and would involve little extra cost in staffing. I cannot help hoping too, that for some devout married men it might one day be a doorway into the priesthood as the value of their maturity and experience would be the more obvious to vocation directors.
Elizabeth Price, Maidstone, Kent

Clare Skelton (Parish Practice, 19 July) writes of Pope Francis’s words in Evangelii Gaudium, where he calls us to be an active Church, a Church for the Poor.

She suggests that we should ask ourselves if our parish is active.

However, though some parishes may have a few active workers for the parish and wider community and some may have many, how does the message of Evangelii Gaudium get through to every parishioner in every parish? Surely through the Homily.

How many people have never heard the call of Evangelii Gaudium (EG) explained from the parish altar, either in a full homily on the subject and/or gradually by a regular dripfeed (many Sunday readings can be linked to this powerful message)?

And how many bishops have urged their diocesan priests to emphasise this key part of our Christian lives, naming specific opportunities for community work in their area?

I have heard it said that some priests fear that a call to greater personal involvement might “put people off”. Maybe – particularly if the message is delivered in a finger-wagging manner: but mercifully many of our priests are encouragers and will avoid this.

Francis describes his message as one of joy (Evangelii Gaudium, not of burden – Evangelii Onus). In EG83 Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the joy of evangelisation! And in EG96 let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of hope!

Please let us hear homilies on EG and the importance (and joy) of getting involved in action for the parish and wider community.
Paul Simmons, Cambridge



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