We are very excited to be able to offer this Handbook of Short Courses. The diocesan Strategic Plan for Adult Formation, called ‘Sowing the Seed”, highlighted the need to respond to the call of the General Directory for Catechesis (1997) that every diocese should have a systematic plan for catechesis. This handbook is an important step towards that goal.
This is the first year of this new venture, and so our handbook is far from comprehensive. Based on the recommendations of the General Directory for a well-balanced catechesis, we have divided the ”courses” into the following categories:
- Church Teaching
- Moral Formation
- Spiritual Formation
- Formation for Community
You will quickly see that we offer an abundance of courses in some areas, and have a notable lack in others. We welcome any suggestions for future topics, speakers and initiatives.
One of the points made in Sowing the Seed is that parishes themselves increasingly have to take on the responsibility for formation of their own members. We hope that this Handbook of Short Courses will be a useful resource to parish communities in that central endeavour. Although we have a specific Evangelisation section in our handbook, it is nevertheless true that all catechesis – particularly catechesis of adults – serves that fundamental missionary purpose of the Church. And so we regard the whole of this handbook as an important contribution to evangelisation within our diocese.
The people who have generously volunteered to give these talks have some degree of expertise in their fields. But it is important for us that these courses are not viewed as merely intellectual. What is on offer here is catechesis, not some kind of validated course of study. At the root of all good catechesis is the notion of the ”echo”-faith echoing faith. The atmosphere of each session, we hope, will be one of faith being shared by equals, of a conversation among fellow disciples, not the atmosphere of the classroom or lecture hall. We want these courses to be accessible and relevant for all Catholics seeking to grow in their knowledge and love of Jesus Christ – whatever their background, life-experience, qualifications or current level of Church commitment. And because this is an exercise in faith-formation rather than academic study, the community context in which these courses take place is important. A welcoming, inclusive and trusting atmosphere is what makes faith sharing and true catechesis possible.
Other elements of Faith Formation, of course, continue throughout our diocese – from the daily and weekly breaking open of God’s word in the homily, to RCIA groups, the work of Pastoral Centres and other parish and local groups. This handbook is one more, and, please God, significant contribution which we hope you will find useful in forming and supporting a people of faith, who are confident in witnessing to the gospel in the Diocese of Middlesbrough.
A final word of thanks must go to emeritus Bishop John Crowley for his unfailing support and encouragement of Adult Formation in our diocese.
Fr John Lumley, Director of Adult Formation