As New Directions goes to press Anglican Catholics are gathering for the Forward in Faith and Anglican Catholic Future conference on Catholic Mission. The aim of the three-day conference is to explore ways in which those of differing opinions on certain issues can work together missionally, and, as Fr Peter Anthony remarked in his welcome, how they can undertake the important task of making ‘clear that the Catholic tradition has rich traditions with which to evangelise this country.’ This is of vital importance if we are to see not only our parishes grow but also increasing numbers of people around the country brought to faith. During a seminar on vocation the question of the permanent diaconate was raised. It is clear that the Church of England has a very confused view of this ministry and has not yet fully explored the potential of the vocation of men and women to this service in the Church. In last month’s New Directions we profiled the work of Deacon Sarah Gillard-Faulkner; a deacon of The Society working in prison ministry. It is to be hoped that the vocation to the permanent diaconate for women and men can be explored further, and appreciated more. This is something the Catholic tradition can bring to the Church of England. It is regrettable that in order to claim a stipend in ministry the only option in many contexts is to be ordained a priest. This can give the false impression that priests are somehow more important, or better Christians, than other people. Our Catholic understanding is that each one of us has a vocation, a different but equal calling, to serve the Lord. Let us all hope that this joint conference is able to bear fruit in our Church, perhaps further discussions about the permanent diaconate and the role of parish catechists may be one such outcome.
Not far from where the conference was taking place there was an example of Catholic Mission in action. At St Peter and St Paul, Enfield Lock a Fan the Flame Mission was taking place. These mission weeks explore what it is to be a Christian and how to live out the Christian vocation. By exploring the sacraments and the riches of the Catholic tradition in worship and teaching these weeks can reinvigorate parishes in worship and evangelism as well as encouraging those new to the faith to deepen that faith. These mission weeks are run up and down the country and are a real gift to the Church of England and in particular the Catholic Movement. Further north in Doncaster the parish of St Jude’s Hexthorpe held a mission week earlier this month entitled: ‘Digging a pit for the Cross’. This week aimed to place the mystery of the Lord’s redeeming passion at the centre of the community. The week featured processions, reflections and lots of teaching ending with 40 hours of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament: true Catholic mission in action, a gift from our constituency to the wider Church. There is so much good coming out of our constituency and we should celebrate this and work to strengthen it with many more examples that could be mentioned.
The reason we can be so confident in this missionary is work is the stability and support offered by The Society, and in particular through the ministry of The Society Bishops. This allows us truly to flourish as Catholics in the Church of England, confident in our integrity, and with a desire to share with the Church the rich Catholic gifts we possess. As we seek to grow as a constituency we must not be afraid of sharing these gifts, and offering them as a resource to the wider Church. We must however be clear about what it is we have to offer. Our Catholic life with its rituals and rich symbolism is not something we do because it ‘looks nice’ or engenders a particular feeling, but rather because we believe these Sacraments have been given to the Church by God, and that as His people we are called to serve Him through them. These are the actions that bring about salvation and thus are a precious treasure to be shared, explored, and rejoiced in. This is the task of our Catholic Movement, looking around it is clear we are ready for the challenge, and are firmly back on the mission field.