From the Revd Geoffrey Squire
One of the best moves by Catholics in recent years was surely the “Better Together” campaign – the Church of England one, that is, rather than the Scottish referendum one – for it made clear to all that we wish to maximise our unity within this little bit of the Catholic Church that we call the CofE, even though it may be an impaired unity for the foreseeable future. We were given an equal place in our church, and in general it appears that the plans are being respected. Our clergy are participating in synods, clergy chapters, conferences, and ecumenical events; and we are also making greater use of cathedrals for our major events. All this means greater visibility.
Yet at times our moving forward appears to be slow and disjointed. What are our objectives? It must surely be to care for all the parishes that we have already, to re-claim those that we have lost, and to move on to claim those that we never had. But that means many more priests. We will only get those priests in greater number if we get more young men into church; and we need to have more really good publicity material to assist in fostering vocations, and to build on the work already being done by the Additional Curates Society.
We urgently need attractive, high-quality publications: from simple tracts to scholarly publications for use in training for ordination, and everything in between – and we should not forget the other modern means of communication, either. But what are we doing about it? We wait for one or other of the Catholic Societies to do something; but each waits for the other to make the first move, or feels that maybe some other society would do it better. There are many other major issues confronting us, not least how we engage in the great mission to the young. The beginning of the answer must surely be that all the Catholic Societies must do some serious talking about this. But it seems that we lack joined-up thinking and action.
I would therefore suggest that what we urgently need is a national Council of Catholic Societies. We have heard of it before; but it seems to have become disjointed and simply vanished. I suggest that such a Council is formed – with, say, two representatives (one ordained and one lay, where appropriate) of all the Catholic Societies – with an elected Chair (preferably a bishop), a Vice-Chair, Secretary, Treasurer and Communications Officer. Much of its work could be done over the internet, so meetings would not need to be too frequent. Publications, the work of fostering vocations, and much more would advance far quicker if we did things together, with each Guild and Society contributing its own particular experience.
Could Forward in Faith set the ball rolling, to get a robust Council of Catholic Societies established as soon as possible? Then we could have some joined-up thinking and action to really get the Catholic Movement going forward again. From this Council, specialist sub-committees could be formed to deal with specific issues; e.g. vocations, publications, and the evangelisation of the young. Again, much of the work could be done on the internet. We may be traditionalists, but that does not mean that we cannot enlist every modern method in the battle for the Catholic cause.
From Sr Mary Michael chc
It was moving indeed to learn more about the heroic God-graced martyrdom of the gentle French priest Fr Jacques Hamel in your lead story last month. New insights are constantly emerging to throw greater light on its significance for the world-wide Church and for people of all faiths and none.
Reliable sources say that Fr Jacques was for many years parish priest at Saint-Étienne-du-Rouvray; but in his retirement had returned to minister while the current priest was on his summer holiday. Moreover, he had dedicated himself over the years to fostering good relations with the Muslims of Rouen and was much loved by them.
Does not this suggest a direct targeting of Fr Jacques by someone who identified with the aims of the Islamic State? They knew who they wanted. He in his turn knew who his enemy was – the Satan whom he dismissed in the name of Christ.
What does this say to us? Whatever fears we may have, or whatever dangers might threaten, it remains for us all to be faithful to our dying breath. Then, at the final judgement, strengthened by the Holy Spirit, we shall be able to say to the Father in and with Christ Jesus our Lord: “I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do”. May Fr Jacques Hamel pray for us.
Mary Michael chc