INFORM celebrates centenary of Blessed Mary MacKillop

The Centre contributed to the centenary celebrations of the death of Blessed Mary MacKillop by dedicating Issue 121 to her. Entitled Australia’s Mary MacKillop, the article was written by Josephite Sr Monica Cavanagh, a member of the Provincial Leadership Team in Queensland.

The article summarises Mary’s life, including the many difficulties she encountered in carrying out the work of the Sisters of St Joseph, and the main points of her spirituality. It concludes with a discussion of the challenges that Mary’s life calls forth in us today.

The article was very popular, with the larger than usual print run selling out in the first week, leading to a total of 45,000 copies printed.

Centre involved in SCENE Congress

The Centre was heavily involved in the SCENE Congress on the New Evangelisation organised by the Archdiocesan CREDO Office, one year after World Youth Day 2008.

The Mustard Seed Bookshop and the Centre had a stall in the Martin Place Vocations Expo from Monday to Wednesday, July 20-22. Apart from selling books on the faith, it was an opportunity to explain the work of the Centre and to pass out Course Handbooks and leaflets on our activities.

In addition, Fr John Flader gave a pub talk on “The Christian in the workplace” and a workshop on “Priests and laity in the New Evangelisation”, and Peter Holmes gave a pub talk on “Reclaiming masculinity”.

The week was a big success, with over 600 delegates registered, including people from overseas.

Tim Staples conducts workshop for clergy

Well-known American convert, writer and apologist Tim Staples conducted a workshop for clergy at the Centre in Lidcombe on 9 July on the topic “Preaching Christ in a Secular World”.

He was in Sydney for a week, giving talks to numerous groups, and this was the only function exclusive to clergy.

His talks were entitled “How Christ found me”, “Preaching the Gospel, the power of God” and “Faith and Fideism in modern culture”.

He delighted the priests with his faith-filled dynamic account of his own conversion, with many stories of his efforts to help others come to faith in Jesus Christ through the Catholic Church, including the conversion of his whole family. His brother is now a Catholic priest.

He encouraged the priests to be strong fathers, saying that a family, a society or a Church is only as strong as its men. And he emphasised that they should not compromise the Gospel in their preaching because it has the power to win souls. He said people need and want to hear the truth.

This was the second clergy workshop conducted by the Centre this year. An earlier one on “Preparing couples for Marriage” was held on 26 March with over 50 priests and deacons in attendance. Speakers were Fr Peter Joseph, Fr John Flader, Fr John Doherty and Fr Chris Sheehy.

A third workshop on helping people with Same Sex Attraction will take place on 23 October. The principal speaker will be Fr Paul Check, Chief Executive Officer of Courage. Fr Check has replaced Fr John Harvey, well-known founder of Courage and the author of numerous books.

Launch of After the Heart of God by Bishop Julian Porteous

A large crowd was on hand on the evening of Wednesday, 15 July, for the launch of Bishop Julian Porteous’ book on the priesthood After the Heart of God. It was the tenth launch to be conducted at the Centre in the last three years.

In launching the book, Fr John Flader, Director of the Catholic Adult Education Centre, said the book comes a propitious time, at the beginning of the Year for Priests proclaimed by Pope Benedict, and just over 40 years after the close of the Second Vatican Council, which had much to say about the priesthood.

Fr Flader commented on some of the changes that have occurred in the Church and society since the Council, which Bishop Porteous points out as making the ministry and life of priests very different from what they were 50 years ago.

He said he thought Bishop Porteous had done “a masterful job of presenting the reality of the situation in which Australian priests work today” and he expressed the hope that the book would be read by many seminarians and priests.

In reply, Bishop Porteous commented on his experience of seven years as Rector of the Seminary of the Good Shepherd, which had prompted him to write the book in the hope that it would help both seminarians and priests to understand better the context in which they were working. He also wrote it for lay people, in the hope that they would be led to support their priests more with prayer, time and a greater understanding of their difficult mission today.

Women of Hope Book Launch

Over 70 people attended the launch of Women of Hope, edited by Linda Baraciolli at the Centre on Wednesday evening, 29 May 2009. The Hon. Kristina Keneally, MP, Member for Heffron in the NSW Parliament, State Minister for Planning and Minister for Redfern-Waterloo, performed the launch.

Subtitled “True stories of suffering and faith”, the book relates the stories of 24 women from Australia and New Zealand, aged between 20 and 70, who have managed to overcome difficult situations by drawing on their faith in God.

In introducing the book, the editor told of her inspiration to produce such a book after hearing the story of a woman six years ago at a conference. She found the contributors through advertisements in various publications and through personal contacts. She described the difficulties involved in bringing the book to fruition and expressed the hope that it would do much good to suffering women.

In her address, Minister Keneally told of her own adversity in giving birth to a still-born baby girl, whom she named Caroline. She said the book was much needed and was confident it would be a big help to many women.

Two of the contributors to the book, Virginia, from Sydney, and Sarah, from New Zealand, told their stories and read short excerpts from their chapters.

Certicate Courses go offsite

In response to requests from students and parish priests over the years, the Centre has begun to offer some of the units of its Certificate Courses in parishes around Sydney.

In the first term, Fr John Flader gave The Creed at St Michael’s, Daceyville, and Peter Holmes, Manager of Courses, gave Opening the Bible at St Michael’s, Lane Cove. In the second term, Peter gave Opening the Bible at St Catherine Laboure, Gymea, and in the third term, Fr Flader is giving Getting more from the Mass once again at Daceyville. All of these courses have been well attended, with between 25 and 35 students in each one.

In Term Four Fr Flader will give Moral life in Christ in Gymea and Peter will return to Lane Cove to give Sharing your faith.

In the offsite mode, there are two hours of class each night over six weeks, and the fee is $85 instead of the usual $95.

In addition to the classes in parishes, Peter Holmes has been giving Scripture units to a keen group of young people, mainly university students, at an Irish pub in Drummoyne.

And beginning in June of this year, he has been giving The Gospel of John after work to a group of people, organised mainly by the Legion of Mary, at St Mary’s Cathedral House in the city.

Studies of Religion course for teachers and students

Another initiative in 2009, in conjunction with the Catholic Education Office, has been the introduction of classes on Studies of Religion for teachers and high school students.

The classes are given from 4 to 6 pm and have attracted up to 70 people, including numerous teachers. There is no charge for the classes.

Topics have been St Paul, given by Peter Holmes; Sexual Ethics and Bioethics, by Chris Meney; Religion in Australia since 1945, by Anthony Cleary; Christian Practices: Baptism and Marriage, by Fr John Flader; Judaism, by Peta Pellach Jones; Islam, by Nada Roude; and How to answer HSC questions, by Michael Kelleher.

Recordings of the classes are available on the website of the Catholic Adult Education Centre and the Catholic Education Office.

Of Life and Love pre-marriage course attendance up

In response to growing demand, the Centre has added a fifth pre-marriage course to the usual four given in previous years. The courses have been running since September 2003.

Courses this year are being held in February, May, June, August and November. Some 25 couples have attended each of the first four courses.

The courses are held over a weekend, with six sessions on Saturday and four on Sunday afternoon.

They emphasise the Scriptures and the Church’s teaching on marriage, and make ample use of such documents as Gaudium et Spes from the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae vitae, and Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris consortio.

In addition to five sessions by Fr Flader, who has been instructing couples for 40 years, there are sessions on communication and family of origin by a young couple who are marriage educators, a session on financial considerations by an accountant, plus sessions by a young couple who participated in our course before marrying and an older couple who have been married for over 30 years.

A growing number of priests are sending all their couples to these courses, and the feedback from the couples has been eminently positive.

Lenten Program well received

The annual Lenten Program, which this year was entitled Christ, our Hope, has been very well received by the thousands of people who used it all over the country.

The program made frequent use of Pope Benedict’s second encyclical Spe salvi, and of the writings of St Paul to help those using it to reflect on how the life, death and Resurrection of Christ offer a solid foundation for hope, especially in times of suffering.

The “Words of Life” section featured inspirational testimonies of five people who had suffered adversity but were supported by their faith in God.

Among the comments in the evaluation forms were “best we’ve seen in years”, “good for the soul”, “great program”, “spiritually enriching”, “solid food for the youth – they just loved it.”