Adult Formation

I wanted to respond to Marc Cardonella’s post here and also Jonathan F. Sullivan’s here about how to provide adult catechesis that actually attracts people and responds to their real needs, experience, issues. There is a huge amount to be said about what the “answer” is to this problem which these posts discuss much better than I could. However, this week in the parish we experienced such an successful turnout for the beginning of a series of talks on philosophy, that I had to ask myself, “Why? Why does this attract?” I arranged the series with the speaker (a seminary lecturer in philosophy) only two weeks ago, and had done minimal publicity – emails to the parish and to parents of local schools. And yet, on the night, the room was completely packed out. We had people cram in, sitting in the aisle and on the floor at the front, kneeling at the back… it was like being back at World Youth Day! Most of the room were young (we have a young parish anyway) – and how thrilled was I when several of the teenagers from our parish groups arrived?! Sadly, it was so packed that many people arrived, discovered they couldn’t hear or see and went away again. Next week, we will be in a bigger venue ūüėČ and hopefully the squash won’t have put people off. Joanna Bogle writes more about the evening here.

So, why were people so drawn to this series of talks? I think perhaps it was the questions: Each week Fr Francis is exploring a different one – Does the world have a cause? Do I have a soul? Can we know anything for certain? and Does life have a meaning? This morning I was speaking to a parishioner on the phone who hadn’t been able to squeeze in, and she said how fascinating the questions were – “I really want to know the answers!” I guess all of these questions concern everyone – they are about our basic experience of life and existence. They are at the very roots of our thinking and being and living. It is true, isn’t it, that a similar series on the sacraments, for example, wouldn’t attract so many people. But why? How we can show that the sacraments are as relevant to our experience of everyday life as these philosophical questions are? How can what we believe in our faith ‘break through’ into people’s ordinary everyday experience?

I know… Big questions!

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4 Responses

  1. Awesome post! Thanks so much for sharing this Hannah!

    This is exactly what we were talking about. This is really good to know too. I wouldn’t have thought that those questions would draw such a crowd but obviously people are hungry to hear the answers to those questions. You really struck a chord and obviously filled a need. That’s exactly the sort of thing we need to be doing. I’m going to remember this.

  2. Wow — great post! This is a great example of what Marc and I were talking about — answering the questions people have, rather than the questions we think they should have!

  3. Ann Couper-Johnston says:

    Catholics think they know about the Sacraments – after all they’ve had First Communion and Confirmation classes. Philosophy sounds much more exciting – and besides, you don’t have to be shy of telling your friends you’re going – people think they know what philosophy is and don’t feel threatened by it. If Fr Francis is the one from Allen Hall, they are in for a challenging surprise …. and a great evening!

    • Good point! I hadn’t thought of that- it is much easier to tell your friends you’re going to a philosophy talk than something that’s very Catholic like the sacraments. Thanks for your comment!

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