Mgr Paul Grogan

Mgr Paul Grogan
Mgr Paul Grogan

Sunday, 3 March 2013

The beautiful Church

I went to a great training day today for those in the Church who work with young people. It was entitled "Called to a Noble Adventure," after the just-published report by the Catholic Youth Ministry Federation. It was organised with characteristic efficiency and imagination by the diocesan youth service and was held at our Youth Retreat Centre, Myddelton Grange, overlooking the beautiful Wharfedale valley.

It was good to be with highly committed competent lay people and to engage with them in purposeful activity. Being a priest has been a little difficult in recent days, given events. The brotherhood of which I rejoice to be a member has been painted as a dysfunctional clerical caste. The painful thing is that within this vicious caricature there is some truth. Clericalism does indeed infect our Catholic culture: it stifles true dialogue, personal growth and evangelisation. It is a social sin. We all want to get rid of it.
Today's training day showed how. It was an instance of the Church, in the words of the famous dictum, "always reforming." Through the multiple conversations that I had, I discovered the strength of lay involvement in youth ministry. In one workshop I attended, various catechists, youth leaders and coordinators of altar servers quickly swapped stories of what activities worked best, how to introduce prayer into periods of fun and what night of the week works best, all of them conscious that they only had a few minutes to impart and receive this information. In another workshop a female lay chaplain and a female parish youth worker spoke about the success of a sixth-form CAFOD group at St Mary's High School, Menston. In another a female parish youth worker gave a presentation on praying with young people. In another, an engaged couple provided tried and tested techniques for breaking the ice in youth groups. The keynote speech was given by a laywoman, Anne Trotter, our director of diocesan youth services; various prayers were led by a laywoman, the diocesan youth officer, Anna Cowell. Priests were in the mix: Fr Anthony Jackson, the diocesan youth chaplain, celebrated Mass and preached and Fr Christopher Angel, gave a presentation on some new Confirmation catechetical material which he has prepared.

All in all, everybody chipped in according to their different skills, charisms and ecclesial states and the day marked a significant step forward in the new evangelisation of the diocese. Lay leadership and clerical leadership were exercised simultaneously. When somebody next implies that I am part of a weird, all-male, celibate cabal intent on distorting the true teachings of Jesus, I'll simply say: "You need to participate in the life of the Church more." The ecclesial reality which is emerging, and which is being thrown into peculiar relief in this Year of Faith, is something beautiful to behold.

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