Day of Inspiration

What does it mean to be fully human and yet full divine? This was one of the questions posed when delegates from around the Diocese met at St. Boniface House on Saturday 24th September.  The day, hosted by Fr. Jon Bielawski, the episcopal vicar for evangelisation, catechesis and schools, was designed to be a lively and inspirational bringing together of ideas under the central theme of evangelisation.

Lay people from across the diocese met to hear from Fr. Jon, Michele Thompson who works to support parish evangelisation teams, and David Wells who works for Plymouth CAST.
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The day began with prayer and group introductions followed by Fr. Jon who gave a talk entitled “Jesus, who do you say I am” delegates were invited in small groups to discuss  the implications that Jesus was fully human and fully divine and how the understanding of this is vital to professing our Catholic faith.  Lively discussion ensued as delegates shared thoughts about God coming into the world, to live among us, yet also being God and with God.


Michele talked about discipleship, the challenges and opportunities and gave an update of progress the Diocese has made in its evangelisation efforts.  Just one year in and a complete programme has been developed to mobilise, support and sustain parish teams. More than 39 parishes
 have engaged and there are to date 35 evangelisation teams and more than 470 disciples who with growing confidence are witnessing as Catholic Christians on a daily basis.

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David Wells spoke about his work of evangelisation in schools working on various initiatives involving teachers and parents.  He began by discussing how schools, parishes and parents can work together to help those in need.  He also talked about the way that Pope Francis has encouraged us all to become evangelisers by introducing the Year of Mercy: what better way to evangelise people than to be merciful!


After a plentiful lunch it was the turn of the delegates to talk about their individual efforts and successes. We heard first from Margaret Hawe, who is part of the evangelisation team from Plymouth Cathedral. We heard how Margaret and a prayer partner courageously visited homes in the Devonport area of the city, asking people about their faith through a specially created personal beliefs survey. Margaret told us of how they were made welcome by people and how those they met were made able to discuss their faith and other life events simply by having someone willing to listen to them. Margaret and her prayer partner were able to pray with a person o the doorstep which she said was amazing because this person upon opening the door had claimed he had been “born an atheist”!

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Our second speakers were Theresa Cookson and Fiona Weekes, both of whom are part of Plymouth Cathedral’s Children’s Liturgy Team. Theresa and Fiona talked about how they have used the evangelisation experience to encourage children and their families back into the Church by arranging special services in the Cathedral, especially for children. This has led to two very successful children’s services in the Cathedral so far, with more services planned for Advent this year. Members of the children’s liturgy team delivered invitations to all the homes in the immediate vicinity of the Cathedral to invite families that didn’t attend the Cathedral to the Christmas 2015 service, the results were astonishing!

Peter ClareOur final speakers were from the Crownhill parish in Plymouth and they talked about their experiences with the RCIA programme at the parish; this provoked great interest and discussion from the other delegates.  Peter and Clare, who are both experienced with the RCIA course in Crownhill, told how they have been doing home visits to in order to re-establish connections with those who had been on the course during the previous decade but no longer attend Mass.  They offered a friendly smile, a parish newsletter, a Year of Mercy booklet, a prayer card and the promise of a warm welcome.   They had received overwhelmingly positive responses to their visits, with many of those visited asking for the parish priest (Fr. Jon) to visit them, some people potentially returning to the Church and even some expressing surprise that Catholics were knocking on doors!  This made the other delegates wonder whether the RCIA course might be the perfect way to evangelise, and whether we can all make more use of this valuable course.
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The final item on the agenda was a sharing of ideas for new ways to evangelise and a look ahead at some of the conferences that are being planned for 2017. Which include “Gather” in Torquay and a weekend prayer/evangelisation event entitled “Run to the Son at Buckfast Abbey.

Judging from the response to the meeting it certainly appears that evangelisation is not only alive and well within the Diocese of Plymouth, it is thriving!