Category Archives: Events-past

MARTYRS AND EXILES

MARTYRS AND EXILES: TRAGEDY AND HOPE IN THE MIDDLE EAST

A record audience of over 100 people crowded into the Trafalgar Hall at Notre Dame University near Trafalgar Square on Thursday 1 June to hear two complementary accounts of the current situation for Christians and other persecuted minorities in the Middle East.  The event entitled “Martyrs and Exiles” was organised by the Catholic Union Charitable Trust.

The first speaker was Gerard Russell, the former British and UN diplomat and author of Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms: Journeys into the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East. Gerard began by recalling the ambush and murder of a group of Coptic Christians in Egypt on 26 May who were on their way to a monastery.  Sadly this is only the latest in a series of attacks on Egypt’s minority Christian community which makes up 10% of the population.

Gerard said that he had wanted to show in his book that the situation does not need to be like this and that it hasn’t always been like this. In earlier centuries Christians, while not regarded as equal in Islamic societies, were often recognised and valued in the public space. In Egypt, Copts have served as Prime Minister although their situation deteriorated under President Sadat.

Gerard also spoke about some of the non-Christian minorities featured in his book: the Yazidis, Druze, Mandeans, Samaritans and Zoroastrians. He said that without adopting a relativist approach, religious liberalism should strengthen our faith and make us better Christians because it helped us understand more clearly the possible origins of some of our own ideas (for example, Zoroastrian ideas about heaven and hell). All these faiths have played a part in our history and while we don’t have to agree with them, he hoped that they would survive and he observed that they have proved remarkably resilient over many periods of persecution.

John Pontifex, Head of Press and Information for Aid to the Church in Need UK then spoke about his recent visit to Aleppo and the return of Christians to the Nineveh Plains.  Work in Iraq and Syria is now the main focus for ACN and John showed images of the destruction in Aleppo, including many of the ancient city’s cathedrals.  Aleppo has seen a 90% reduction in its Christian population and ACN supports those who remain-in many cases the poorest and weakest in society.  ACN also provides support for other faiths, including Muslims from Eastern Aleppo.

In Iraq, the proportion of Christians in the population has gone from 10% in 1980 to 1% in 2017, perhaps now as few as 150,000 people of whom half are displaced.  Nevertheless, with Daesh now removed from Nineveh, there is the possibility for Christians to return.  There are huge challenges as Christian villages have been devastated but ACN have been taking careful steps to support those who wish to return as they are best hope for the survival of the Christian community in Iraq.  What is needed is a “Marshall Plan” for Iraq and Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil was in London in May seeking support in meetings with the Prince of Wales, Cardinal Vincent Nichols and government officials.

Both speakers saw some grounds for hope amongst the destruction and killings, described by many as genocide, but a massive international effort will be required before Christians and other minorities can again live and flourish in these parts of the Middle East.

The next Catholic Union Lecture will be given by Baroness Scotland, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth on Thursday 5 October 2017 at Notre Dame University, London.

 

 

Do Our Schools have Mission Integrity ?

 

Do Our Catholic Schools Have Mission Integrity?: Part 1

by Prof Gerald Grace, of St Mary’s University Twickenham

  1. Introduction

I would like to begin this lecture by pointing out that the main question named for this presentation, necessarily provokes 3 subsidiary questions. These are:-

  1. What is the meaning of the concept of ‘Mission Integrity’ and of its opposite ‘Mission Drift’ and why is it important in the academic and research field known as Catholic Education Studies?
  2. Assuming for the present that it is important, how can we increase research which investigates the existence of ‘Mission Integrity’ or ‘Mission Drift’ in Catholic schools, nationally and internationally. On the latter point we must not focus only on ‘Our Catholic Schools’ as meaning those in the UK but rather our Catholic schools, meaning the 200,000 which exist internationally. We must, if we are Catholics always remember that we are part of an international Church (It was for this reason that I edited the first ever survey of research on Catholic education worldwide, reported in International Handbook of Catholic Education (2 vols) in 2007 and launched the first ever journal, International Studies in Catholic Education in 2009).
  3. However, it will be of interest to raise the question, ‘is the state of mission integrity of Catholic schools in the UK likely to be any different from those in other countries?

1  What is ‘Mission Integrity’ and its opposite ‘Mission Drift’?

We need to be clear about what we mean by ‘mission’.

  • Catholic education in its various forms of school, college, university and seminary is faced with the challenge of attempting to mediate to children, youth and adults some understanding of, and some engagement with the nature and the power of the sacred, which Emile Durkheim in his classic study, The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life (1912) defined as ‘superior in dignity and power to the elements of mundane life, to things ‘set apart’, to notions of the transcendent and divine, of souls and spirits and of the ultimate destiny of persons’ (p.422) – an inclusive definition which applies to all major religious groups.
  • For the Catholic Christian tradition this means in practice, engagement with the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and of the saints, regular participation in the Holy Mass, understanding the spiritual and moral teachings of the Church and the study and practice of Catholic Social Teaching. Catholic education, in all its forms, is a mission (inspired by Jesus Christ to ‘Go and Teach all Nations’ (Mt. 28.19); the Catholic school is not just a social or economic enterprise, it has higher purposes which relate to the formation of good people, of good citizens and of good Christians. That is its ultimate mission – a mission of personal transformation.
  • Mission Integrity highlights a central concept in all my writing, research and conference presentations. Having always insisted that Catholic education is a mission and not just a social or business enterprise and having emphasised the importance of mission statements as a condensed form of the theology of Catholic schooling, the issue of the nature of mission integrity in our contemporary Catholic education naturally arose as a focus for research.
  • In 2002, I defined Mission Integrity as ‘fidelity in practice and not just in public rhetoric to the distinctive and authentic principles of Roman Catholic education’ (p498). In other words, all schools in a prospectus or other marketing literature proclaim to parents what the fundamental principles are which permeate and regulate their ethos and educational practice.

The research question here is, to what extent does their actual day-to-day practice articulate with these public principles? To the extent to which there is a high degree of articulation, then it may be said that such a school has high mission integrity. To the extent to which there is low articulation, then it may be said that a school is experiencing mission drift.

  • Mission drift may be defined as ‘an unintentional historical process which causes a school in its practices to move away from its foundational mission principles’. This ‘drift’ may be caused by many factors eg. weak mission leadership from headteachers and governors, changed expectations from parents and external pressures from government policies and agencies and the effects of local and national media publicity about educational ‘success’.
  • If mission drift in Catholic schools should be found to be happening on a large scale, then the claim by Catholics that their schools have a distinctive spiritual educational ethos can be questioned and, over time, they could become ‘integrated’ with secular state schooling systems.

Who has the authority to define mission integrity for Catholic schools? The Roman Catholic Church and the definition of Mission Integrity

  •  In 1977, the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education decided that the time had come to make an authoritative statement about ‘the distinctive and authentic principles’ which should characterise Catholic schools internationally. The document issued at the time, Simply called, The Catholic School can be regarded’ as the foundation charter and universal mission statement for Catholic schools’ (Grace 2016). It can be said that while certain local or situational adjustments may have to be made by schools in some locations (caused by cultural, ideological and economic circumstances) no school which claims the title ‘Catholic’ can be seriously at odds with the principles proclaimed by the Congregation in 1977.
  • The Catholic School (1977) document is therefore the authoritative guide for any research studies relating to mission integrity / mission drift.

PLEASE TURN TO PART 2 PAPER – click  here to read part 2

 REFERENCES

Durkheim, E. (1912/1971)             The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life London, Allen and Unwin.

 

Grace, G. (2002)                                ‘Mission Integrity: Contemporary Challenges for Catholic School Leaders’ in Second International Handbook of Educational Leadership and Administration: Part 1, Dordrecht, Kluwer Academic.

 

Grace, G. (2016)                                Endorsement for re-print of the Catholic School, London, CTS

Sacred Congregation for

Catholic Education (1977)            The Catholic School, Rome, Liberia Editrice Vaticana

 

 

Craigmyle lecture 2016

‘Christian Response to Refugees’ – Sarah Teather

On the 2nd of November 2016 a record number attended the lecture titled ‘Christian Response to Refugees’ kindly given by Sarah Teather former MP and Director of the JRS (Jesuit Refugee Service) at the University of Notre Dame, Suffolk Street. In what was an insightful talk, Sarah gave anecdotal evidence as to why the JRS’ work is so important and how it needs to continue and there was a clear feeling in the room of empathy as the audience listened to the hard truths and painful stories that were told.

However, it was not all bad, Sarah spoke at length about how the JRS has many success stories. Topics such as refugees finding work in this country and giving back wages to the JRS to support others were incredibly humbling and showed how great the work of the JRS is. Sarah also touched on biblical references to refugees or migrants throughout scripture. Abraham travelling in search of hope to escape famine and Moses leading the Jews out of Egypt in the wake of oppression can be duly linked to matters today as 13 million Syrians were forced to leave their homes under these almost similar circumstances. This reinforces the Church’s stance to act on behalf of these refugees and the others around the world that make up the devastating number of 65 million.

The plight of refugees all around the world was made unequivocally clear by Sarah who used concepts like the ‘collapse in hope,’ to describe the current situation and how ‘limbo becomes intolerable’ for these refugees as a different hardships rears its head at every turn. This really allowed the audience to connect with the message and through her own tales of walking across borders with these people, Sarah was able to deliver a clear and concise account of how the Church helps these refugees and how vital it is that their work continue.

Catholicism in the Secular World

Francis Campbell 308Lecture by Francis Campbell, Vice-Chancellor of St. Mary’s University, Twickenham

Press Release
Available for Immediate Release.

On Thursday 25th February, Francis Campbell BA, MA, gave a talk to the members of the Catholic Union at the University of Notre Dame, Suffolk Street. The topic of Catholicism in the Secular World proved to be an insightful look into how Catholicism is evolving in the UK and the world based on current events.
There were many sub-topics that were covered with Mr Campbell using the concept of Faith Schools and their importance to British culture to battle the concern of radicalisation. This comes at a very opportune time with Louise Casey’s reports on cultural differences that are being used to show the positives and negatives of secularism.
It was certainly a talk that the members found thought provoking as Mr Campbell delved back centuries to other cultural divides such as the various Enlightenments to show how reason and faith have always been linked. This was accompanied by quotes from academics and Pope Francis himself to show how identity and individuality, religious or not is vitally important to create a functioning society.
The Catholic Union would like to thank Francis Campbell for taking the time out to give this informative presentation and answer questions on a subject that is a concern not just for Catholics but the United Kingdom as a whole.
ENDS

For the text of the speech please click this link Francis Campbell speech 250216

Craigmyle Lecture 2015 – Report

The Craigmyle Lecture 2015 was delivered by Sir Rocco Forte.

Sir Rocco Forte

Sir Rocco Forte by Hugo-Burnand

Sir Rocco Forte MA, FCA, FIoD. was educated at Downside, and Pembroke College Oxford, where he read modern language. While studying, he also won a Blue for fencing. He qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1969 and started work in the Forte Group, taking over from his father as CEO in 1992.

Sir Rocco set up his own group of hotels in 1996, initially known as RF Hotels and re-branded as Rocco Forte Hotels. The group encompasses ten hotels in Europe, Russia, and is soon to launch into the Middle East.

Sir Rocco was knighted in December 1994 for services to the UK tourism industry. He received the highest Italian accolade, the Gran Croce dell’Ordine al Merito della Republica Italiana, for his entrepreneurial merits and strong links with Italy in 2005. He was President of the British Hospitality Association from 1991 to 1996, and a member of the Executive Committee of the World Travel & Tourism Council.

The text of the speech is here.

Teaching Sexuality Following the Mind of the Church – A Lecture by Louise Kirk 

On 8th June, 2015, Louise Kirk gave a talk at Notre Dame University, London SW1, on how the Catholic Church could take the lead in sex education away from an existing establishment whose evident failures make it vulnerable to attack. Her talk was followed by a lively discussion over a glass of wine. Read her address here.

Louise Kirk is UK Co-ordinator for the international PSHE programme Alive to the World and author of Sexuality Explained: a Guide for Parents and Children. She serves on Shrewsbury Diocese’s Commission for Marriage and Family Life. To read more about her work, see: www.alivetotheworld.co.uk.

Catholic Union Charitable Trust Launch Reception

His Grace the Most Reverend Peter Smith hosted a reception at His Grace 307Archbishop’s house on Tuesday 10th February launching  the Catholic Union Charitable Trust (CUCT), the charitable arm of the Catholic Union of Great Britain.

The purpose of the CUCT is to advance the Roman Catholic religion by means of a series of seminars, lectures and conferences. It will take over all the activities formerly operated by the Catholic Union, other than lobbying, the Parliamentary and Public Affairs committee and the medical ethics committee. Being a registered charity the CUCT can attract funds from other grant making trusts and obtain Gift Aid refunds from donations.

About eighty invited guests and members enjoyed a convivial evening 289with His Grace the Archbishop, Sir Edward Leigh, the President of the Catholic Union and Jamie Bogle chairman of the CUCT. Mr Robert Rigby chairman of the Catholic Union was also present as were a number of trustees of the CUCT and members of the Council of the catholic union.

Jamie Bogle welcomed all present and outlined the need for the CUCT and the type of work it will undertake in the future.

Sir Edward Leigh spoke about the difficulties of a Catholic member of the House of Commons in this secular age. He described the loss of the vote last week concerning the regulations for three parent IVF babies and how he and a number of like minded Catholic MPs struggle to present the Catholic Christian point of view to Parliament.325

His Grace the Archbishop affirmed his support for the work of the Union which is so important to the Catholic community