14/10/2015 11:28 am
Representatives from 19 Catholic dioceses in England and Wales met at a national meeting this week to explore effective means of entering into dialogue with atheists and agnostics.
The overnight gathering was hosted by Bishop Mark O’Toole (Plymouth), who is Chair of the Bishops’ Conference Department for Evangelisation and Catechesis; the Department that oversees the work of Catholic mission nationally.
Bishop O’Toole said:
"The research available to us suggests that the number of people who self-identify as having no religion is on the increase, though many of them are open to the notion of God. As Christians, we are invited to reach out respectfully and joyfully to everyone with the message of Jesus Christ.
"This meeting of evangelisation leaders from across the dioceses has been an important step in discerning how best to enter into dialogue with everyone."
33 diocesan evangelisation leaders were present at the meeting, which took place 13 – 14 October at the Focolare Centre in Welwyn Garden City. The programme included time for prayer, discussion, and input from those gathered. Dr Stephen Bullivant, a Senior Lecturer in Theology and Ethics at St Mary’s University, gave a presentation titled ‘Atheism and Nonreligion’ in England and Wales, followed by a second session which included the sharing of his personal story of conversion from atheism to Catholicism.
Sr Gillian Murphy, representing the Birmingham Archdiocese, was one of the gathering’s participants and said:
"In the light of the recent national Proclaim ’15 Evangelisation Conference, it was excellent to hear about so many initiatives for evangelisation that are happening in many dioceses. I am going back with a renewed energy and lots of practical ideas.”
Meanwhile, Mrs Ausra Karaliute, from Westminster Archdiocese, commented:
"This gathering enriched us all and offered lots of effective ideas. We need to be brave and creative in our evangelisation efforts." The information and insights shared at the meeting were designed to assist diocesan evangelisation planning.
Proclaim 15 resources to help parishes reach out to the unchurched.
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