Study the faith – Pope

Features Cecily McNeill6 November 2012 Christians often ignorant of even the core of their faith, says Pope. The Holy Father is to start a new series of catechetical talks for…


Cecily McNeill
6 November 2012

Christians often ignorant of even the core of their faith, says Pope.

The Holy Father is to start a new series of catechetical talks for the Year of Faith amid concern that ‘Christians today often do not even know the central core of their Catholic faith’.

At his regular weekly audience on October 17, Pope Benedict XVI said the goal of the Year of Faith was to ‘renew our enthusiasm at believing in Jesus Christ’.

Ignorance about the fundamentals of faith, the Pope said, leaves believers vulnerable to ‘certain forms of syncretism and religious relativism, with no clarity about which truths must be believed and the salvific uniqueness of Christianity’.

The director of The Catholic Institute, Anne Tuohy, agrees that on-going education in the Catholic faith is essential. It offers us all the opportunity to build on what was offered at school and really engage the richness inherent in the Christian tradition.

Not only does ongoing study provide a framework for making sense of the world, and for grounding our place in it, but it also reminds us that our faith really is a treasure, a gift from a God who ‘delights’ in our fulfilment. ‘The Catholic tradition shows a God who laughs and dances,’ she says.

The Catholic Institute offers courses throughout the country, most of which are approved by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. ‘The papers we teach, the material in them, and the way we teach them, is as standard as you would get in any university.’ Dr Tuohy says there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ and through a mix of face-to-face and distance learning, each diocese delivers the courses according to diocesan needs.

‘The distance programmes are quite popular. They are very flexible so people can pick up a paper they’ve missed. You can be working on your own in a remote area and still keep up to date with courses.’

The drawback is in missing out on classroom discussions which add a valuable dimension to the learning process.

In Palmerston North, there is a group of women with young children doing the Walk by Faith programme. They have no formal classes but meet regularly to discuss what they are studying and ‘how their growing knowledge of their faith affects their relationships’ with their children, husbands and extended family.

An older woman who has been through the study programme acts as mentor.

For those who want to engage in less formal study, without the need to gain an NZQA-approved qualification, TCI has introduced its new e-learning courses in the form of five ‘Faith Update’ papers.

Each six-week course is available for online study and the work can be done at any pace. ‘It is a more interactive way to study than distance learning but has the same flexibility,’ Dr Tuohy says.

Papers offered in the Faith Update series include one on the Scriptures which Dr Elizabeth Julian teaches, Christology, Social Justice, Church History and The God of Jesus Christ.

These would be good for people in parishes to study and discuss as a group, Dr Tuohy says.