In May Caroline Dollard attended a conference in Hungary on the process of Christian Initiation in a multi-cultural, inter-denominational environment. She delivered a workshop at the event with Veronica Murphy (Archdiocese of Liverpool) on the preparation of couples for marriage and of parents for the baptism of their children. Two other inputs were of interest in the context of Family Ministry in England and Wales: Conversion in the Ecumenical Dialogue encouraged a conversation about who knocks on the door of the Church and why. Do people cross the threshold in order to get to know Christ, or to belong to a community, or to have a particular need met? And how do we accompany them on their journey of faith through, with and in Christ?
The second input was given by an associate professor from the Institute of Psychology at Sapientia College in Budapest who looked at the psychology of conversion, defining it as ‘a significant change in a person’s religious identity; a conscious re-structuring of the self that is articulated and expressed to everyone…’ In every case, this was the result of a process, or a ‘conversion’, with different influences – social and cultural, religious and environmental; and the beginning of a life-long process of growing into that identity. The Institute of Psychology has developed a ‘Religious Conversion Process Questionnaire’ for a study based on 700 individuals willing to talk about conversion experiences. From the study, they have deduced five types of conversion connected to the development of religious identity.
In June Caroline travelled to Madrid, to the European Conference for National Directors of Catechesis, to explore what missionary catechesis might look like following the two Family Synods and publication of Amoris Laetitia and Evangelii Gaudium. José María Pérez Navarro, President of the Spanish Association of Catechists, said, ‘We are living in a time of change, but we are still reluctant to accept this change … and for this we need a new paradigm that touches upon all pastoral opportunities and the way we see things as the catechist, the priest and bishop, our concept of Christian family, the parish model and the formation of seminarians …‘ Caroline gave a paper at the conference on the development of family catechesis in England & Wales post-Listening 2004 and informed by the English and Welsh Pre-Synod consultations.
She described the gradual shift in approach over that time to a new model of integrated family-centred accompaniment rooted in the Church’s teaching on family catechesis. Amoris Laetitia has nourished this nascent pastoral-catechetical journeying with families, affirming that any pastoral ministry, if it is to be truly Christ-like, first and foremost respects and affirms family love, however messy, as the place where God dwells (AL#315).
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