New Catholic Faith Initiative in Cork
A significant event in the life of the Catholic dioceses of Cork & Ross and Cloyne took place on Tuesday 22nd January 2019. Hosted by the SMA Wilton Parish, it was the launch of a new faith formation initiative co-authored by Fr Seán Corkery and Máirín Ní Shúlleabháin entitled YOUCAT Companion. The event attracted a large gathering from throughout Ireland, and was attended by Bishop John Buckley and Bishop William Crean, both of whom led prayers for the occasion. The bishops underlined the need for all believers to share the Good News of Jesus Christ in a time when people are often confused or uncertain about what the Catholic Church teaches and why.
YOUCAT is short for Youth Catechism. It is designed by young people for young people to give contemporary expression to the truths of the Catholic faith. Fr Seán and Máirín have devised a user-friendly study programme to accompany YOUCAT which families, schools and parishes can use to establish small study groups. YOUCAT Companion guides participants through the contents of the Catholic faith in an engaging and positive process of dialogue and sharing. Learning in small groups in this way is ideal for those seeking a sure reference point for life’s journey.
YOUCAT Companion is divided into 20 sessions which Fr Seán and Máirín suggest would work well over the course of the school year (10 in Autumn and 10 in Spring). Participants focus on the four pillars of the Catholic faith, namely the Creed, the sacraments, the commandments, and The Lord’s Prayer. It took three years to develop YOUCAT Companion. It is the result of a rigorous theological and editing process of over 3000 hours. It was piloted in Cork, Westport, Dublin and Derry with a cross-section of people including third-level students, young parents, Pope John Paul II Award students and daily Mass goers. Therefore, while YOUCAT is primarily designed for 16-35 years olds, its value reaches far beyond this, making YOUCAT Companion the ideal resource for grown-ups of all ages that wish to explore their faith.
At the launch, Fr Sean explained that Catholics need to comprehensively know the faith today to make a difference in Irish society: “Pope Francis asks us to be missionary disciples. How can we be positive and constructive? That’s the skill we need to develop with peers who don’t share the same view that we do as Catholics. What is important for us is to gain a thorough grasp of the language of faith so we can make a positive contribution in the public square.”
Máirín spoke of the value of studying the faith in small groups: “I think faith is not lived alone. Young people can be afraid to speak about their faith in school, in college, everywhere.” YOUCAT Companion is aimed at giving young people, indeed, all participants, the tools needed to talk about their faith. Over the 20 sessions, this is something that grows. Máirín says, “its giving expression to what is deep within – building on knowledge week by week, answering the questions. The course helps them to be convinced so that any ridicule is not affecting them too much.”
Also present were those already involved with YOUCAT Companion at local level. Gill Doherty, a lead person in the pilot process, pointed out the value of having a concise and clear reading plan to study: “YOUCAT Companion is both systematic and well-structured. This is exactly what every group leader needs. However, it is also flexible enough to allow participants to engage with it at their level, wherever they are on their faith journey.” Anne Murray, a group leader in East Cork, observed the way in which the participants in her group share and discuss their religious questions, their doubts and their life stories. She is convinced that “every parish should have a study group as the fruits which flow from it are countless and profound. It is a blessing to be part of a support network that helps you to grow in faith and understanding of God’s immense love.”
The evening concluded with a reflection by Fr Donncha Ó hAodha on living the faith in Ireland today. The Galway native and theological consultor to YOUCAT Companion said that this new initiative “is a rich and timely resource because it helps us to love God more and to realise more deeply his love for us, it helps us to build up the Church and rediscover her beauty, and it helps us to live our vocation as apostles of Christ in daily life.”
A YOUCAT Companion study group will run for the six Wednesday nights of Lent, beginning on 6th March in SMA Parish Centre, Wilton, Cork City. If you want to hear more about what is involved or are interested in starting a group in your area, call Máirín on 087 7950325 or Fr Seán on 086 2420240.