The National Catholic Evangelisation Conference was held in Birmingham on Saturday 11th July. The event marked the start of an evangelisation initiative by the Bishops of England and Wales and was attended by some twenty bishops, over seventy clergy, twenty religious and some seven hundred members of the laity from dioceses across England and Wales.
The day started with a welcome from Archbishop Bernard Longley, who reminded delegates that the event was in response to the exhortation of Pope Francis to become missionary disciples.
The Conference was a mix of workshops and plenary sessions with keynote speakers. One of the first workshop sessions was on Prayer and its centrality to the process of creating a missionary parish. There were workshops on creating a strategy for parish evangelisation and one on creating a parish evangelisation team.
The Rev Nicky Gumbel who talked on his experience as the developer of the Alpha course. He was interviewed by David Wells of Plymouth Diocese and one of the two MC’s for the event. He spoke of his own experience in evangelisation and answered questions on matters such as sustainability and the challenges of meeting expectations.
Michelle Moran, a founder member of Sion Catholic Community and a member of the Pontifical Institute for the Laity spoke of her experience of evangelisation over thirty years. The key message was the dual axis of attraction and connection –people are attracted to a way of life associated with a religious faith and they develop connections with people through this attraction. She then conducted interviews with those engaged in different forms of evangelisation.
Lunch was an opportunity for further discussion with brief talks in a range of venues. Throughout the venue, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, were a wide range of stalls for publishers and organisations offering information and advice about their work.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols delivered the keynote speech at the beginning of the afternoon with an exposition on the relationship of Jesus’ mission to respond to the Father and our responsibility to follow the command to “Go out and teach all nations..” Our baptism gives us the duty to be missionaries and evangelisers.
Workshop sessions on methods of sharing the Faith and the different categories of people requiring evangelisation filled the remainder of the afternoon session before a concelebrated Mass brought the Conference to a close.