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Adult faith education for the third millennium: Exploring Christian culture at the Centre for Faith Enrichment

By The Record

Saint John Henry Newman was an important and controversial figure in the religious history of England in the 19th century. Photo: Catholic News Service.

“I wish you to enlarge your knowledge, to cultivate your reason, to get an insight into the relation of truth to truth, to learn to view things as they are, to understand how faith and reason stand to each other, what are the bases and principles of Catholicism.”

— Saint John Henry Newman

By Marco Ceccarelli

Aimed at the laity and spoken in a series of lectures delivered in 1851, the earlier comment reflects St John Henry Newman’s desire for Catholics to know their faith.

In a 19th century context, these ideas were quite new and radical. This type of education was deemed necessary only for priests or members of religious orders, not the laity.

St John Henry Newman, however, believed that this education was necessary for all the baptised.

For this reason, he advocated for the cultivation of a faith rooted in an understanding of Christian culture, tradition, and reason or, as St Anselm had said centuries earlier, in faith seeking understanding.

The Centre for Faith Enrichment (CFE) responds to St John Newman’s appeal by offering those within and outside of the Archdiocese of Perth, an opportunity to enrich and discover the Catholic faith.

Onsite and online courses are offered at various times during the week on topics that range from all levels of theology, scripture, Church history, the lives of the saints, Catholic social teaching, the sacraments, as well as more nuanced explorations of teachings such as the theology of the body and the domestic Church.

One of the great beneficiaries of several CFE initiatives is 30-year-old Cheryl Teo.

A recent convert to the Catholic faith, Cheryl has been attending CFE courses for more than two years.

“While I have taken more than seven courses at the CFE, I particularly enjoyed Seeking the Counsel of the Wise: A Journey through the Wisdom Books with Joe Tedesco,” Ms Teo said.

“The resources given to us and the explanations that accompanied them were applicable to life and helped me to better manage my emotions.
“I have struggled with depression in the past and realised that I could not heal myself. In a moment of my life where I felt that there was no direction for me to take, exploring the Books of Wisdom in scripture offered much-needed guidance.”

In a moment of my life where I felt that there was no direction for me to take, exploring the Books of Wisdom in scripture offered much-needed guidance.”

“More importantly, what I received from this and other courses strengthened my relationship with my husband and encouraged me to be more engaged with my parish in Bentley”.

Ms Teo went on to say that adult faith education and places like the CFE play an important role in the life of the Church today.

“The more I engaged with the courses, the more I became passionate about the various topics covered. I am new to the Catholic faith, and back home in Malaysia I struggled to find an educational centre like the CFE.

Here in Perth, it was easily accessible, and I appreciated finding a place which explained the principles of the Catholic faith to me so patiently and without tests or exams.”

Another long-standing attendee at CFE is Cottesloe parishioner Ed O’Loughlin, who has participated in more than 25 courses since 2013.
“I have found the courses and events both informative and helpful for my faith journey,” Mr O’Loughlin said.

“Courses such as those on the liturgical seasons, and changing lifestyles in the second half of life, relate to the faith journey in a direct way. Courses on various Church history topics were informative and well presented, and have a wider, but important, impact on faith development. All presenters emphasise the importance of using the knowledge shared to impact on our lives.

“At a time of low Church attendance, constant attacks on religion by secular media, and with the Australian Plenary Council around the corner, having a place like the CFE is more important than ever.”

CFE Director Dr Marco Ceccarelli draws from the Vatican II Dogmatic Constitution, “Lumen Gentium”, as he delivers a talk on “The Mission of The Church in the 21st century” at Catholic Youth Ministry’s “Sacramentum” young adults retreat in April 2019. Photo: Matthew Lau.

Over the past two years, the CFE has also opened its doors to anyone wanting to engage with and know more about the Plenary Council. 
Furthermore, it has focussed on working with young adults and has been used as a stepping-stone that helps young singles and couples strengthen the relationship their parish and the wider Church.

If a parish, agency, or ecclesial group requires adult faith education or preparation to liturgical periods such lent or advent, the CFE is there to offer this service.

“In him who is faithful to his own divinely implanted nature, the faint light of truth dawns continually brighter,” Cardinal Newman would say.
Ensuring that this faint light, however small it may be, is never extinguished, is the Centre for Faith Enrichment’s mission.

For more information on Centre for Faith Enrichment courses and events, visit www.cfe.org.au

From pages 32 to 33 of Issue 27: Adult Faith Formation in the context of Healing’ of The Record Magazine

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