10th August 2021
Just over a week ago, our team of “formators” for the Christian Leadership Formation programme said goodbye to fourteen rather tired, but enthusiastic, 17-year-olds. There was a good deal of sadness on both sides. A very intense five days of prayer, study, discussion and activity had seen the group of students rapidly and naturally coalesce as a group, and respond to the input of their tutors with willingness and openness.
The programme aims to help shape and create a society founded on Christian values by offering potential future leaders a solid intellectual and spiritual formation in the Christian philosophical and theological tradition. A recovery of the rationality of the Christian faith, and particularly of the many concepts that have been elaborated within Christianity over the last two millenia and have shaped our Western democracies, is therefore at the heart of this venture.
A lot of hard work went on behind the scenes over the last year to launch the programme this year amidst the challenges of Covid and the associated email-overload in schools! Nonetheless, launch it we did last January, and the result was a goup of enthusiastic, but slightly uncertain, Lower Sixth formers arriving at Theodore House on Monday 26th July.
By the end of the week, the students’ comments testified to the challenges the course had presented them with in re-conceiving an essential relationship between their faith and their thinking, and the successes achieved. “Absolutely brilliant course”, “broadened my understanding vastly”, “really really really good: probably the best thing I have done all year”, were a few of the comments in the feedback forms.
From the team’s perspective, it was wonderful to see the students open up both heart and mind and to see a real impact in their thinking and their disposition to Christ. Coming as they did from varied backgrounds and with different experiences in their faith, it was difficult for us not to see some positive fruit in every one of the students by the end of the week.
Fr Dancho Azagra lead the students through a firm and full framework of liturgy and prayer. He ably challenged and encouraged the students in their spiritual lives, opening up to them and explaining elements of the Mass and the prayers of the Church which formed the backbone of the week.
The students were challenged intellectually by the knowledgeable and clear-thinking Dr Andrew Beards, who delivered a set of lectures around the three themes of human dignity, human rights and human law. The group discussion that preceded and followed each set of lectures presented an invaluable opportunity for the students to dig into their current knowledge of the issue, identify the crucial questions therein, and then apply these to concrete scenarios. In many instances, our team witnessed a gradual transformation or shift in perspective, as the students were led through a philosophically-consistent and theologically-enlightened elaboration of these matters.
The discussion and learning found an outlet in the media training sessions ably provided by Georgia Clarke of Catholic Voices, which saw the students develop their confidence and find the opportunity to present their thinking that went into the course. The week culminated in mock interviews with experienced journalists from national broadcasters, who declared the interviews to have been “terrifyingly good”.
The team was rounded out by Weightmans LLP trainee-solicitor, Ola Smuklerz, who generously offered her professionalism and commitment to the charity. Her pastoral role quickly embraced every element of the course and provided a great support to the students both individually and in their groups.
At the end of the week, it was clear to all of us that what we have provided is unique and hugely important, not simply for those students who might be orientated to more explicit, leadership roles in society, but to any student that wishes to comprehend their Christian faith properly in the first place and to apply this to the society in which they live.
For more information about the programme or to register interest for next year’s intake, please visit https://christianheritagecentre.com/clf/
The Trustees and Director would like to extend their thanks to those organisations and individuals that have made participation in the programme possible for the first cohort through their financial support. If you would like to consider supporting the programme, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org