On the weekend of Friday 11 February to Sunday 13 February, the Thomas More Centre conducted another successful Summer School. Approximately 140 young adults aged 18 to 35 (with a high concentration in their early 20s) took part. The Summer School was conducted mainly at the University of Melbourne and St Mary's College.
In what has become a de facto custom, the Summer School began on Friday evening with an open forum address by Archbishop George Pell, who spoke about Christianity as it entered the New Millennium. The Archbishop reviewed what he described as "the Cultural Revolution" that took place in the Church in the late 60s and early 70s and assessed its effects on Australian Catholicism. He was extremely critical of a mindset emerging during this period that sought change purely for the sake of change. Such a mindset, he argued, had a devastating effect upon the Church in Australia.
Signs of hope
However, the Archbishop sees signs of hope for the future. The Church in Australia, he contends, has not reached a point of no return as has occurred in Holland. In that country, we find barely 5 percent Mass attendance rates, no vocations of female religious in some of the dioceses for years, and four or so seminarians for the whole country.
Hope for the future could be found among the young people at events such as the Summer School, he said, challenging the young audience to take an active role in the passing on of the faith to the next generation.
Lectures began again at 9.30 Saturday morning in the Old Pathology Lecture Theatre, University of Melbourne. The three morning speakers dealt with topics connected with the Bible. The first, Bishop Joseph Grech, auxiliary bishop of Melbourne, illustrated the ways in which the Old Testament was a forerunner of the New Testament and encouraged his audience to know the Scriptures better, particularly those passages of the Old Testament that prefigure Christ. Mgr Peter Elliott, Episcopal Vicar for Religious Education, spoke about the Incarnation, with a particular focus on the prologue of St John's Gospel. Sr Mary Augustine, a Dominican from Wagga then spoke about Mary's role in the history of Salvation.
After lunch, the participants welcomed His Excellency, Bishop Scola, Rector Magnificus of the Pontifical Lateran University and the John Paul II Family Institute. He spoke about marriage and the family.
Participants then attended a range of tutorials/seminars.
Tracey Rowland, a Cambridge University doctoral student, led a workshop entitled, "Truth, Beauty and Popular Culture," Anna Krohn focussed on the family as the building block of civilisation and Dr Stephen Anthony spoke on Mondragon.
When signing up for tutorials, one could not help but overhear a myriad of voices asking, "What is Mondragon?" Mondragon is a community established in northern Spain in the 1940s, organised along the lines of the Church's economic and social principles, with small co-operatives the basis of economic organisation. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, many academics and economists, including non-Catholics, are showing interest in Mondragon, e.g., Race Matthews, a former federal Labor member and minister in the Cain Victorian Labor Government, who travelled to Mondragon and discussed it extensively in his recent book Jobs of Our Own: Building a Stakeholder Society (Pluto Press, 1999).
Sunday's talks focused on aspects of spirituality and ethics. Kate Cleary of Melbourne's Caroline Chisholm Library spoke about the importance of personal prayer and Bishop Denis Hart delivered a talk on the meaning and value of pilgrimages in the Jubilee Year, with a focus on the spirituality and theology of a pilgrimage. These talks were interspersed with ethical lectures. Dr Hayden Ramsay's talk was entitled, "Character, Conversion and Moral Transformation," whilst Melinda Tankard Reist, research assistant for Senator Harradine, spoke about post-abortion grief. This is the grief experienced by a high percentage of women who have undergone an abortion and rarely receives a mention in debates surrounding abortion. Some of the ways in which women who have had abortions grieve are: inhibitions in relating to future spouses and children, anger, depression and suicide. Melinda's book on the subject is due for release shortly.
Culture of life
Fr Anthony Fisher OP concluded the series of lectures with a talk entitled "Towards a Culture of Life." The Culture of Life, he said, is the antithesis of the "Culture of Death" which is materialistic, violent, selfish, individualistic and reduces human beings to objects or products.
The impressive array of lecturers welcomed the opportunity to take time out from busy schedules to talk to the young adults. Many of the speakers commented on the attentiveness of their audiences and their enthusiasm to participate through questions that were thoughtful and insightful. The commitment of the participants was illustrated by the large number of those who came from country Victoria and interstate and by those who offered billets to them.
Since the Thomas More Summer School is seen primarily as a faith enrichment exercise, and not just a series of academic discourses, Masses were offered on Saturday and Sunday in the Newman College Chapel.
For further information about the Thomas More Centre, write to: Thomas More Centre, 582 Queensberry St, North Melbourne 3051, tel (03) 9326 5757, fax (03) 9328 2877, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org