Bishop of Plymouth Inspires on Catechesis

Photograph: Paul F. Abbott
Last Monday evening I travelled to St. Patrick's Church in Soho Square London to attend the presentation given by Bishop Mark O'Toole, Bishop of Plymouth for The Guild of Our Lady & St. Joseph. The talk Bishop Mark gave was to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism and entitled “How to be a disciple making disciple - Prayer, Faith, Loving Service and the Sacramental life".

I have bumped into Bishop Mark a couple of times since he was ordained Bishop. At Buckfast Abbey where the School of the Annunciation is based. Indeed Bishop Mark drew attention to the blessing the school constitutes in his address: the local bishop I want to say what a great blessing it is to our diocese. Theological reflection and expertise within the Catholic tradition, is a limited resource in the South West, and indeed more widely in the English speaking world. It is good for us to have the School among us.
I first met Bishop Mark at Heythrop, attending a very high-brow lecture given by (now) Bishop Robert Barron on Cardinal Newman and his Idea of University. I think the then Fr. Barron had been told he was lecturing at a college and expected a room full of academics. He delivered a brilliant talk on the importance of the centrality of Christ in Catholic education inspired by Newman, and the then Fr Mark and I were all very amused as we tried to keep up with Barron's deep philosophical insights.
Photograph: Paul F. Abbott
On Monday, Bishop Mark showed that he has lost none of his humour or humanity, despite his high office. His address to a packed hall at St. Patrick's was erudite, witty, engaging & insightful. I have to say I was genuinely impressed.

I felt the talk was very well balanced. There were a number of Seminarians present from Allen Hall, and there was enough theology and practical catechetical insight to keep them and people like myself who have studied the faith in some depth, firmly engaged. At the same time his references to the Saints and practical realities of catechesis struck a chord with everyone in the room. He spoke of the perikhōrēsis of the Holy Trinity as an analogy for the pillars of the Catechism, what we share when we evangelise is not a doctrine but a person, and if we are not in relationship with that person, how can we share Him with others? 

Bishop Mark made some particularly important points, for example that Catholicity of teaching staff in our schools is essential and the pre-eminence of the Mass as the foundation of evangelisation: fostering a desire to worship the Lord when you know Him, his own experience at university of a theology in flux, but how receiving the faith is different from having a set of rules imposed on you – which, he said, was how many experienced the new Catechism of the Catholic Church.

My own Diocese of Brentwood was well represented, Fr. Michael Halsall and Fr. Gerry Drummond were both there as well as a good number of lay people. We also welcomed attendees from Salford, Cardiff, Brentwood, Arundel & Brighton, East Anglia, Birmingham, Southwark and Westminster Dioceses. 

The full text of Bishop Mark's presentation is available to read on his diocesan website here. Quite a few people were asking if the text would be available for further study so I hope you will avail yourself of this excellent presentation to help with your own work of catechesis.

Anyone can join the Guild of Our Lady & St. Joseph. We work to foster Catholic fellowship and provide a conduit for formation to all in the fullness of the Catholic faith. You can become a Guild member to enjoy regular updates, special access to catechetical material and regular events and meetings to build friendship and exchange ideas with other Catholics. Follow the Guild on Twitter @GOLStJ see our Facebook page an electronic version of the Guild application form is now available online together with electronic banking details. (

I hope to see you at a Guild event very soon, and please say a prayer for Bishop Mark.


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