SATURDAY: Fun and faith at our Youth Day!

A day of faith and fun for children p4-p7 takes place at The Gillis Centre in Edinburgh on Saturday 25 November.

Join us as we unpack Jesus the King of the Universe and prepare in the best way for Christmas.

We'll have games, activities, sweets as well as talks, an opportunity for confession and Holy Mass with Archbishop Cushley.

It takes place from 11:00am to 3:30pm at The Gillis Centre, 100 Strathearn Road, Edinburgh, EH9 1BB. Registration from 10:30am.

To attend, simply register your child with Fr Martin Eckersley at frmartin.eckersley@staned.org.uk. Please also bring along a completed consent form.

Parents/guardians are welcome to drop off kids with the completed consent form or stay and join the fun!

Diploma in Catechetics: Register now

The Diploma in Catechetics is the perfect opportunity to learn more about the Catholic faith in 2024.

Get ready to explore the richness and depth of the Catholic spiritual tradition with course leader Sr Miriam Ruth Ryan RSM.

What students say

Here is feedback from some of our current 2023 students:

Incredibly informative. I have developed a much greater understanding of sacred scripture and liturgy, which has enhanced my faith and prayer life. Thank you! - Jimmy Adamson, Coaltown of Wemyss

This course has been a joyous learning experience about my Catholic Faith. - Hazel Kay, Kingussie

The Diploma has deepened my knowledge and has made His Holy presence alive and real. I wish this course was mandatory for all Catholics. - Gretta Bourke, Ireland

Read further testimonies from former students here.

Course leader

Sr Miriam Ruth Ryan is a Religious Sister of Mercy, of Alma, Michigan. She is based at St Margaret's Convent in Ravelston, Edinburgh. She is the Catechetics Advisor for the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh. She is joined by a selection of clergy and lay people who will deliver the course each week

FAQs

How much doe the course cost? The cost is £200. However, register now for a 20% discount (pay £160). If cost is preventing you from registering, don't worry! Contact Sr Miriam Ruth for a confidential chat - we want everyone to have access to the course. Bursaries available. srmiriam.ruth@staned.org.uk 

Do I have to sit an exam? No. Each module concludes with a one-to-one session with one of the course leaders. In the meeting, you’ll have a chance to talk about what you’ve learnt and ask any questions that weren’t answered in the lecture.

Do I need to buy course material? No. We do recommend you have a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is available free online.

Do I need to be Catholic to take part? No, all are welcome to explore the Catholic faith in this course.

Is the course difficult? Like any course, some elements will be challenging. That's why we have gathered a range of speakers who are experienced in simplifying difficult concepts in an engaging way. Plus, each session has a Q&A section where you can ask the speaker to clarify any concepts.

Can I take part if I'm not in the Archdiocese? Everyone is welcome to take part regardless of where you are based.

What if I miss a session? No problem, each session is recorded and available online the following day allowing you to catch up.

How do I log in to sessions? The course leader Sr Miriam Ruth will send you a link by email each week that you simply click to enter the session.

I've never used Zoom! Don't worry, we can help set you up. It's a simple process.

How do I register? Register on Eventbrite here.

I have more questions! Please get in touch for a chat. Email srmiriam.ruth@staned.org.uk 

 

Archdiocesan Youth Day!

A day of faith and fun for p4-7s on Saturday 25 November.

Join us as we unpack Jesus the King of the Universe and explore how we can prepare to meet our King this Christmas.

Games, talks, sweets, confessions, Mass and more! 10:30am to 3:30pm at the Gillis Centre, 100 Strathearn Road, Edinburgh. Speak to your parish priest to register.

Here is the consent form for parents (Word document) to give to the parish priest.

Question? Contact you parish priest or email Fr Martin Eckersley at frmartin.eckersley@staned.org.uk  

Special event underway at St Mary's Cathedral

A special series of talks takes place at St Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh beginning on Monday! Register here.

In this video Mgr Patrick Burke takes a deep dive into the background and aim of the event: to help bring us closer to Jesus, by exploring the Gospel of Mark.

A View from Within: Justice & the Prison Service

People with experience of the prison system in Scotland share their stories. Details and registration here.

MISSIO: Faith triumphs after brutal 2019 suicide bombings

On Easter Sunday in 2019 death entered the lives of the parishioners attending Mass in St Sebastian’s Church in Katuwapitiya, Sri Lanka, writes Gerard Gough of Missio Scotland.

It also entered the lives of those present at the Shrine of St Anthony in Kotahena, the Zion Church in Battacloa, three hotels in Colombo and the Tropical Inn guest house in Dehiwala.

The suicide bombings resulted in the deaths of 269 people and injured at least 500 more.

Fr Basil Rohan Fernando, the National Director of PMS (Missio) Sri Lanka, above, was made aware of the terrorist attacks by a fellow priest over the phone as he was driving home from Mass.

Shocked and shaken, he made it home, but no sooner had he done so, he set off for St Sebastian’s to be with the people there.

The smell of flesh

“I have never experienced anything like it,” Fr Basil said. “The closer you got to the church, the more you could smell the (burnt) flesh of people.

"It was hard to get too close because of the smell and the fact that there were body parts everywhere.

"They tried to cover them, but they couldn’t. The whole church was like that, covered in blood.

“I couldn’t stay there for too long, so then I went to the hospital. There were injured people everywhere.

"When I was seated, some of the parents would say: ‘Father can you go and bless my child?” What those parents didn’t know was that their child was already dead.

"A husband asked me to bless his wife, but again, he didn’t know that she had passed away.

"In one instance only the mother survived, her three children and her husband had died. At that time, nobody knew who had survived and who had died. There were so many bodies.

"In another case, among the dead bodies, one lady raised her hand to signal that she was alive.

"Everyone that they presumed dead were sent to the mortuary and in there, this lady cried out: ‘I am alive!’.

"There were so many difficult interactions that most human beings won’t experience.”

Aftermath

Fr Basil explained to myself and my colleague Andrea during our recent mission trip to the country that the attacks have left an ‘open wound’ among many Sri Lankans.

This is not merely due to the lives lost, but because of the suspicion of the government’s involvement in and subsequent cover-up of the attacks that exists among the general populace, something which Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo has himself alluded to.

However, the purpose of this feature is not to focus on potential black-ops and the nefariousness of politicians in Sri Lanka, there are those far more informed and qualified to write about that than myself.

Rather, given that the Missio Scotland team was taken to St Sebastian’s Church and the surrounding areas, I’d like to share with you some of the stories, both harrowing and uplifting from our visit there.

Sad stories

Upon arriving through the gates of St Sebastian’s, the church instantly comes into view and despite having been restored to its original splendour, my mind was cast back four years to the events of that day and the image of this largely destroyed Catholic place of worship.

Yet while restorations have taken place, parts of the church that were affected by the blast that day and have been left untouched to serve as a poignant and powerful memory of those who perished in the blast.

A glass panel on the floor marks the spot—literally—where the bomber struck, while one of the church’s columns contains the pockmarks left by the ball-bearings packed into the bomb.

Perhaps the most moving reminder, however—and one of the most unique, impactful depictions of Our Lord I have ever seen in my life—sits at the right-hand side of the altar, a statue of the Risen Jesus covered in blast marks and the blood of the victims.

As a family prayed near the statue, I couldn’t help but see this as anything other than a stark, visual image of those who were killed because of their Faith on the image of the Son of God who gave His life for us.

Outside of the church, Fr Basil gave us a far greater insight into the bombing and its aftermath.

He told us how the suicide-bomber exploded the bomb at the doorway, which actually saved lives, for had he made it to the centre of the church, many more people would have died.

He outlined how one entire family was wiped out by the attack and that their house has remained locked ever since.

He detailed the story of an artistic young girl, from a largely Muslim family, who would attend Mass with her Catholic grandmother and sadly lost her life that day.

Her mother shared with us a drawing that she did of Jesus, two days prior to the attack, with His arm around her, which also read: ‘Jesus takes us to His Kingdom.’

Many people now visit that girl’s family home to say a quite prayer in front of her photo.

And he spoke of the tragic tale of a baby, who lost its mother in the bombing, trying to latch onto her father to breastfeed from him.

Visiting the nearby cemetery was no less emotional.

Seeing the graves of whole families buried next to one another was tremendously sad, as was the grave of a little boy who didn’t manage to see his first birthday.

Sights like those really stop you in your tracks and move you to tears.

Coming together in Faith

It was at the cemetery, however, that Fr Basil also told of some of the uplifting stories that have arisen from the tragedy.

Missio Scotland and Missio England and Wales together provided the funds to build a memorial chapel in the cemetery, something that Cardinal Ranjith had stated that he wanted to see erected.

Opened on the first anniversary of the attacks, the Chapel of the Heroes of Faith was officially opened by the cardinal and provides a place of prayer and solace for the families visiting their loved ones’ graves.

“I’d like to thank Fr Vincent Lockhart of Missio Scotland and Fr Anthony Chantry of Missio England and Wales for their support,” Fr Basil said.

“As soon as they heard about the project, there was no need for any discussion, they helped out immediately.

"The chapel has now been built and we pray that in 2024—the fifth anniversary of the blast—the Holy Father will officially recognise the victims as martyrs and if he does, this chapel will be known as The Chapel of the Martyrs. I am very proud of how the PMS in Scotland and England and Wales supported its construction.”

The building of the chapel has proved pivotal in the Sri Lankan Church being able to support the victims in as wide a sense as possible.

The fact that Missio Scotland and Missio England and Wales had provided funds for the chapel meant that the Church in Sri Lanka could divert their attention and funds elsewhere, which they duly did. Scholarships were provided for children affected by the bombings.

The medical bills of those injured were paid for, including one woman who required 24-hour care and had a personal nurse.

New houses were built and provided free of charge for those families who were severely affected by the bombings—those who had lost their main breadwinner for example.

The Missio Scotland team and Fr Basil were treated to Sr Lanka’s national drink—tea—by a family who now inhabit one of these houses.

Now Scots love our tea, but these cuppas were particularly special and it wasn’t just the beverage that was heart-warming, but seeing the people living in these new houses and thriving once again was a beautiful sight.

As we left the new estate and headed back to the grounds of St Sebastian’s Church, many people had arrived in our absence, some to visit the memorial to their loved ones, some to pray silently in the restored church and some just to sit in the courtyard chatting with friends and family, watching their children run and play and relaxing in a balmy June evening.

This church in Katuwapitiya and the Church in Sri Lanka are full of life once again. Death may have interrupted the lives of Catholics in the country, but their Faith has seen them triumph over death, like the Risen Lord Himself.

To donate to Missio Scotland, visit: https://www.missioscotland.com/donate call us on: 01236 449774 or send donations to: Missio Scotland, St. Andrews, 4 Laird Street, Coatbridge ML5 3LJ. You can also now donate to us via text. Text MISSIOSCOT to 70085 to donate £3 or MISSIOSCOT with any number between 1-20 after it to donate your desired amount (For example MISSIOSCOT 10 will donate £10). Thank You. Archbishop Leo Cushley is Missio Scotland President.

Register now for the Diploma in Catechetics 2023!

Register now for our Diploma in Catechetics which begins in January!

It's a great way to explore the richness and depth of the Catholic spiritual tradition with course leader Sr Anna Marie.

She and a range of guest speakers bring you weekly lectures, with guided reading, conversations, retreats, and supplementary courses available.

Need to know

FAQs

Do I have to sit an exam? No. Each module concludes with a one-to-one session with one of the course leaders. In the meeting, you’ll have a chance to talk about what you’ve learnt and ask any questions that weren’t answered in the lecture.

Do I need to buy course material? No. We do recommend you have a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is available free online.

Do I need to be Catholic to take part? No, all are welcome to explore the Catholic faith in this course.

Is the course difficult? Like any course, some elements will be challenging. That's why we have gathered a range of speakers who are experienced in simplifying difficult concepts in an engaging way with. Plus, each session has a Q&A session where you can ask the speaker to to clarify anything you might still have questions about.

Can I take part if I'm not in the Archdiocese? Everyone is welcome to take part regardless of where you are based.

What if I miss a session? No problem, each session is recorded and available online the following day allowing you to catch up.

How do I log in to sessions? Sr Anna Marie will send you a link by email each week that you simply click to enter the session.

I've never used Zoom! Don't worry, we can help set you up. It's a simple process.

How do I register? Register on Eventbrite here.

I have more questions! Please get in touch for a chat. Email sranna.marie@staned.org.uk

Testimonials

Here's what previous students have said about the course:

“A life changer, I learnt so much and it really deepened my faith. I can’t recommend it enough.” - Margo Saliba, Edinburgh

“The diploma in catechetics is invaluable, there is no one who I wouldn't recommend this course to!” - Sarah Schuler, Edinburgh

“I recommend this course to anyone who will listen; it has given me a thirst for knowledge and, hopefully, has made me a better person.” - Peter McCaffery, Cowdenbeath

“Our faith explored. Go deeper with this highly enjoyable course.” - Janice Mary Evans, Falkirk.

“The Diploma in Catechetics really stirred up my faith and has given me a thirst to delve even deeper into the riches of our beautiful catechism.” - Brenda Drumm, Ireland

“Inspirational. You won’t want to miss a session. Please give it a go - it’s a course for everyone.” - Liz Brown, Edinburgh

“As a ‘cradle Catholic,’ this diploma helped to enable me to develop my Faith and deepen my understanding of scripture.” - Gwen Gemmell, Dunfermline

“So interesting that I wish there was a 2nd year of study. I can’t thank the presenters enough for their sessions. I urge all interested Catholics to give this a go.” - Ian Neilson, Glasgow

“Really enjoyed this and would recommend it to anyone. The classes are made very welcoming and inspiring, (even on zoom) by the wonderful speakers. The family of God has a whole new meaning now. Thank you to all involved.” - Anne Collins, Kilsyth

"The speakers' commitment, knowledge and delivery of the Catholic faith has been illuminating and transformative throughout a period that has challenged many of us. Sincere thanks." - Anne Marie Docherty, Linlithgow.

Register for the Diploma in Catechetics 2022 here.

 

Why and How to Pray - 6 Ways to Grow

Sister Anna Marie continues to speak on faith and prayer via Zoom for all the deaneries of the Archdiocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh.

Originally planned to be held in parishes within the deaneries, the talks are now held via Zoom to conform with pandemic guidelines.

This coming Monday, 9th November, parishioners from churches in the Falkirk and Stirling deanery are encouraged to sign up.  Invite friends and family to join.  If you missed your deanery, you too can sign up - don't let the opportunity to go deeper in faith pass you by!

Please email SrAnna.Marie@staned.org.uk to register for the 2 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. session.

This Monday on Zoom: Making Prayer Work

We all know prayer isn't easy, but we also know it's necessary.  What is a fruitful way to approach it?

Sr Anna Marie McGuan, RSM, invites you to take part in a Zoom session titled Life of Faith: Where does Prayer fit in?

The 45 minute talk will give you tips on improving your prayer life to help you draw closer to God, and will be followed by a Q&A. To make it as accessible as possible, she will host a session for parishioners in each deanery.  See below for the dates for your area.

Her podcast, Scripture and the Spiritual Life, has hundreds of followers and can be downloaded onto your smart phone, or listened to here.

Deanery | Date

She said: “I wanted to offer a session for each deanery so that as many people as possible can take part and to keep it local. The purpose of these Zoom sessions is to help people in their prayer life, to find meaning and purpose through the habit of prayer."

Sr Anna Marie, a Religious Sister of Mercy, is working in catechesis and faith formation for the Archdiocese. She grew up near Chicago and entered the religious life in 2003. She has a licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome.

The event is part of the Commission for Catechetics programme for 2020/21, led by Fr Daniel Doherty, Vicar Episcopal for Catechetics. He said: "We're delighted to have Sr Anna Marie on board to offer a wide range of online talks over the coming months. I know many Catholics in our Archdiocese are keen to grow in prayer. So our commission wanted to respond by offering accessible faith formation for adults."

Sr Anna Marie will host more talks in 2021, covering baptism/confirmation, reconciliation/eucharist and Holy Mass.

To register for the first event only (Fife Deanery, Mon 26th Oct), please email SrAnna.Marie@staned.org.uk, stating which session you want to take part in, 2pm or 7pm. Registration details for the other deanery events will be published in due course.

'It's a privilege to be invited to defend the Church and its teachings'

Many Catholics faithful to the teachings of the Church can face hostility in their daily lives. So how do we find the courage to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in these difficult times? Author and speaker Dr Janet Smith spoke about the big issues ahead of her lecture in Edinburgh on Thursday.

How hard is it for ordinary Catholics to defend their faith in these difficult times?
It is difficult because Christianity and especially Catholicism is so counter cultural. Jesus expects people to see things very differently from the culture and to live in ways our culture simply doesn't understand. On the other hand, those who faithfully live by Church teaching generally have more stable lives, greater purpose and happiness of a deep and abiding kind. That is attractive in its own right. They also have mountains of troubles but have more resources to deal with them. But we do have a particularly hard time defending the Church for the sex abuse crisis and the cover-up. We have a hard time understanding it ourselves.

Do you think Catholics have generally been too timid proclaiming the gospel?
Oh yes. I think few Catholics know how to even strike up a conversation about the faith with others, myself pretty much included in that.

Why do you think that is?
I think it is undeniable that we have never been encouraged to do so or taught to do so. Universalism, or the belief that all go to heaven, certainly takes the steam out of the need to convert people. We don't fear for the eternal salvation of ourselves or others, even terrible sinners. The growing belief in the equality of all religions in another factor - many think people's allegiance to this religion or that is largely circumstantial and not a result of very different and incompatible beliefs. It seems condescending and rude to act as though we have a "corner" on the truth and as though ours is the one true Church among many false churches. The belief that Catholics view all other religions as "false" is, of course, a caricature, but few Catholics can explain why it is.  Generations of Catholics have been very inadequately formed in the faith and don't know the answers to questions which people might ask.

What inspired you to speak on the theme for Thursday’s event?
Several factors, foremost among them, the sex abuse crisis. I haven't seen studies reporting hard data on how many Catholics have left the faith (because of this) but it is widely believed that there have been many. It is also fascinating to me how many Catholics I know are more determined than ever to stay and that we are significantly increasing our prayer time and generally focusing more and more on deepening our relationship with the Lord and simply trusting God. Other factors are the rapid disintegration of any common values; the division is great and growing greater between those who, for instance, put a high priority on satisfying the demands of people who wish to have sex with members of their own sex and those who seek to transform themselves into a gender other than their biological gender and those who hold to traditional views of marriage and who accept scientific studies on the nature of gender. Another factor is the hostility of some forms of some religions to Christianity and the unprecedented persecution of Christians in some nations, even nations historically founded on Christianity. The next many decades are going to be horrific battlegrounds and we need to prepare.

What one piece of advice would you give to Catholics when confronted with hostility for their beliefs?
Smile and offer to have a discussion about whatever issue is the source of hostility - offer to read anything they wish you to read (within reason) and ask them to read something you offer and then schedule a time to talk. Always be willing to dialogue.

You address difficult subjects head on. Where do you find your own courage to do this?
I suspect it is much more a matter of temperament than courage. I like challenges, I love, love, love my Church and its unbelievably beautiful teachings, traditions, and thorough engagement with the most challenging intellectual matters. I am proud of the Church for being the biggest provider of charitable services worldwide and that it insists that we all have a heart for the poor, the persecuted, the sick - in short, those vulnerable in any way.

Dr Janet Smith (Catholic Telegraph)

I find the Church's explanation for the evil in the world and its sacramental aids for resisting and overcoming evil, the only satisfying one.  I find it a great privilege to be invited to defend the Church and its teachings; they make sense to me and I delight when others come to see that they are intelligible and true. And the issues I address are connected in many ways - most have to do with a misuse of the sublime gift of human sexuality.

From audience feedback, what are some of the main concerns of ordinary Catholics in the US?
The current new concern is whether they can encourage their sons to enter the priesthood, whether they can trust their bishops, whether they should continue providing financial support when they have grave concerns how their donations have been and will be used.

Can you tell us a bit about your own faith background?
I was raised in a home where Catholicism was simply accepted as our faith - we went to mass every Sunday, said grace at Sunday meals, received the sacraments, and faithfully went to catechism classes.  I never attended Catholic schools.  My devotion to Catholicism started when I learned that the Church opposed abortion - I had become opposed to it for scientific and philosophical reasons and realised the Church was more faithful to both disciplines than the secular world. I started public speaking against abortion when I was in graduate school and after I realised how much a contraceptive culture was behind the "need" for abortion, I studied the Church's teaching on contraception and the rest follows from that. Seven years ago I became a consecrated virgin and love that dimension of my life.

What do you enjoy most about speaking in public?
Several things. I love it when people are persuaded that the Church's teaching on challenging and unpopular issues is true.  I love the Q&A for the spontaneity. I like it a lot when people laugh at my jokes! And it is tremendously gratifying when people thank me for helping them become more Catholic -- to love Jesus and his Church more.

Dr Janet Smith: The Courage to Proclaim the Gospel in Difficult Times, is on at the Gillis Centre, Edinburgh, on Thursday, 7:30pm. The event is free - click here to register.