Yesterday I was at St Mary’s University for a Theology of the Body conference. The day started at 9.15 with adoration in the chapel, I was able to get there for the last 10 minutes, just before morning prayer.
When registering I bumped into lots of familiar, friendly faces. Dr Ant Towey was one of the organisers of the day, he was there with his lovely family. I met Matt and Esther from the Sion Community Youth Mission team, Margaret from the School of the Annunciation, Deacon Paul Gately from Weybridge, who was with his wife Pauline, together they lecture on bioethics on the diaconate formation course, Joanna who is the assistant director of diaconate formation in Northampton and none less than the glorious Dame Joanna Bogle.
Dr Towey led us in prayers for the day, and in prayers for the repose of the soul of Fr Dominic Rolls and for the wellbeing of Fr Alexander Sherbrooke of St Patrick’s Soho.
Our first keynote speaker was Bishop John Keenan who was so engaging from the start I suddenly noted that the people either side of me were scribbling notes furiously whereas was simply listening, so I started writing. At the conference we were given an A5 note pad, of the six pages I filled, the thing Bishop Keenan said that most struck me, and I think others in the room due to the reaction was “Shame is a gift that stops us hurting others”. I cannot wait for the arguments against.
After coffee we were treated, and I mean treated, to Canon Luiz Ruscillo. He is the head of Education Services for the Diocese of Lancaster. He spoke us about the Theology of the Body within the Mission of the Catholic School. His talk was lively, engaging, accessible to this average intellect and again, led to pages of scribbled notes.
Catholic Voices speaker and director of Pure in Heart UK Fiona Mansford followed. She showed us (as Catholic Voices tell us, ‘show, don’t tell’) ways to present the ethos of the Theology of the Body to hormonal teenagers.
After lunch we had the choice of four workshops on sharing your testimony, evangelising through sex education, marriage preparation with integrated Theology of the Body and sharing good teaching practice. I went to the latter two.
The sharing good teaching practice was particularly good. It was led by the head of PHSE in a Westminster school and the head of RE in an A&B school. Both chaps shared what they had found to work, and why, and what they had found not to work, and why. But at the same time, it was rather fun.
After being introduced via Youtube to the work of Jonathan Doyle , we had a question and answer session with Bishop John, Fiona Mansford and our Head of RE. Dr Towey did ask us for questions and not speeches, but some people misunderstood.
Dame Joanna (she didn’t) asked the panel how we can recruit more Catholic teachers. My concern is retaining the good ones. Of those I know who have left a big part of the problem for them personally is the amount of Catholics who think they can do a better job without the knowledge or coal face experience.
Just before the closing prayer we were, shall we say treated, to the advice of someone who had been invited to speak but was unable to attend the whole day. I understand he was delighted to see just how popular the day was.
It was an excellent day in all possible ways and I’ll be keeping a regular look out for more. We were given a list of resources which I could share, but instead, I’d strongly recommend you look to attend a Theology of the Body workshop.
In the meantime, I learned about this on Wednesday, thanks to Margaret, and I have registered to attend.