I have just had a weekend at the Maryvale Institute, and what a wonderful and hopeful experience it was.
The Maryvale Institute is an international catholic distance-learning college for catechesis, theology, philosophy and religious eduction. Maryvale House was for a time the home of Blessed John Henry Newman, and also a shrine of the Sacred Heart.
I stayed at Maryvale for what seems on the face of it the most dreary of reasons: a research methodology course. This is a requirement for the MA in Pastoral Theology that I am studying.
So what was so incredible about the weekend? It was the people and the place.
The Institute is international, and around fifty of us gathered, not just from England, but other parts of the world. There were about a dozen priests, religious sisters, a monk, and lots of enthusiastic lay people. It was a joy to meet them! How wonderful and stimulating it is to be with people who are so fired up by their faith. Fired up, but also willing to study with rigour. It was also very apparent that it was not a place just for the 'intellectual type', if you know what I mean. It was not a group of people who just liked intellectual challenges and could have done an MA in anything, but ordinary people who wanted to make the effort of deepening their understanding of the faith. And Maryvale helps us to do that. It was a glimpse of the wider church, of diverse people with many different gifts and character, all pulling together and supporting one another, and all searching for what God wanted them to be doing in His Church.
Maryvale House is also a very special place to be. I suspect there are two reasons for this. First that Blessed John Henry Newman lived and prayed there for a number of years. The altar in the chapel was where Newman celebrated his first mass in England after ordination in Rome. The aims and objectives of the Institute fit in very well with Newman's vision that I am confident that this is because of his prayer. The second reason it is a special place is because the Bridgettine nuns who live there and provide hospitality are also contemplatives. Their prayer, at the heart of the house, means it is a real living house of prayer. They sing their offices beautifully and showed wonderful care for us all. There is beauty and joy at the heart of the house.
And now we have heard (Dr Carolyn Farey received message from pope) that one of the member's of staff, Dr Carolyn Farey, received a message from the Holy Father himself on behalf of all those who transmit the faith! A tremendous honour for her, but also one for the Institute and its work. Her colleague, Dr Petroc Willey, is also in Rome as one of the other 'experts' working with the bishops on this Synod about New Evangelisation.
As you can tell I would recommend the Maryvale Institute for anyone who wants to deepen their faith. There are all sorts of distance learning courses ; why not look at the website and see if there is one for you? Maryvale website
There will also be an opportunity early in November for people to meet with Carolyn as she will be visiting Torbay. More details soon.