Thursday, 31 January 2008

O Arabia Felix!

I've just returned from ten days in the Gulf, feeling jet-lagged from the night flight but also incredibly humbled and encouraged by the situation over there. Just to remind you: the Apostolic Vicariate of Arabia looks after the Catholics of Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Yemen. There are at least 2 million Catholics out there, half of whom are in the 'Forbidden Kingdom' of Saudi Arabia (where the Church is allowed no official activity). Relative religious freedom within a well-defined framework exists in all the other countries but there is a huge problem of adequate provision - 16 parishes and 55 priests to serve 2 million souls! That was the reason, I suppose, why I encountered such warm hospitality this last week.

Due to the delicate political situation, I have to be careful about the details I provide here. I spoke at a conference for those involved in catechesis and teaching. If such a meeting was held in England, you'd be lucky to get 100, but in the Gulf over 600 people attended the three day event. The atmosphere was electric - especially when, at the beginning of the conference, representatives from each community brought flags to the front of the hall (and I say 'community' since not all of them have access to a church).

One of the other speakers at the conference was Dr Petroc Willey, EWTN presenter and Deputy-Director of the amazing Maryvale Institute (which deserves to be better known). It was great to get to know him and help him celebrate his birthday last weekend. The Vicariate of Arabia uses the Echoes programme and some catechists are working for the Maryvale Certificate in Catechesis (MCC). Petroc also edits The Sower, which I've just subscribed to - I know of no other catechetical resource that is so reliable, well-produced and full of practical points. I recommend it to all priests, catechists and parishes!

On Tuesday night I did some work with the Abu Dhabi Young Adults Group. We reflected on the theme of vocation together and then went out to enjoy the nightime treat of Moroccan Tea and sheesha by the sea! Hmmm, I must do that with my parish's young adults group. One thing that came across from our conversation was that the biggest threat to the Faith out there is not so much fundamentalism but the increasingly materialist outlook of society, especially in places like Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The UK and UAE are perhaps not that dissimilar!

A few more posts and pictures to follow, especially when I get back to the parish at the weekend...



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey you met Petroc! i know he & his lovely family well...i stayed at Maryvale a few weeks back..& did a little post...the people there & sisters are so inspiring..

6:51 am  
Anonymous ukok said...

You are quite correct that Maryvale does indeed deserve to be better known! Last year I finished my 2 year long distance course in parish catechesis and enjoyed many a study day, retreat and conference at Maryvale over the last few years! My boss (I'm a dreaded parish secretary) /parish priest, also teaches at Maryvale.

12:04 am  

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