Year of Faith and opportunity

Andrew O’Connell assesses the event, which closed last Sunday

My heart sank a few weeks ago when I read a report from a meeting of priests. They had discussed the Year of Faith and concluded that it was a non-event.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. There’s an understandable degree of fatigue at this stage around these special ‘Years of’ – we’ve had several in the last decade alone. The fact that it came from Rome also meant it was never going to be very popular with some. 

The Year of Faith was an initiative that sought to address a dramatic phenomenon of our time – the crisis of faith. Many people – including members of our own families and circles of friends – have lost faith in the possibility of God. Others, who have kept the Faith, find the current environment challenging and, at times, intimidating.


I spent a lot of time this year speaking at Year of Faith gatherings around the country. The crowds that turned out in Monaghan and Mallow, Ennis and Enniskillen, Gorey and Carlow, were quite impressive. Yes, these events were attended primarily by ‘the faithful’ but, after the experience of recent decades, ‘the faithful’ need to be encouraged and supported too. Events which gather people together and generate a strong sense of community and solidarity are very necessary.

I was also involved in a special programme of activities with the Presentation Brothers that approached the Year of Faith as an opportunity to reach out and evangelise.

Young adults

The year started with a concert of sacred music with Fuaimlaoi, a talented group of musicians and singers who specialise in liturgical music. The concert sought to introduce young adults with whom the Brothers work to the theme of finding God in beauty, particularly in the beauty of music. This, of course, was a favoured theme of Pope Benedict. In January, there was a day-long visit from the papal nuncio who visited several projects in Cork and met and prayed with groups of teenagers and lay people involved in education. 

One of the goals of the year was to re-emphasise the faith dimension of the Brothers’ youth ministry outreaches. In June dozens of teenagers from SHARE, a youth charity dedicated to helping the elderly of Cork, participated in the annual Corpus Christi procession through the city centre. In July they travelled to Croagh Patrick for the Reek Sunday pilgrimage.

‘Mondays at the Monastery’, a new series with a focus on catechesis, started at the Brothers’ house in Dublin. Michael Kelly, of this parish, opened the programme which included the Alpha course, and screenings of Fr Robert Barron’s excellent Catholicism DVD series.

There was also a special Year of Faith pilgrimage to the Holy Land and, last weekend, a gathering of the Presentation Family with a focus on sharing mission with lay people, in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council.

Now that it’s over it’s a pity to hear it described as a non-event. It didn’t change the world but this was a great year, full of potential and opportunity.

For those who chose to do something, it was indeed a year of faith and, for those who still believe in such things, a year of grace. 


What’s another year?

The life of the Church has been animated by these special years of reflection. The grottos which dot the countryside remind us of the Marian Year of 1954.

There was also the Patrician Year of 1961, the Holy Year of 1975, the Year of Redemption (1983/4) and the 1987 Marian Year.

The last 15 years, however, have been especially busy.

The three years leading to the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 were dedicated to Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Then there was the Year of the Rosary (2002/3) followed by the Year of the Eucharist (2004/5).

After the Year of St Paul (2008/9) came the Year for Priests (2009/2010). Thatís before you count the Year of Vocation in Ireland (2008/9) and the preparation programme leading to the 2012 Eucharistic Congress.

Like them or not, there is probably agreement that itís time to take a short rest now!


Year of Justice

It would be exciting to see what creative energies might be unleashed if we were to have a Year of Justice or a Year of Charity at some stage. It could provide a great incentive for fresh initiatives to emerge. It would also be an opportunity to explore the social teaching of the Church and the sometimes complicated relationship between charity, justice and faith.

A lot of good might flow from it, particularly if there was some consultation and planning beforehand.