The Christian Leadership Foundation, a charity founded by David Alton in 2012, has completed the first part of its new programme for young people in lower sixth forms. Fourteen young students – mostly 17 years old – met in late July at the Christian Heritage Centre at Stonyhurst for five days of debate, prayer, discussion and reflection. At the end, both they and their tutors were more fully grounded in Catholic moral teaching and in the ethical principles that underlie the Christian life as well as in the rhythm of structured prayer. They were also prepared by representatives from Catholic Voices for engagement with political groups and the media. We will be writing a full report in our October issue.
Lord Alton started the group with the intention of providing future Catholic leaders with the skills to engage in a world that is both secular and uncomprehending of Catholic values. One of the principles he emphasised in his introductory talk for the group was that of building bridges with potential allies. It’s hard to overstate the importance of this endeavour. If the Church is to continue to speak for the excluded, the vulnerable and the marginalised, and to spread the gospel in the fullest sense, the next generation of Catholics needs grounding in the foundations of the Church’s ethics and in the spiritual support that prayer offers.
Being a professed Catholic in public life, in any area, can be a lonely business. Fittingly, the programme is under the patronage of St Thomas More. Among the benefits of the summer course are getting to know other young Catholics and having their solidarity and friendship. Learning how to debate and communicate with others from different perspectives is a necessary skill; formerly the art of conveying the faith to others was known as apologetics and we badly need its equivalent now. Lord Alton is an exemplary Christian leader himself, championing in parliament the vulnerable and the persecuted all over the world. This is an imaginative and valuable initiative of his, supported by the English Catholic Union and St Mary’s University, Twickenham; if the young recruits have something of his courage and principle, we can be optimistic about the future of the Church in the next generation.
‘This article first appeared in the September 2021 issue of the Catholic Herald. Subscribe today
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