I am a part-time research MA student, writing a thesis with the working title Towards a Theology of Decline: The Paschal Trajectory of Church Reform and Renewal.
My studies are firmly rooted within Catholic theology, exploring ecclesiological ideas that might be fruitful for a diminishing institutional church. I am primarily interested in how paradigmatic the full arc of the Paschal Mystery (notably, through death) is for an ecclesiology of institutional church decline. So far, I have been studying the publicly published restructuring plans of fourteen English and Welsh Roman Catholic Dioceses, as well as the thought of Karl Rahner. My involvement with the CCS has certainly been pivotal to my thinking.
Having spent nearly ten years as the Director of small to medium-sized charities and social enterprises, and after exploring a call to full time ministry within the Church, first as a Jesuit novice, I arrived in Durham in October 2017 to do a Graduate Diploma in Theology. I withdrew from this to begin the MA by Research. I have a first degree in History and Economics from Oxford University, though long enough ago that arriving in Durham I was certainly academically a little rusty.
My studies in Durham are part of a wider programme of formation. After deciding during the Spiritual Exercises that God is not currently calling me to an ordained vocation within the Catholic Church, I am following a programme of formation covering human, pastoral, spiritual and intellectual areas. There does not seem any better place to be formed intellectually within the Catholic tradition than the CCS in Durham.
I have greatly benefitted from being part of the Department and also the Centre for Catholic Studies this year. With my Jesuit background, Heythrop would naturally have been a home for lay formation, but the CCS has matched and surpassed my expectations. I have enjoyed a fairly active role in the CCS and department during the past year, auditing MA classes with Karen Kilby and Paul Murray, attending research seminars and also the conferences on Suffering, Diminishment and the Christian Life, for the 10th Anniversary of the CCS, and the 450th Anniversary of the founding of Ushaw. It was also an honour to be able to give a short paper on my studies at the CTA's annual conference last autumn.
I believe I have a vocation to serve the Church, currently as a layperson, most especially in using any gifts to help the Church navigate these changing times. Beyond the University, I have lived at both St Anthony’s Priory and Minsteracres for parts of this year, have been exploring the establishment of an intentional lay community within the North East, based upon the Catholic Worker, and was invited by Bishop Seamus to become a young representative on Council of the Laity. How I follow my vocational path after formal studies end is an open question but I am very glad for my time studying in Durham and the scholarship support offered.
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