Catholic People's Week meet for last weekend of 2010

About 100 participants have enjoyed the last “family” Catholic People’s Week (CPW) of their 2010 programme at Downside School in Somerset, writes Ellen Teague.

They explored “Living baptismally: the art of discipleship” during the final week of August at an event chaired by Rebekah O’Keeffe and addressed by Fr Michael Kirwan of Heythrop College and Martin Foster of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.

The Downside week followed the usual CPW formula of a morning of study and reflection for adults, with young people following a lighter programme with young “helpers”. The mornings were rounded off with Mass. Afternoons were free and then there were evening sessions, followed by night prayers involving adults and children. Participants particularly enjoyed painting candles which were then given as gifts to one another.

All the liturgies were prepared by participants, liaising with the chaplain, and creative ideas explored. The new text of the Mass was examined with Martin Foster and then used in one of the Masses, for possibly the first time in Britain. The group generally felt Catholics in Britain would get used to it quite readily and respond positively.

This was one of nine CPW events held during 2010. Nearly 350 CPWs have been run since 1945, when the three founders – Reg Trevett, a Taunton teacher; Dom Ralph Russell, a monk at Downside Abbey, and John Todd, a co-founder of the religious publishing house Darton Longman and Todd – decided to create opportunities for lay Catholics to study theology and deepen their understanding of faith.

The Downside week was a family week for people of all ages, although some other events are adults only. The mixture of engaging talks and activities, prayer and socialising, in a community setting is clearly popular with many Catholic families and individuals.

The Benedictine monk and writer Sebastian Moore, who is now 92 and based at Downside Abbey, joined the group for one of its sessions and spoke about John Todd, whom he knew.

Todd had been a conscientious objector, working on the land around Somerset during the war, which brought him into contact with Downside. Fr Moore said he remembered the founding of Catholic People’s Weeks and was “delighted to see that they are still flourishing”.