Thursday, February 08, 2024

Oxford Oratory celebrates uptick in adults received into Catholic Church

Chris Deerin on X: "The beautiful Oxford Oratory Church of St Aloysius  Gonzaga, once graced by Cardinal Newman & Gerald Manley Hopkins" / X

The Oxford Oratory reports that an increase in adults seeking to be received into the Catholic Church means that it has had to start special classes to cater for the influx, and that as a result the Oratory has been responsible for 5 per cent of such application requests within its relevant Archdiocese during 2023.

By the end of summer 2023, the Oratory had received over 20 adults seeking baptism, reception or confirmation in the Catholic Church. As a result of the uptick, for the first time the Oratory started weekly classes in October, taking the group through the key points of the Creed and the Christian life. 

“For whatever reason, the grace of God is leading more people to seek the fullness of truth in the Catholic Church than we have experienced in previous years,” the Oratory notes on its website. 

Whenever an adult in Oxford is ready to become a Catholic, the fathers at the Oratory have to request the Archbishop’s delegation to baptise or receive the person in his name: it is the privilege of a bishop, as father of his diocese, to baptise adults and receive Christians from other churches into Full Communion with the Catholic Church.

But as the Church has grown over the centuries, the Oratory notes, it is rarely possible for the bishop to do all baptisms, etc., by himself. The subsequent permissions given out to priests by the Archdiocese are all numbered, which enabled the Oratory to see how many had been granted in total during the year of 2023 – and thereby to see its own unexpected impact.  

“In England, the Oratory has always specialised in the instruction of converts,” it says, noting that the first fathers of the Birmingham and London Oratories were, famously, converts from the Church of England, under the leadership of St John Henry Newman. 

“This history surely left some mark on our own consciousness, and has formed the way in which we approach this important aspect of our work.”

The Oratory speaks of how St Philip “used his friendliness with individuals to bring about dramatic conversions, rather than preaching to great crowds in the street” and “would approach people and speak to them one to one”.

As a result, the Oratory says it has usually tried to put St Philip’s methods “into practice ourselves” when preparing new Catholics under its responsibility. So rather than Catechesis taking place in an RCIA class, usually it has occurred in weekly one-to-one sessions. But the numbers of those seeking to be received into the Church meant it was “impossible to see everyone by themselves for an hour each week”, resulting in the Oratory starting Catholic formation classes.

An unexpected “but wonderful outcome of the classes”, the Oratory notes, has been the many friendships that have formed between attendees. This has been especially helped by being “blessed by the presence of many Americans who are not afraid to start a conversation with new people”.

With the first series of classes having ended, most of the participants will receive the sacraments on Saturday, 10 February, at 11 a.m. (people are invited to “come along and support them”, the Oratory says). 

The next series of classes has begun already, and there is a similar number preparing to receive the sacraments in June 2024.

The Oratory highlights how the Catholic Church has been at the heart of the city of Oxford, since its roots in the early abbeys and friaries – and from which the University developed – and through the Oxford Movement and the many conversions from the Church of England:

“In the Church today, our city is exceptional in our country and the world for the number of religious habits that can be seen in the streets, and the growing number of young people who practise their faith with inspiring commitment and devotion.”

Not only is it a “great privilege” to share the Faith with others, the Oratory notes, “but there is a message to us in this growth of the Church” that can be attested to and witnessed in Oxford today:

“Whatever else may be happening in the world, God never ceases to call his children back to himself. And it is a great joy to be there and welcome them when they answer that call.”