New Heart – New Spirit is a course for adult Christians which was offered for the first time in Clogher Diocese in 2003. The course was developed by All Hallows College, Dublin, in 1985 in response to the needs expressed by many lay people for further faith development and for some skills training in the area of ministry in parishes. Originally entitled ‘Preparing for Lay Ministry’, and later ‘Preparing for Ministries’, in All Hallows it is now known as the ‘Pathways’ Programme. Over 1500 people have participated in the programme over the years, and the content has been reviewed and updated on a continual basis.
In 2002 an approach was made to All Hallows College concerning the possibility of providing an outreach of this programme to Clogher Diocese. The coordinator suggested that a group from Clogher ‘come and see’ with a view to setting up the course locally. Preparations for setting up a parallel programme in Monaghan were begun in January 2003. The programme has since completed five runs in Clogher Diocese: 2003/2005 – Monaghan, 2005/2007 – Tempo, 2007/2009 Castleblayney and Irvinestown, 2009/2011 Trillick, Co Tyrone and Smithborough, Co Monaghan, 2011/2013 Belleek, Co. Fermanagh and Carrickmacross Co. Monaghan. 250 participants have graduated to date.
Why the change of name? The 2002 title ‘Preparing for Ministries’ was felt to imply that this was a course which offered training for particular forms of ministry in the Church. While the programme certainly helps participants to identify needs at local level and prepares them to work in their parishes as part of a collaborative team, it does not provide specific training for individual forms of ministry. The All Hallows Team encouraged us to choose our own title – related to the purpose of the course.
The title ‘New Heart – New Spirit’ is drawn from the prophet Ezekiel (36:26): “I shall give you a new heart, and put a new spirit in you”. This was the promise of Yahweh to a people who were disheartened and disillusioned, who had been let down by their leaders and exiled from their homeland. Our Church is today facing many difficult challenges, and some of us may have become confused or disillusioned. ‘New Heart – New Spirit’ is designed primarily to encourage and renew us in our faith and to help us participate more fully in the life of the Church. For many that may lead to ministry in their parishes or communities. For all we hope it will provide personal enrichment and new insights into whatever work they are already involved in.
Act justly, love tenderly, walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8) In communion with our All Hallows colleagues we draw from the prophet Micah our prayer for all who participate in our programme – that during our time together we will come to act a little more justly, to love a little more tenderly and to walk a little more humbly with our God. We hope that we may hear God call us by name, come to know how special and beloved we really are and develop a renewed sense of our unique part in making the Kingdom of God a reality in our place at this time.