As a Registered Nurse, I am required to maintain a portfolio of evidence in support of my professional practice and to demonstrate Continuing Professional Development (CPD). Over the years, I have attended many conferences and study events in order to develop and inform my practice, collecting the pre-requisite CPD certificates.
I am also a convert to Catholicism, having been baptised and received into the Church at Easter 2017. Although my personal faith journey started some years ago, I feel that I still have much to learn, both in terms of my knowledge and understanding of the Catholic Faith and of my role within the Church, hence the link to continuing development!
When the Bishopric of the Forces extended the invitation to attend Adoremus in Liverpool, 7 to 9 Sep 2018, I was keen to take advantage. I felt that the event would provide an opportunity for education, fellowship and personal spiritual development, and I was not disappointed. As a serving soldier, I feel that belonging to the Bishopric is an important part of my Catholic identity and it was a privilege to attend the event in uniform.
The event was split over three days: a symposium exploring the place of Eucharistic Adoration, followed by a congress reflecting on the centrality of the Eucharist, culminating in a pilgrimage and outdoor Eucharistic procession on the final day.
As the symposium was oversubscribed, I was free on the first day to participate in one of the many fringe events held across Liverpool. I went to St Francis Xavier Church for mass in the Lady Chapel, followed by a screening of the first episode of ‘Broken’, a recent series featuring Sean Bean as a priest in a poor northern parish. This was followed by ‘Q&A’ with the series’ creator, Jimmy McGovern. The church itself is beautiful, and it was a pleasure to be welcomed to participate in the mass there. I found ‘Broken’ to be a moving depiction of ordinary people struggling with poverty. It was a sympathetic portrayal of a good priest striving to help those in his parish. McGovern explained his title as referring to ‘broken’ humanity and the strength we can find at our weakest point. It proved to be a poignant introduction to the weekend.
By day two, I was in tow with Fr Philip Smith and his posse of helpers. Fr Smith had identified Adoremus as a great opportunity for raising the profile of the Bishopric within the wider Catholic community, so with a 9×9 tent, a land-rover and some well-placed posters, we established our presence in the exhibition space. The stand was staffed throughout the day and seemed to be very well received. It was also a great opportunity to meet our then Bishop Elect, Bishop Paul Mason, who has since been formally installed as Bishop to the Armed Forces. And of course, the obligatory group photos!
In terms of the Congress programme, there was much of interest, not least of all Bishop Robert Barron as the Keynote Speaker. Bishop Barron delivered two wholly engaging talks covering the mystery of the mass, the Eucharist and striving for sainthood. I find him easy to listen to, and he has a knack of making sense of challenging concepts and relating them to lived experience. He described Christianity as walking three overlapping paths: find the centre (Christ), know that you are a sinner, and realise that your life is not about you. Talk about bottom line up front! There was so much to take-away and, for me, the biggest realisation was how much I had underestimated the Sacrament of the Eucharist.
The Congress closed with a period of Adoration and Evening Prayer. I watched with immeasurable pride and joy as four of our uniformed soldiers carried the figure of Our Lady of Walsingham onto the stage, even more impressed as I suspected their services had been volunteered at the last minute (they were!).
It was then all hands on deck to off-load the last of the ‘Moral-ibo’ and dismantle the tent in the exhibition area. Despite it being the end of the day, there were still many delegates who were keen to speak to us. I was touched by how supportive people were and how positively they felt about our Armed Services. It was great being able to tell people about the Bishopric of the Forces and the role of our chaplaincy, areas that people seemed to have a genuine interest in. Finally, we escaped the arena for a nearby restaurant where we were able to enjoy fine food and fine company and to reflect on the days events.
The Closing Mass was held at the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King. The Cathedral is immense. I feel it can be difficult to achieve a sense of majesty with modern architecture, and I usually favour more traditional churches. But I was overwhelmed by the Cathedral. So much space and light, surrounded by several unique chapels, each displaying their own personality and design. My favourite piece was the representation of the Holy Spirit descending on the Apostles at Pentecost, an outstanding piece of artwork. I found it to be very striking and I was seated such that it was in my line of sight for the duration of the mass. And the music – the choir was exquisite, making full use of the space and acoustics. It was a truly spiritual and uplifting experience, especially in the light of my new and improved understanding of the Eucharist.
Unfortunately, none of our party were able to stay for the Eucharistic procession. Having seen some of the footage on social media, that is my one regret about the weekend. Despite the rain, it was an awesome sight, and a majestic finale to an amazing weekend.
Please do not think me irreverent in describing Adoremus as CPD for the soul. My faith is in its infancy and I have much to learn and to understand, and anticipate continued growth and development in the Church. As a nurse, I have enjoyed attending events in order to facilitate my personal and professional development. I enjoy the access to group learning, sharing experiences and travel, and the excitement of exploring a new place. With Adoremus, I saw a similar opportunity. All that was required of me was to turn up with open eyes, ears, heart and mind, and to be prepared to receive wisdom, to be presented with evidence that would either validate my existing practice or lead me to change it for the better. Mission accomplished.
Now, where’s my certificate?