By John Heuertz
Special to the Catholic Key
Dr. Petroc Willey is a genial English academic known as an authority on the Catholic catechism and catechesis.
Genial, and modest too: Dr. Willey is approachable and engaging – and a man whose scholarly reputation has reached to the Vatican itself.
On Saturday, October 4th Dr. Willey will present a daylong seminar called “Three Crucial Steps to Remaking Christian Society” at St. Charles Borromeo parish in Gladstone.
“Without doubt a mending of the Christian fabric of society is urgently needed in all parts of the world,” Pope St. John Paul II wrote in his 1993 Apostolic Exhortation “Christifidelis laici,” which calls for a New Evangelization of the world.
But St. John cautioned that this mending couldn’t happen unless the fabric of Christian ecclesial communities everywhere was remade first.
He meant, among other things, that Catholic laity have an important role to play in mending the fabric of the Catholic Church worldwide.
Dr. Willey’s seminar, subtitled “Understanding Your Vital Role in the New Evangelization,” will flesh out St. John’s powerful insights.
After Mass, his two morning sessions will be “The Torn Tapestry: The Need for the New Evangelization,” followed by “Encountering the Divine Artist: The Spirit of Christ as The Evangelizer.”
“Mending the Fabric: Your Essential Role in Remaking Christian Society,” will be Saturday afternoon’s topic, followed by questions and open discussion.
Dr. Willey can literally talk profitably all day on the subject, having studied and taught catechesis for over 20 years at the Maryvale Institute in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, England – where the quality of his work attracted attention in very high places.
In 2003, Christoph Cardinal Schönborn OP, Archbishop of Vienna and secretary of the group that produced the current Catholic Catechism, joined Maryvale, Nortre-Dame de Vie in Venasque, France and Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio in an “Amicitia Catechetica.”
This “Catechetical Friendship” holds up all three as institutional models of how to teach catechesis and renew it throughout the Church.
Under Pope Benedict, on March 25, 2011 the Holy See erected Maryvale Institute the first Higher Institute of Religious Sciences in the English-speaking world, and the Holy Father appointed Dr. Willey a Consultor to the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization in 2012.
Dr. Willey’s also given lectures and keynote addresses for several years at the annual St. John Bosco Conference at Franciscan, where he became a Professor of Theology and Catechetics earlier this year. So he’s been a teacher at two of the three institutes Cardinal Schönborn admired.
Marc Cardaronella, new director of the Bishop Helmsing Institute, is one of many Franciscan alums Petroc Willey has influenced.
“He’s considered one of the best in the world on the catechism,” Cardaronella says. “The depth of his insight into the Catholic Faith always has me pondering things in a new way.”
Dr. Willey likes to tell interesting stories to illustrate problems. One of Cardaronella’s favorites concerns a hiking difficulty, the “Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the “catechetical gap” between knowledge of the Faith and putting it into practice.
“They’re not only illuminating,” Cardaronella says, “but downright funny. I can promise that no one who hears him will be disappointed.”
The Bishop Helmsing Institute is sponsoring Dr. Petroc Willey’s first visit to Kansas City. Participants may register at the event, or pre-register and save 25 percent by September 26 by calling BHI at 816-714-2331.