The Future of Faith: Challenges and Possibilities

The Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle recently welcomed Fr Richard Lennan home from USA for a seminar held on 7 August about The Future of Faith: Challenges and Possibilities. Fr Richard is Professor of Systematic Theology, Boston College - School of Theology and Ministry.

Diocesan Co-ordinator, Adult Faith Formation, Vivien Williams opened the night by saying:

“A few months ago Richard Lennan emailed when he knew he was committed to some significant events in Australia. He asked would we like him to facilitate a seminar here?  

“With over 100 attending tonight, Richard, you have the answer. We are delighted that you have again returned to keep us abreast of contemporary theology, to enable us to ponder the meaning of faith in tenuous, sometimes discordant, yet spirit-filled times.”


Fr Richard began with an assertion that the topic of faith was not being introduced to us- it is central to who we are as a Christian people. As a starting point, faith is a response to what God has done for us.  

“God addresses humankind as friends and moves among them, in order to invite and receive them into God’s own company. Faith is an invitation to a relationship- allowing God to love us- and accepting that love as a gift.

“We are the first people to try and live faith in 2018. Even the greatest saints have not lived their faith here and now. How we do it now, becomes a gift to the people that come after us.” Fr Richard said.


Fr Richard shared insightful quotes on hope, and provided opportunity for sharing and discussion.

One quote from Pope Benedict XVI, was “Only the great certitude of hope that my own life and history in general, despite all failures, are held firm by the indestructible power of Love, and that this gives them their meaning and importance, only this kind of hope can then give the courage to act and persevere.” (Spe Salvi, On Christian Hope 2007)

Fr Richard shared, “hope is a strong virtue”. It names the reality of the situation, and is the surrender to what we can’t control. A person of hope does not have all the answers, but they have hope in the fact that God is trustworthy. Hope is sometimes expressed in prayer rather than our confidence.

Time for discussion

After sections on faith, challenges and hope, each table had an opportunity to read and discuss the distributed quotes. This lead to question time with Fr Richard.

On the topic of challenges, and the current state of the Catholic Church, the question ‘What is a healthy church?’ was asked.

Fr Richard responded, a healthy church is one that “recognises its own imperfection”. It is ‘self-critical not self-congratulatory’.

“Our task is not to become a different church – it is to become the version of the church that we have always been called to be.”

Vote of Thanks

Chris Cavanagh gave the vote of thanks saying: “People here have received encouragement and challenges. I have received a stirring of hope. In spite of the reality of the pain and woundedness of the community at the moment, we have all these people gathered here tonight. We are held firm by the indestructible power of love.”

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Brooke Robinson Image
Brooke Robinson

Brooke is Content Officer for the Communications Team in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle