Faith in Politics

Contact
information

Office/person in charge:
Greg Pope and Stephanie MacGillivray

Address:
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, 39 Eccleston Square, London, SW1V 1BX, United Kingdom

Email address:
greg.pope@cbcew.org.uk / stephanie.macgillivray@cbcew.org.uk

Website/social media:

Faith in Politics is a Catholic Parliamentary and Public Affairs internship scheme, which was started in 2003. The scheme uniquely offers a foundation of Catholic faith and spiritual formation for those who believe that they may have a vocation to public service in politics or public affairs. Interns commit to a varied year working in Parliament with an MP or in the public affairs teams of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and its agencies: the Catholic Education Service, CAFOD, and the Caritas Social Action Network. They also study for an MA in Catholic Social Teaching at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. The group lives at More House, a Catholic hall of residence in Kensington, London.

The interns explore the explore the political landscape and the Church’s involvement in social action through a series of events and trips abroad, including a visit to Rome on pilgrimage, to learn how the Vatican works, and how the UK relates to the Holy See. Importantly their journey begins and ends with a retreat, and spiritual guidance is an integral part of the year.

This internship scheme makes real difference to the mission of the Church, to civic life in our country, and to those with whom the interns work, especially the MPs, seeing a different aspect of the Catholic Church.

What is it?

What is this initiative about?

Faith in Politics is a Catholic Parliamentary and Public Affairs internship scheme, which was started in 2003. The scheme uniquely offers a foundation of Catholic faith and spiritual formation for those who believe that they may have a vocation to public service in politics or public affairs. Interns commit to a varied year working in Parliament with an MP or in the public affairs teams of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales and its agencies: the Catholic Education Service, CAFOD, and the Caritas Social Action Network. They also study for an MA in Catholic Social Teaching at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. The group lives at More House, a Catholic hall of residence in Kensington, London.

The interns explore the explore the political landscape and the Church’s involvement in social action through a series of events and trips abroad, including a visit to Rome on pilgrimage, to learn how the Vatican works, and how the UK relates to the Holy See. Importantly their journey begins and ends with a retreat, and spiritual guidance is an integral part of the year.

This internship scheme makes real difference to the mission of the Church, to civic life in our country, and to those with whom the interns work, especially the MPs, seeing a different aspect of the Catholic Church.

How does it help?

In what way does this initiative enhance the formation of the laity?

The scheme enhances the formation of the laity by providing a foundation of Catholic Social Teaching and spiritual guidance for those who have a vocation to work in public service, politics, or public affairs.

The scheme has successfully formed over 100 Catholics for public life through its robust programme. Interns continue to testify that, through its emphasis on Catholic Social Teaching and the worth of working in public life, the Faith in Politics programme strengthens their faith and leaves them feeling more equipped to navigate contemporary life and its many challenges.

The strong network of alumni forms a group called The Faith in Politics Network. Hosting debates, talks and social events, the Network provides an opportunity for the thought-provoking and enriching experiences of interns to continue beyond their internship year. These events provide ongoing formation for alumni who want to continue to learn how to implement Catholic Social Teaching in their daily lives.

Why is it important?

Why is this initiative important for the training and advancement of the laity in your country?

It is extremely important that ways are found of involving, encouraging and affirming the next generation of Catholic lay leadership. Increasingly, committed lay Catholics find themselves being drawn to social and political action as a way of fulfilling their Christian calling, and the social teaching of the Church provides a guide to this.

How did it start

How was this initiative developed?

In 1996, CBCEW published a document on Catholic Social Teaching and public life, entitled “The Common Good”.  It stated: “There is a strong Christian tradition of public service in all the major British parties which we wish to applaud.” (n.57) It also expressed concerns which remain relevant today, such as “the low status of politicians in public estimation, which is neither justified by the evidence nor good for the health of democracy.” (n.59)

The internship was launched as a small step to redress those concerns and encourage lay Catholics to consider a vocation in public life.  In 2002 CBCEW approved the founding of an internship scheme. The scheme was launched by the Speaker of the House of Commons in January 2003. Over the years the scheme grew, and important relationships were forged with the Jesuit community, Catholic halls of residence, Heythrop College, University of London, and, following the closure of Heythrop, St Mary’s University, Twickenham.

Benefits

Does it benefit the laity on a national or local level?

Benefits to the interns include:

  • fostering and deepening of their adult vocations
  • exposure to and knowledge of the contribution of the Church to public life
  • greater understanding of Catholic social teaching
  • introduction to the realities of political life and involvement
  • building networks and contacts

Benefits to CBCEW include:

  • injection of fresh ideas and assistance
  • signal and sign of fresh hope and confidence in young lay people
  • improving links with Parliamentarians and St Mary’s University
  • over time, a growing corpus of ex-interns in public life

Longer-term benefits to the wider Church include:

  • the formation of lay leaders of the future
  • the spread of innovative ways of promoting formation within the Church, encouraging others to follow a similar path
  • a better understanding among Catholic MPs of the Church’s social teaching

Means and funding

Who funds the initiative? What is needed to launch this initiative?

The scheme is funded through fundraising. Interns have subsidised catered accommodation in central London and an allowance to cover living and travel costs for the duration of the internship. Tuition fees are also paid for through this fundraising. When added together, this amounts to more than the London Living Wage.

Learn more

Where can people learn more about this initiative?

People can learn more about the internship by visiting our website: www.faithinpolitics.org.uk. We also have social media pages on Facebook (Faith in Politics; Faith in Politics Network) and Twitter (@catholicinterns).

Countries involved

Does this initiative exist in other countries?

We are not aware of the existence of a similar initiative in other countries. We would be keen to assist other Bishops’ Conferences should they wish to set up similar programmes.

How to start?

How can this initiative be implemented in other countries?

We are keen to help other Bishops’ Conferences with this and are currently advising the Australian Bishops’ Conference on how they might organise something similar.

 
 



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