The School of the Annunciation, which prepares students for the new evangelization in England and Wales, will mark its official foundation on Sept. 8 with Mass celebrated by Australia’s Cardinal George Pell.
Cardinal Pell’s visit follows an “unexpectedly large number of applications” for the school’s two-year program, the school said Sept. 1.
The school’s director of studies, Caroline Farey said that the school now has over 30 students for its part-time distance-learning diploma in the new evangelization. Enrollment in the two-year program has far exceeded the administration’s expectations that its initial target of 20 students would be “unrealistic.”
Farey said the course content has “quality and relevance.” It was developed by Dr. Petroc Willey, a consultor for the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization.
The school, based at Buckfast Abbey in Devon, said it aims to help students “deepen their knowledge and appreciation of the Catholic faith.”
The School of the Annunciation is the only center for formation for the new evangelization in England and Wales. It features part-time residential formation at the abbey for both religious and lay people as well as online support to teach distance education courses.
Cardinal Pell has become a prominent figure in the Catholic Church. He is one of the eight cardinals advising Pope Francis on church reforms. He is also the Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, which oversees the economic and administrative activities of Vatican City and the Holy See.
Monsignor Graham Bell will attend the foundation Mass, representing the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization.
In addition to the two-year diploma program, the school offers autumn session short courses on topics such as catechetics, Latin, and the relation of the new evangelization to media, sacred art, and apologetics. Summer sessions include courses in liturgy, philosophy, theology, and sacred art.
The school has already hosted its first summer sessions: five four-day courses intended to help students understand the relationship between philosophy and Christian faith. The courses aim to help students engage productively with non-Christians.
Dr. Andrew Beards, the School of the Annunciation’s academic director, said that many of the summer students were “inspired to continue with us” in the diploma program.
One student, Tim Clegg, said that Christians need guidance from scholars.
“As Christians, we need more than ever to be able to articulate our faith, our beliefs, our Catholicism. We need to be able to defend our position and dispel the myths and propaganda that swirl around the modern day media,” Clegg said.
Residential sessions are structured to harmonize with the monastic day and integrate academic work into the monastery’s religious life.
Summer student Callum Hall praised the courses for integrating Holy Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours into their schedule.
“This school is a must for anyone, no matter their age or their previous education,” Hall said. “I have no degree in either philosophy or theology, but I found that all the lectures were constantly being adapted to the needs of the students.”
The Sept. 8 date for the school’s official establishment was chosen because it falls on the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The school was consecrated to Mary on March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation.
More information is available at the school’s website www.schooloftheannunciation.com.