A BRIEF HISTORY of OUR LADY’S CATECHISTS
Our Lady’s Catechists was founded in 1923 when Cardinal Bourne asked Margaret Fletcher, Foundress of the Catholic Women’s League, to help with the instruction of those children who were not at Catholic schools and who, at that time, had little hope of instruction in their Faith.
Two years later there were 52 trained catechists and an equal number in training. For members at a distance from the training centre a course by correspondence was prepared and approved by the Hierarchy. Members passing an examination at the end of the course were given a certificate of competence to teach.
In 1931 a standing committee of Our Lady’s Catechists was established and in 1956 became a committee of the Catholic Women’s League, with a representative of every Diocesan branch of the CWL. Our Lady’s Catechists was financed by the donation of Associate Members. By this time there were 111 members teaching 1,000 children. A Postal Course was prepared to meet the needs of children living at a distance from a Catholic school. In 1950 the work was extended to parts of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.
In 1960 the OLC Certificate was recognised by the Hierarchy and the Bishops agreed to countersign the certificates. At the request of Cardinal Heenan men were included in OLC. A new Postal Course of Home Study with a corresponding tutor was produced and became known as the Diploma course.
In 1976 Qualified Teachers of (Catholic) Religion were invited to receive special membership of OLC, subject to a period of probation.
In 1980 in response to the increasing demand from priests of parish catechists, and from parents and other who wanted to update their knowledge of Scripture and Doctrine after Vatican II, the Foundation Course, a postal course, was started. Certificates were awarded after successful examination and countersigned by the Bishop. Our Lady’s Catechists was invited and agreed to organise and run the Service through Religious Education (Roman Catholic) for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.
1986-1998 OLC co-operated with the National Project and Diocesan training courses and became a member of the National Board of Religious Inspectors and Advisers. The work with children continues but increasingly OLC works with adults both in parishes and in providing courses. The need for this work, begun more than 80 years ago is as great today as it was then.
The work is organised as a Special Committee of the Catholic Women’s League but membership is not restricted to members of the League. Both men and women may join. The service offered it complementary to the religious education provision in each diocese.