Credit: Immaculata Productions

New Catholic summer school to take place in Knock

The Hedge Summer School will take place in Knock, County Mayo, between Friday August 25th and Sunday August 27th.

The event is being organised by the well-known priest and commentator, Fr. Brendan Kilcoyne. Over the last three years, Fr. Kilcoyne has worked with his Immaculata Productions team to produce‘The Brendan Option’ weekly podcast, and he said that ‘The Hedge’ is aimed at building a vibrant Catholic subculture in an ever more secular Ireland.

“Over the last two years, we have been running small events. On August 25-27th, we will be bringing together intellectually curious Catholics above the age of 18 from across Ireland for a weekend of lectures and discussions on everything from ‘Woke’ culture and Irish history to beekeeping, architecture and theology as well.

“Summer schools have long been part of the Irish cultural scene, and each year they attract top politicians and journalists eager to various nice settings to discuss major topics. 

The Hedge is all about fostering discussion and fellowship among Catholics, many of whom can sometimes feel out of place in today’s Ireland,” Fr. Kilcoyne said.

The keynote speaker at the event is Professor Vincent Twomey, who will be giving a lecture on the life and work of Pope Benedict XVI, who he studied under while completing his doctorate at the University of Regensburg.

While several discussion-based summer schools take place annually such as the MacGill Summer School in Glenties, the event organisers say that The Hedge is unique in its focus on Catholic culture within an increasingly irreligious society.

In May, the CSO released their summary of key results from Census 2022, which showed that the proportion of the population identifying as Catholic plummeted by 10% in just six years, and now stands at just 69%.

Major changes within the structure of the Catholic Church in Ireland are expected in the coming years due to the growing shortage of priests, and there have been increasing calls in some quarters for an end to Catholic involvement in the educational sector, as battles over the Government’s proposed draft SPHE curriculum continue to rage.

The title of Fr. Kilcoyne’s ‘The Brendan Option’ podcast is partly inspired by the success of the American writer Rod Dreher’s 2017 book, ‘The Benedict Option.’

In it, Dreher argued that Christians in America and elsewhere across the West were now living in post-Christian environments, and he suggested that believers needed to develop stronger and more coherent communities in order to withstand the secular culture and the prospect of persecution.

Fr. Kilcoyne said that the twin issues of culture and subculture are at the heart of why he established The Hedge, and why he thinks people should attend.

“Let’s be frank: Ireland isn’t Catholic anymore. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a great many committed Catholics of all ages living here. We need to do more of this – coming together, speaking together, praying together – and there is no better place to do it than in the shadow of the Knock Shrine: one of the most important places in all of Irish Catholicism.

“For the decades to come, Catholics are going to be a minority in Ireland, but if that minority really works at developing a vibrant and attractive intellectual and cultural offering, we have every chance of bringing people back to the Church in the long-run,” Fr. Kilcoyne added.

Tickets for the event can be purchased on the Immaculata Productions website, where additional information on the events and speakers is also available.

With accommodation spaces in the St. Mary’s venue strictly limited, those wishing to attend are advised to purchase their tickets in the coming days.

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