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Monday, 27 June 2011 18:23

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The Society of Christian Doctrine was founded by Saint George Preca, a diocesan priest in Malta in 1907. Known as a Society of Apostolic Life, the group differs from Religious orders in a number of ways.

The members don’t take vows; they commit to living in the spirit of the SDC, follow certain rules and follow a celibate life.  They can also work in paid jobs and earn their own money.

“The best way of describing us is as an association of lay catechists, who have a commitment to their ongoing formation and the formation of others,” says Hobart-based Ben Brooks, who joined the Society when he was 18.

Twenty years later, the 38-year-old remains committed to the founder’s vision that lay people be empowered to learn and teach the word of God.

“We teach young people and families and support them in their faith journey,” says Ben.

“Our focus is on putting Jesus at the centre, as someone who walks with us in our experiences; as the son of God who became a person and who has gone through good times and bad times just like us. We also relate the Gospel stories to every-day life experiences.”

Established in Melbourne in 1956, today the Society has centres in the Victorian capital, and in Hobart, Sydney and Adelaide. The 33 members are involved in sacramental preparation, catechist ministry in schools, children’s liturgy and youth ministry.  Recently some of the members have also taken up faith formation with adults. SDC also has a women’s section with four members based in Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne. While largely retired, the women continue their ministry by assisting the centres run by the men’s section.

In Tasmania, where 38-year-old Ben Brooks is based the SDC members are involved in three parishes – Bridgewater/Brighton/Claremont, Bellerive/Lindisfarne and Central Tasmania.

As well as assisting with sacramental programs, they run a youth group at Bridgewater.

“The focus of the youth group is to try and link the young people into the life of the parish,” says Ben. “We organise activities and games and have lessons in scripture and church teaching, which follow on from sacramental programs.

As a child Ben took part in SDC youth groups and events. “It was a pivotal point for me. I was baptised as a baby but my family didn’t go to Mass and I didn’t go to a Catholic school.

“The Society was an important social connection for me. I felt at home there. Their spirituality made an impression on me and I felt a call to a vocation.”

As most members of the Society have day jobs as well as undertaking their ministry, another focus is on giving good Christian witness in the workplace.

During 17 of Ben’s 20 years as an SDC member he worked in various office-based positions at Tasmania’s Aurora Energy.  Like other members his evenings and weekends were taken up with society work.

Now RCIA and Sacrament Coordinator for the Archdiocese of Hobart, he says it’s important to be single to be part of the SDC as you have to have the time to devote to the work.

“’I gained a lot from the contact I had with SDC members when I was a child,” says Ben. “If I can do that for other young people and keep them in contact with the Church that is satisfying.

“There is a lot of negativity out there about the Church today. In our role we have opportunities to present a more positive experience and a human side, and to let people know they are part of our Church.”