Ties between Malta and Britain go back a long way. Malta was a British colony for a long time. Many British tourists visit Malta every year. Many Maltese moved to London and other parts of the UK especially in the 1950s and 1960s. The arrival in London of three Maltese people in August 1988 was rather out of the ordinary. These were not people coming to London for work as is usually the case with all immigrants. They were members of the 'Society of Christian Doctrine', SDC. Franky Chetcuti, Louis Borg and Paul Aquilina were sent to London with a view to attempt setting up an SDC centre. This was the very first ever SDC venture in Europe.
Following some time of ‘finding their feet’ in this new life in London, which also included some testing times, Franky, Paul and Louis were invited to help out in running catechism groups and youth clubs in two nearby Catholic parishes. This was a very important step as SDC was precisely set up for this ministry. Things were looking up and in 1990 the three SDC members were even offered accommodation in Brixton, at the Rosary parish house where Fr Bernard Heaphy, parish priest, lived. This meant that they were now living in the same area and parish where the catechetical activity was taking place. More contacts with new parishioners, families, and the parish Catholic primary school developed quickly and so did the teaching and formation of an organised system of catechesis. The First Holy Communion was now parish based rather than school based and the Confirmation course started to be organised over two years rather than just a short crash course of about eight weeks as is the norm in the United Kingdom.
As the years went by some members had to return back to Malta and were replaced by new members who carried on and further developed catechetical work at the Rosary Parish itself as well as in other parishes. Today we run all catechism classes for the sacraments of Baptism, confession, Holy Communion and Confirmation in the parish of Our Lady of the Rosary. Every year around one hundred and thirty children and young people enrol for these courses. At this same parish we also run a youth group which meets twice a month. Another group was set up for Confirmed young people who are willing to continue to meet up for more formation after their Confirmation. This is the SDC Juniors group. Apart from our normal catechises with children and young people we often organise outings and other special activities for groups especially during school holidays.
A big step forward was made when it was decided the time was right for SDC to have its own place. A house was bought in Upper Norwood, south London to where we move in October 2006.
Since our move to Upper Norwood we also started to make contacts with parishes nearby who have asked us to help out in catechetical work. Today we lead the Confirmation groups at the Virgo Fidelis parish, Upper Norwood as well as at Our Lady’s parish in Addiscombe. At St Andrew’s parish, Thornton Heath we run a group for children and young people who ask to be baptised or received in the Catholic Church as well as a Youth Group that meets twice a month on a Sunday evening. We also started a Bible study group for older people at the SDC House itself and we also help out at the RCIA group at our parish in Upper Norwood.
The situation in London and the environment in which the SDC members operate is of course very different from that of Malta where the Society started. Nevertheless the need of teaching and presenting the Word of God to others is perhaps even greater here. Notwithstanding the many limitations and difficulties that have to be faced, it is felt that this work is a very positive experience. It is giving the opportunity to so many to receive and share in the fruit of this Society that was started by Fr Preca now over a century ago.
For more information about our ministry in London, please log on to: www.sdc.me.uk