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New network seeks to accompany non-Catholics

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Nigel Zimmermann, left: St Andrew’s Network, “fellow travellers in faith,” is small but spread across the nation. Peter Holmes: entering the Catholic Church was not so much a conversion as the completion of a search. Photos: Supplied
Nigel Zimmermann, left: St Andrew’s Network, “fellow travellers in faith,” is small but spread across the nation. Peter Holmes: entering the Catholic Church was not so much a conversion as the completion of a search. Photos: Supplied

Two Catholics with backgrounds as pastors in other Christian traditions have launched a network to offer friendship and confidential support to people who, as they once did, were not Catholic but interested in learning about the Catholic Church.

Co-convenor Dr Peter Holmes is a senior lecturer at the University of Notre Dame Australia.

The Sydney father of eight served as a Lutheran minister before being received into the Catholic Church.

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Dr Nigel Zimmermann is principal advisor to Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli, and adjunct senior lecturer at the University of Notre Dame Australia.

A father of five, he was raised in the Baptist Church, became an Anglican and served as an ordained Anglican minister before his journey into the Catholic Church.

“Our hope is to help anyone who engages with the network, provide a cheerful and patient support to them, and not to be intrusive or unhelpful.”

The two launched the St Andrew’s Network on the saint’s 30 November feast day to provide a point of contact for non-Catholic enquirers, pastors, theologians, students or others who are interested in or considering a path to Catholicism.

“We know that some people will make journeys that are public in their networks, and others very quiet,” said Dr Zimmermann.

“For some, a ‘tiptoe’ across the Tiber is preferable rather than a gallop.

“Our hope is to help anyone who engages with the network, provide a cheerful and patient support to them, and not to be intrusive or unhelpful. That might be a modest approach, but discipleship is usually a steady growth in mercy and truth, and not a fast and loud event.”

He said the volunteer network is a “small group of fellow travellers” with supporters in Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia.

A marked version of the Holy Bible.

They include Director of the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation at the Archdiocese of Sydney Daniel Ang, and St John Paul II Chair in Theology at UNDA, Professor Tracey Rowland.

Dr Holmes said that he is not a ‘convert’ but has been a follower of Christ for all of his life.

“So being received into the Catholic Church is not so much a conversion as it is a completion of my faith,” he explained.

“Coming home to the Catholic faith was not a rejection of the faith of my childhood, it filled in all the gaps and finally made sense of everything.”

Dr Zimmermann said that when he likewise became a Catholic, he was taught not to reject his past experience in other traditions but to be thankful that these gave him an encounter with the Lord.

“St Andrew was chosen for a patron as the person who brought his brother Peter, who would later become the first pope, to Jesus …”

“I am grateful and respectful to the Baptist and Anglican traditions that gave me so many graces, and becoming Catholic became a fulfilling and a broadening of my faith,” he said.

“Some of my closest friends are in other traditions. I hope to help others see they don’t lose anything by making a similar journey.”

St Andrew was chosen for a patron as the person who brought his brother Peter, who would later become the first pope, to Jesus Christ (John 1:40-42).

The network aims to provide a listening ear, encouragement and prayer, and connection for people in the Catholic Church, wherever they are on their journey.

For further details and information: www.standrewsnetwork.org

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