IT’S THE LAST Tuesday of May and the coldest day of the year so far. The temperature has fallen 10 degrees in the past forty-eight hours and as God (or, by proxy, the parish priest of West Wollongong) would have it, I’m stuck in a draughty primary-school hall with eighty or so other Year 3 parents. We’ve been summoned together for the first in a series of ‘adult faith formation’ sessions. Waiting for the evening to begin, we huddle around in awkward little friendship-by-association-of-our-children groups. Teeth chatter, styrofoam cups squeak, someone’s car alarm goes into a hypothermic fit on the sleet-soaked basketball court outside.
Struggling to make small talk, I confess to the mother standing opposite me in her nurse’s fatigues and joggers that I’m feeling a little apprehensive. I’m not exactly sure what an adult faith formation session is, but as a lapsed Catholic who stopped attending church some two decades ago, it’s hard not to feel the Spectre of Inquisitions Past hanging over my head. Just what they might have in store for us apostates – heated pincers? rack and screw?? strappado?!? – the paragraph at the bottom of the school newsletter didn’t elaborate. It stated only that a parent from each household was expected to attend as a precondition to our children receiving the sacrament of reconciliation later in the term, and that the evening would be hosted by the newly appointed Father Duane. The rest was left to my agnostic imagination.
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