Aspal, a new cutting edge digital platform for faith formation, is now available for the benefit of people who wish to engage with and learn more about their Catholic faith. Aspal is the brainchild of the Adult Faith Development Group of the Diocese of Ossory in collaboration of Saint Patrick’s Pontifical University, Maynooth. Easy to use, and with the ability to access content anywhere and at any time, the app and digital platform allows people to deepen their faith at a time of their convenience. The Aspal team has now made it possible to access to the best lecturers available throughout the island of Ireland.
Launching the app Rev Dr Dermot Ryan, director of the Ossory Adult Faith Development Group, said, “this is but the first step on our digital journey to serve the Church across Ireland by providing the very best faith formation to users and to do so in a way that makes learning more accessible by deepening our knowledge and love of God. The past number of years have seen us migrate to the digital space to a much greater extent than heretofore. Meetings, which once necessitated physical gatherings, have now moved seamlessly online. Using similar technology developed over the past two years, the team at Aspal have built an online platform to enhance our faith formation.
“For anyone who wishes to deepen the faith and knowledge of Church teaching, I would encourage them to register on the Aspal app by logging on to www.aspal.ie and from there they can choose the course that they wish to follow. A lot of the content on the app will be free, such as the upcoming course on the Synodal Pathway which will be launched in the coming weeks. Where there is a charge, the cost of a course has been kept to a minimum,” Father Ryan said.
In commissioning the first Aspal students – now trained to undertake roles in their parishes and pastoral areas – Bishop Denis Nulty, Bishop of Kildare & Leighlin and Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Ossory, said ,“in preparing you for ministry in your parish communities we are but restoring old practices – albeit by using very modern technology – whereby people lead each other in prayer. In rural communities: were not animals and crops blessed by men and women who for years carried their Easter water home; were not prayers said as neighbours died; and, God spoken about in our domestic churches? Yours then is a future built on our strong past, yours is a baptism finding new life”.
Father Ryan continued, “the Aspal team, in collaboration with Saint Patrick’s Pontifical University, including the inspirational cooperation of Professor Séamus O’Connell, has delivered a weekly course on praying with the scriptures, lectio divina. Over 200 people followed the sessions which were released each week during Lent to enable participants deepen their understanding of, and love for, the scriptures. The pre-recorded sessions were supported by a number of live sessions which allowed for interaction, reinforced learning and provided wonderful moments of prayer together.
“In the coming weeks the Aspal team, through its collaboration with Saint Patrick’s Pontifical University, will offer all parishes and dioceses in Ireland an opportunity to offer faith formation to Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist thereby enabling those who help animate our liturgies to get the best possible preparation. This can be done in a time and place that best suits people in busy lives,” Father Ryan said.
According to Gemma Mulligan, who used the app to follow a Lenten Scripture course, “it was wonderful to have access to someone like Professor Séamus right in the comfort of our own home. Even though participants were from all corners of Ireland, it really felt like we were together in a room. It was a great way to learn, I will do more of this.”
Over the forthcoming weeks of the Easter season, and in the context of exploring the synodal journey, the Aspal team will support a collaboration between The Irish Institute for Pastoral Studies (Mary Immaculate College, Limerick), and Saint Patrick’s Pontifical University, in a course which will involve the leading synodal minds in the Church – including from Sister Nathalie Becquart, the Undersecretary to the Synod of Bishops in the Vatican.
Aspal, the word for ‘Apostle’ in the Irish language, is so called to remind all those who participate that they are, by virtue of their Baptism, called to be sent – sent to share with others their faith. Download Aspal from the App Store and the Google Play Store or visit Aspal.ie
The Aspal team, though its collaboration with Saint Patrick’s Pontifical University, has helped equip three cutting-edge technology suites on the campus in Maynooth which, in turn, offer multiple opportunities for further digital faith formation projects into the months ahead. All of this has been made possible by the collaboration of a very talented team and the invaluable support of the Benefact Trust which has grant-aided the development of the necessary technology with over €50,000 of support. Benefact Trust is one of the UK’s largest grant-making charities and awarded more than £23 million to Churches, charities and communities in 2020. Its funds come from its ownership of the Benefact Group. Further funding has been secured from, amongst others, the Koch Foundation all meaning that the necessary funding has been fully secured to deliver the highest quality digital faith formation to every parish in Ireland.