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Ministry that taught Australian Catholics to read the Bible to close

ERDU closing

Mission closes: Evangelisation Resources Down Under director Bernadette Holdsworth, founder Jan Heath and fellow supporter Kathryn Robbie have been part of the ministry’s 23-year history. ERDU’s doors will close on June 30. Photo: Emilie Ng

FINANCIAL burdens have forced the closure of an Australian ministry that spent the past 23 years teaching Catholics how to study Scripture.

Evangelisation Resources Down Under, which is a ministry of Our Lady of the Way Parish, Petrie, will close its doors on June 30 owing to rising costs and declining subscriptions.

“It’s no secret that rising costs and falling subscriber numbers mean that we just can’t sustain the ministry going forward,” ERDU director of 11 years Bernadette Holdsworth said.

Ministry founder Jan Heath said there had been “a lot of tears” but the decision to close the ministry was the right choice.

“It’s a new season,” Mrs Heath said.

“For twenty-three years it’s been going and things are very different now from twenty-three years ago.

“Where one season ends another season starts (but) the work of the Gospel is unending.”

Mrs Heath said despite the ministry’s closure, the resources it offered to train Catholics in studying Scripture were easily accessible online from other distributors. Twenty-three years ago, it was a different case.

Mrs Heath said it was obvious in the early 1990s that Catholics were not receiving adequate training in Scripture study from their own communities.

“We saw a need for Bible studies in a language that people understood,” she said.

While visiting parishes to promote her ministry, Mrs Heath said the number of parishioners attending other Christian communities to study the Bible was high.

“There was never a church I spoke in that somebody didn’t come and say that they were going somewhere else,” she said.

“Catholic Bible study wasn’t the flavour of the month.”

In 1994, Mrs Heath and her husband used money from their own pockets to organise Scripture studies from their kitchen, and this eventually grew into the ERDU ministry.

She said she would never forget one comment from a “well educated lady” who loved books and began receiving ERDU’s resources.

“She said ‘Until I read the Bible, I never found a book that loved me’,” Mrs Heath said.

“She found this God of love in there.”

Over the past 23 years, ERDU has grown a steady following of Australians and international Catholics.

The ministry delivered the popular Word Among Us publication to 33,600 subscribers, including free copies to 266 prisoners in Australia and 40 overseas and a further 211 copies to missionaries.

About 18,000 Little Books devotionals have been sold, 7000 5 Minutes with the Word books and the ministry has distributed countless packs of the Little Rock Scripture Study materials.

ERDU also convened the Bible Institute for more than 1000 people, inviting guest speakers including Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Little Rock Scripture Study director Catherine Upchurch, and Sulpicians provincial superior Fr Ron Witherup.

Before closing, ERDU will hold its final Bible Institute with biblical theologian Dominican Sister Laurie Brink on July 7 and 8 at Australian Catholic University, Banyo.

The ministry’s growth was unexpected but now the ERDU team believes God was “doing a new thing”.

As the ministry prepares to close its doors forever, one of ERDU’s original supporters Kathryn Robbie said it was time to remember the hard work the ministry had done.

“Now it’s a time for celebrating and rejoicing in all that it’s achieved, the vast numbers that we don’t even know that it’s blessed and have an impact on,” Mrs Robbie said.

Among the unknown supporters are inmates inside Australian prisons, who with the support of prison chaplains, have been receiving the Word Among Us and Little Books for free.

“The area that I worry about is the prisoners,” Mrs Heath (pictured) said.

“It’ll be really fantastic if we could find a benefactor so we could continue to get the books to them, if we could find somebody that had a heart for prisoners.”

Always keen for her next ministry, Mrs Heath said the ERDU team was anticipating a possible mission at the new university being built at Petrie, just around the corner from the parish.

“Just two streets away they’re building a new university so we really have to get our heads around how can we make this a vibrant and dynamic faith base for those university students,” she said.

“One door shuts and another door opens.”

For more information about ERDU or the Bible Institute on July 7 and 8 contact the office on (07) 3285 6233 or email office@erdu.com.au.

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