What is Sycamore?

Sycamore is a new programme of evangelisation and catechesis for use in parishes, chaplaincies, schools and other settings. It consists of ten films that explore some of the core questions often put to Christian believers: How can I find true happiness? What is the meaning of life? Does God exist? Who is Jesus Christ? It deals with topics such as the Holy Spirit, the Church, the Bible, the Christian Tradition, faith, prayer, love, vocation, and the purpose of life. People are invited to learn about the Christian faith, and to share their own ideas and questions without fear of being judged.

Primary evangelisation and catechesis

Sycamore is first of all a tool for ‘primary evangelisation’: to help those who have no Christian background or very little Christian commitment to explore the meaning of Christianity, and to meet with others who are also on a spiritual search. It will also be useful, however, as a tool for ongoing catechesis, when schools or parish catechetical groups wish to look at a particular topic. It is not by any means a complete programme of Christian formation, but the films could form one block in a larger catechetical course.

The key to running the programme is the combination of hospitality, friendship, a clear presentation of Christian teaching, and space for honest discussion; with the provision of good food; with a supportive prayer team in the background; all in the context of a loving Christian community.

The structure of the films

Each film is broken down into four short sections. Each section has some input, followed by a discussion question, together with interviews (‘vox pops’) of people responding to these questions. The film is then paused to allow the group to discuss the given topic; and then re-started for the next section.

Sycamore is designed in this way so that it can be used with minimal effort and minimal planning: the input, the discussion questions and the vox pops are all part of the package; and the videos are all available free of charge to download or to watch online.

Catholic and ecumenical

Sycamore was developed in a Catholic context, and it touches on some themes that will be especially important for Catholic communities, such as the relationship between the Bible and the Christian Tradition, the importance of the sacraments, the relationship between the faith of the individual believer and the faith of the Church, and the link between the work of the Holy Spirit and the teaching and moral vision of the Church. But it is a programme that reflects the wisdom of the broad Christian tradition, and it will be a useful tool for Christians from different traditions and backgrounds.


One participant has written: “I think the most compelling thing about Sycamore is the open discussions which we have every week. As a non-Christian coming into Sycamore, I always felt welcome. All I was asked was to come in with an open mind. I was never cajoled into attending; yet I always looked forward to coming back to learn more from the discussions we have.”

Another testimony comes from one of the leaders in a parish where it has been trialled: “We used Sycamore to introduce a group of about 18 people to the Catholic faith. Most of them had little or no Christian background. I love how these short videos announce the Gospel message, the ‘kerygma’, in an attractive and clear way. We found Sycamore to be extremely effective in helping those who were curious about Christianity to become open to a relationship with Christ. The structure of each video encourages the building of community within the group, especially through the discussion questions. In my view, Sycamore is the perfect starting-point for evangelisation, and can be a springboard to deeper catechesis.”

Sycamore Redevelopment 2019

These ten films are part of the Beta version of the Sycamore programme, which is still in a process of development. They have been trialled in a few dozen university chaplaincies and parishes. They are made available now so that other groups can experiment with them and share their feedback.

The Sycamore programme is currently being redeveloped and will – if all goes well – be relaunched in May 2019. Plans include: rewriting and refilming the first ten films as “Sycamore Series 1” (available from May 2019); developing a follow-on programme of ten films as “Sycamore Series 2” which will take participants deeper into the Christian faith (available in the summer of 2019); sharing short sections of the films as stand-alone YouTube videos to create an online library of apologetic and catechetical materials; developing materials to train Sycamore leaders; co-publishing resources and follow-on materials for participants and the wider public.

Why “Sycamore”?

The programme needed a name with a subtle religious resonance, that would not stir up too many preconceptions or put off any hesitant enquirers. The word “Sycamore” alludes to the meeting between Zacchaeus and Jesus in Chapter 19 of the Gospel of St Luke. As Jesus enters Jericho, Zacchaeus longs to see him, but he is too short, and the crowds are too big. So he climbs a Sycamore tree in order to get a better view. The Sycamore programme is about helping people to get a richer perspective on the big questions of life and faith, and allowing them to meet Christ in their own time, on their own terms, just as Zacchaeus did in the streets of Jericho.

Further information

For more information about Sycamore please visit the website at sycamore.fm  The ten films can be found here. The website includes a special section entitled ‘How to run Sycamore’ which has all the information needed to help start up the Sycamore programme in a local parish or community, and more general information to help reflect on what kind of evangelisation programme might suit a particular community.

For a list of those involved in the Sycamore programme, see the Credits page which includes all the credits from the films themselves.

Updates by email

To receive updates about the Sycamore project please sign up to the email list using the RED FOLLOW BUTTON in the right-hand sidebar of the website.

24 thoughts on “Welcome

    1. Thanks for the interest Jackie. We hope to get the rest of the films up in the next couple of weeks. If you sign up to the email list then we will post as each video comes online. I hope you can find all the information you need in the How to Run pages. Please do leave any comments about your experience in the pages for each film.


  1. This is a lovely program, very nourishing and inspiring. I would like to have copies of the rest of videos. Is it possible to have your contact phone no Fr. Stephen for further clarification. Keep the Evangelization going, God bless.


    1. Thanks Sr Mildred – I’ll contact you privately…
      The rest of the videos should be uploaded over the next two or three weeks.


  2. I have just read the Article in the Tablet….and now I have opened your web page etc. Yes I find it a very interesting project. Thankng you….Fr Michael Bailey . Galway Ireland.


  3. The Tablet article was most interesting, we have decided to use Sycamore in our parish RCIA inquiry sessions, it was recommended by our Bishop. The only problem is downloading the films!!


    1. Dear Pauline. What sort of problems are you having with the downloads? Please let us know if there is anything wrong with the Vimeo site, or if there is anything we can do. We haven’t had any problems at our end. Most of the videos are only about 200mb each, so they shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to download on a decent band; and you can even choose the SD low quality if preferred. But please get back to us if we can help.


  4. Hi,

    At first glance this is Alpha in a different disguise. Why do we need to re-invent the wheel?

    What is the difference between this and the 40 year old, tried and tested Alpha?


    1. Hi Bob. Thanks for the feedback. There is lots of overlap between Sycamore and some other evangelisation programmes like Alpha, CaFE and The Why Course. Some of this, I guess, is inevitable: there are only so many ways you can present the basics of the Christian faith; and some of this is because we have learnt from and incorporated lots of elements from these other courses, as the “Background” page explains (see here https://sycamore.fm/how-to-run-sycamore/how-to-run-sycamore-1-background/). I don’t think Sycamore is radically new; but it has an approach to the presentation of core Christianity which is very shaped by the Catholic tradition and the student experience out of which it grew.


      1. I am a Colombian missionary in Tanzania. As someone already said “I have just read the Article in the Tablet….and now I have opened your web page” I am looking forward to learning from you. Thank you Fr Michael Bailey and God bless you all . Fr Jose Giraldo (Tanzania)


  5. In Winchester we are planning a 10-week set of Sycamore sessions with breakfast at our local church primary school for parents after they have taken children to school. We will cater for toddlers and babies. Anybody any experience of this approach?


    1. Dear Mike, I led a Sycamore programme in Oxford a few months ago for adults from my parish of St Anthony of Padua. We had a really good turnout. Our approach was to welcome the parishioners with a warm welcome and some food. So it seems like you are on the right track by offering breakfast.

      We also had a rota with the dates of all the sessions on it. We then invited those who attended the following sessions to put their names down in twos or more to help either with the preparing of the food or to help set up and tidy up the hall. This had the effect of empowering the parishioners through the act of participation. In their evaluation they said that this had helped them to make it their own by giving them ‘a feeling of belonging’. We also had a registration form. We used the information we gathered to contact our members a day or two before the next session began. In the e-mail we sent them a little taster of what was to come by giving the title of what the next session’s topic would be. Again this made them feel that they were in the loop. I hope this info is useful. Good luck! Sr Carolyn Morrison


  6. I am a ‘ Convert ‘ to the Catholic Church , having become a Member for some 51 Years now, It is something that completely changed my Life , and I have loved being an active Layperson ever since , Praise be to Good Pope John. and Vatican 2.


  7. Hello Father Stephen, We are having a Meeting this evening here in Jersey regarding our Sycamore Programme, I have been giving some thoughts about what you said about a revision and possible re-making of some of the Series,
    My Thoughts are for a Possible Sycamore 2 — A talk regarding the special Life of the Virgin Mary and how she was finally gifted with The Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday, Secondly , The Sacrament of Penance , when we can say Sorry to God for letting him down and how this Beautiful Sacrament has gone out of favour with so many People ? I feel it is a lovely as receiving our Lord in Holy Communion, we are very close to God, and if you find a very good Priest , the helpful advice he gives you is a real blessing, We all remember the Story of the Prodigal Son, whom our Lord Said , His Father saw him from a long way off and ran to greet him, The Son could hardly get the words out of his mouth to say what a mess he had made of his life, but the Father put o Robe around him a Ring on his Finger and Sandles on his Feet , plus a big Celebration Party. This Story is a real reminder of our Lords Love for us.


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