The first years of the SDC were difficult in many ways, but finally in April 1932, the Archbishop of Malta, Dom Maurus Caruana, granted diocesan approval to the Society of Christian Doctrine. By that year, the SDC had 24 Centres for men, each Centre averaging between 100 and 300 children. The same can be said about the 22 Centres for women. This represented most parishes in Malta.
For the first three decades of the last century, the SDC missioned among working class people in Malta. Fr Preca was deeply concerned about the religious education of the people and their children. Most of the first Members were dockyard or manual workers. This, of course, highlights even more his inspirational genius: he was able to translate theological language to ordinary people, and then train the dedicated among them to teach others. He translated parts of the New Testament into Maltese and then pass them on to the Members who hand-copied them and learnt their contents, and shared this knowledge with fellow workers.
Biblical and sound theology formed the backbone of all of Preca’s initiatives and devotions. He had a sincere devotion to Mary. The internal prayer life of the SDC, which he drew from many catholic traditions, was without popular sentimentality. The people responded marvellously to Fr Preca’s appeal. His sermons, or open-air religious talks, still known as Sajdiet in Maltese (from the Gospel image of the fishing-net), drew hundreds of people from all walks of life. He was at the service of the people, hearing confessions, giving conferences, providing spiritual direction and comforting people. His guidance was sought from people of all levels of society.
He devoted long hours to writing mainly in order to provide the Members with pedagogical material and texts for teaching the young. He also produced many spiritual manuals, as well as documents as a means to impart his spirit to his followers. He wrote without the modern comforts of electricity or word processing! His books, all written in Maltese, except two in Latin, are solidly biblical and orthodox. He meditated upon the Bible thoroughly, which resulted in 600 meditative and practical Bible studies for group use. Some of the writings of Fr Preca, from around 145 works, are today available in English in other languages.
Untiringly, Fr Preca continued his apostolic mission until the age of eighty-two years. He was confined to his bed during the last six months and died on 26 July 1962. He never claimed any special favours and his humility and holiness were never in doubt. The Cause for Canonisation, officially began in 1975. Pope John Paul II presided over his beatification ceremony in Malta on 9 May 2001.
The catechetical work in the parishes is still the main direction of the SDC through its Centres around Malta and Gozo. The SDC has also other works in Malta and elsewhere, which are very relevant to its charism: secondary colleges, a trade school, bookshops, a printing press and publishing house that specialises in and helps promote religious publications.
Fr Preca ideals urge the dedicated lay men and women of the SDC to gradually put on Christ Jesus instead of the old self. Thus they will have the spiritual stamina to oppose the world’s vanity by their presence there without being of the world. With that Gospel motivation clear in their hearts, they strive to share Christ’s love and incarnate message in the world, according to the mission statement: Magister Utinam Sequatur Evangelium Universus Mundus – Divine Teacher, may the whole world follow the Gospel.
Saint George Preca will mostly be revered for his willingness to serve as an instrument in God’s hands, an able and humble tool for the revitalisation of the faith of the Maltese Islands which had been first transmitted to us by that other great apostle, Paul of Tarsus.