Thursday, May 9, 2013

North American Forum on the Catechumenate and Its Gift to Me

Thursday greetings from Chicago.

For the past week, I have been digesting the sad news of the impending dissolution of the North American Forum on the Catechumenate. Perhaps you read the article in the National Catholic Reporter.

Many colleagues with whom I have ministered through the institutes offered by Forum over the past twenty-five years have shared their own sadness. I have become a bit melancholy about it all and began to wonder just where Forum's institutes have taken me over the years. And here is a list of dioceses that I can recall:

In the United States:

Arlington, VA
Atlanta, GA
Baltimore, MD
Belleville, IL
Birmingham, AL
Boston, MA
Bridgeport, CT
Brooklyn, NY
Buffalo, NY
Camden, NJ
Charleston, SC
Charlotte, NC
Chicago, IL
Cincinnati, OH
Corpus Christi, TX
Dallas, TX
Denver, CO
Detroit, MI
El Paso, TX
Evansville, IN
Fall River, MA
Fargo, ND
Fort Worth, TX
Galveston-Houston, TX
Gary, IN
Grand Rapids, MI
Green Bay, WI
Hartford, CT
Indianapolis, IN
Jefferson City, MO
Joliet, IL
Juneau, AK
Kalamazoo, MI
Kansas City in Kansas, KA
Kansas City-Saint Joseph, MO
Lansing, MI
Las Cruces, NM
Lexington, KY
Little Rock, AR
Louisville, KY
Madison, WI
Memphis, TN
Miami, FL
Milwaukee, WI
Mobile, AL
Monterey, CA
Newark, NJ
New Orleans, LA
New Ulm, MN
Norwich, CT
Oakland, CA
Omaha, NE
Orange, CA
Orlando, FL
Philadelphia, PA
Phoenix, AZ
Portland, ME
Portland, OR
Pueblo, CO
Raleigh, NC
Richmond, VA
Rochester, NY
Sacramento, CA
Saginaw, MI
Saint Louis, MO
Salina, KS
San Antonio, TX
San Diego, CA
San Francisco, CA
Seattle, WA
Springfield, MA
Springfield-Cape Girardeau, MO
Springfield in Illinois, IL
Stockton, CA
Syracuse, NY
Tucson, AZ
Tulsa, OK
Wheeling-Charleston, WV
Wichita, KS
Youngstown, OH

In Canada:
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Moncton, New Brunswick
Ottawa, Ontario
Peterborough, Ontario
Saint John's, Newfoundland
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Toronto, Ontario
Vancouver, British Columbia
Nelson, British Columbia

And Overseas:
Deidesheim, Germany (US Miltary Ordinariate)
Ramstein Air Base, Germany (US Military Ordinariate)

Through the work and ministry of the North American Forum on the Catechumenate, I have had the privilege of seeing the Church in so many places across North America.

I remember traveling to Juneau, Alaska and listening to the bishop there tell us that when men are ordained there, they usually get their pilot's license at the same time, since they need fly a sea plane in order to visit and bring communion and say Mass for Catholics in very remote areas. Some of these Catholics may celebrate Mass once every three months. And I remember this vividly because when I returned to the parish in Port Orange, Florida after this trip, there was much lament that the parish had to go from having four priests to three priests.

And I remember talking with a priest in the rural diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau in Missouri. He opened a map of the United States and was able to draw a small sqaure on that map, letting me know that what was in that square was the territory of his parish and that he puts an average of 80,000 miles on his car each year. And I remember this vividly because when I returned, I was at a meeting at my parish during which people were complaining about how long a walk it was from the paschal fire back into the church at the Easter Vigil and how long it took.

You see, for those of us who ministered as team members with Forum (bishops, priests, deacons, vowed religious, and baptized lay leaders), the gift we received from our experiences far outweighs anything we could have given to the tens of thousands of people who came to our institutes. The gift that I received was, in a word, balance. We got to experience the Church everywhere, from places where the the bishop was rarely seen and who was far removed from the daily lives of the people to places where the bishop walked with his folks through a week-long training institute and even played the accordion for them at a reception one night.

This balanced perspective made me the Catholic lay leader that I am today and I will forever be grateful to the North Amercian Forum on the Catechumenate for that gift; it is one I will treasure always.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.


Beth Kaiser said...

And, you also made an "unofficial" Forum visit to my former parish here in Duluth, MN. I am forever grateful to you for that as you introduced me to the NA Forum. And, since then, I have had the privilege of participating in a number of Forum Institutes as well as journey with many seekers through their RCIA experiences. Thank you. Peace, Beth Kaiser- Duluth, MN

Jane Schindler said...

Ahh Jerry, we remember you here in Albuquerque. Thanks for sharing you knowledge and gifts with us also. What are we to do without the Forum? We were hoping to have a team here in 2014. God bless you and all the team members who have blessed us over all these years in this beautiful ritual of the Church.