Monday greetings on a bright and sunny day here in the Midwest.
Simply put, I had a wonderful weekend in the Diocese of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I presented a parish mission at Saint George Parish in that diocese a few years back and so appreciated the warmth and hospitality of the people. And I felt that same thing over the weekend. The "RCIA Days" event was held at their beautiful diocesan pastoral center.
This is a diocese that had sponsored an RCIA institute every other year for the past two decades, presented by the now shuttered North American Forum on the Catechumenate. Like many (arch)dioceses, Baton Rouge is looking for ways to train new RCIA ministers and sustain the training for seasoned initiation ministers. These days this past weekend was the spark to get that new impetus going.
The folks in attendance were so eager to learn. Some had decades of RCIA experience and several were brand new to the process.
We began on Friday night with a "light supper," Louisiana style! The Jumbalaya was simply scrumptious! Then I launched into two presentations, one on the history, principles, and structure of the RCIA, then one on the Church's vision for the catechumenate as espoused by the Second Vatican Council. Discussion was quite lively when we talked about the sequence of the initiation sacraments for children of catechetical age; I knew from this discussion that this was going to be a great few days with people unafraid to ask questions!
The Diocese wanted an experiential component to our days together so, on Saturday morning, we celebrated the Liturgy of the Word for Sunday's Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, with Fr. Tom Ranzino, a dear friend and Vicar General of the Diocese, presiding and preaching. After the homily, four "model catechumens" were dismissed with me, the one who would lead a reflection on the scriptures. We did this in a "fishbowl" set-up in the meeting room. After the reflection and a "blessing of catechumens" within the group, the entire group of participants reflected on the entire morning. It was quite effective, showing people this kind of hands-on experience.
After lunch, we talked about what the four pillars of catechesis can mean in a catechumenal setting; my hope was to get people thinking outside the "teaching" box in a more expansive view of catechesis and Christian formation. Then we spoke about the formation of catechumenate teams, then it was time for final discussions and questions.
This process really worked quite well; kudos to the RCIA core team for the diocese and to the diocesan leaders for creating this opportunity for their dedicated people. Any diocesan folks out there who would like to talk about something like this for your diocese, please contact me!
When the weekend work was concluded, I really felt exhilarated; I get such energy and hope from these kinds of gatherings. Seeing the RCIA so alive in a diocese really shows me that the spirit of the Second Vatican Council is alive and well.
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.