I wanted to share a bit more about my experience in the Diocese of Lafayette, Indiana this past Saturday.
Approximately 90 RCIA initiation ministers had gathered at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Carmel, Indiana for the all-day diocesan annual RCIA day.
The topic: RCIA: Forming Intentional Disciples. Those of you who have been following the blog posts here for the past month or so know that I have been struggling with the topic on a personal level after having devoured Sherry Weddell's Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus.
My challenge was to, in some way, lift the "cone of silence" surrounding my own personal relationship with the Lord, while teaching others in initiation ministry that this kind of coming out from under that cone is essential as they help form others in the Christian way of life. My hunch is that in most RCIA processes in North America, we place too great an emphasis on teaching Catholic doctrine and much less emphasis, if any at all formally, in actually introducing seekers to Jesus Christ and cultivating that new and burgeoning relationship.
So, there I stood in front of an eager and dedicated group of RCIA ministers.
About half way through my day-long presentation, after having prepared the people for trying to accept the challenge to move their RCIA processes into a more holistic kind of Christian formation, I decided to stop and tell them how the Lord Jesus became a real, personal friend in my life. So I told the story that I mentioned here in a previous post.
There is a difference, most definitely, between writing your story and telling your story. I caught myself getting emotional and I must admit that I was taking my glasses off and wiping my eyes several times. It was very, very quiet in the room. I wasn't sure if people were just captivated by it all, or if they may have been frightened by the prospect that what I was saying was that they, too, have to tell the story of the Lord as their personal savior as they care for those in the RCIA. I am sure I must have sounded like an "evangelical" (whatever that really means) to some of them. As I concluded, I told them that because of my personal encounter with the Lord, sitting there staring at the crucifix in the seminary chapel when I was really at the nadir of my life's story in y mid-twenties, my life's direction changed and, because I experienced the Lord as a faithful friend, all kinds of possibilities and reorientation opened up before me. I then thanked them for listening. And then we moved on to the next Powerpoint slide.
You know, it's tough sometimes to know if what I do actually does anything at all. I hope and pray that people will dedicate themselves to helping people meet the one who, as the catechism says, is "the content of catechesis."
One man, at the end of the day, said that what he was coming away with was the fact that his parish needs to do much more with the training and sustaining of sponsors in the RCIA process. He said that he will rely on a sponsor being able to help introduce the seeker to the Lord Jesus, in one-on-one moments, by sharing in personal witness. Great idea!
So, there you go. Actually feeling OK about it all, thank God.
Thanks for listening today.
I know this is a bit on the "schmaltzy" side, but I find it appropriate for today.