I spent the weekend in Dallas, Texas, where I taught the diaconate class of 2020, and their wives, on Saturday and Sunday at the Diocesan Conference Center.
The topic for over eight hours on Saturday and just a little over six hours in Sunday was the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. To describe this group of dedicated men and women as "spirited" would be an understatement. I just loved their enthusiasm and dedication. These were two long days of presentations, discussions, and process. I was so proud of the great folks at the Diocese of Dallas, who see the tremendous importance of training their potential deacons so thoroughly about the initiation process. Here are a few photos of this esteemed group.
As I was doing my presentations, I couldn't help but think about the fact that Pope Francis, just last week, opened a conversation about the issue of women being ordained to the diaconate. The wives are required to attend most, if not all, of the five-year training with their husbands. As I looked out into the crowd, I wondered if there would come a time, perhaps decades from now, when diaconate formation might include women who would eventually be ordained to order of deacons.
I celebrated my birthday Saturday while with these fine folks. I felt a little isolated from friends and family, but my colleagues and friends in the Office of Worship (Patty Hughes and Sylvia Garcia) made sure it was well celebrated. Every few hours on Saturday, someone jumped up and said that they had mail for me. So, four birthday cards were sent my way, signed by those attending the sessions. And then they had birthday cheesecakes for the afternoon break. It was a blast!
So often in parishes, it is the deacon who is asked to coordinate the RCIA. I have seen mixed success with this. I was hoping that the weekend would be a time when these men and women would see the RCIA as an apprenticeship, as "basic training," rather than a course in Catholic doctrine. The power and potential of the initiation process is largely untapped in North America because it has reverted to a syllabus of topics rather than a school of discipleship. I hope my words and our discussions helped these wonderful Catholics see the difference and get fired up about what the Church's vision for the catechumenate really is.
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.