“Life-changing.” That’s how almost everyone describes their favorite Southern dish in Atlanta. Sometimes we had multiple life changing experiences in one day. It started the night we landed in Atlanta for our most recent Making Disciples RCIA Institute. Our friend, Kathy Kuczka, waited patiently for our hour-late flight, and then rushed us to Muss and Turner’s—a local hot spot that claims to have “no culinary boundaries.” Southern hospitality was on full display as the staff agreed to stay late and let us order even though the kitchen had just closed. The lamb and pork meatballs with honey jus, Greek yogurt, pistachios, and mint were, you guessed it, life-changing.
New Southern barbequeFor lunch the next day, our host, archdiocesan director of religious education Cathy Marbury asked us if we were feeling adventurous. I’m not sure you can say you’ve had the full experience of Southern dining until you’ve been standing on the side porch of a postage-stamp-sized takeout place, trying not to drip sauce onto your shoes as you negotiate the niceties of downing a kimchee and pulled pork barbeque sandwich with a side of fried green tomatoes. If that doesn’t change your life, it will surely change everything you ever believed about barbeque. I’d return to Atlanta just for that meal.
As fabulous as the food was, however, we didn’t come to Atlanta just to eat. We came to share ideas with 150 leaders from a half-dozen different dioceses about how the initiation process can be life-changing for seekers. And, wow, were they fired up to talk about that. There was so much discussion, interaction, and sharing that it was difficult to stay on schedule. But we managed to get everything in while still giving the participants the space to engage in some significant learning.
Some things RCIA teams learned
These are some of the things they said they came away with:
- “The inquiry phase is the ‘field hospital’ that Pope Francis speaks about.”
- “We need to be creative and open to the Holy Spirit to guide us in the creative process. We can’t stay stuck in one certain plan or a routine way of doing things.”
- “I discovered the four areas of catechetical training for the Christian way of life.”
- “I learned what RCIA is.”
- “People take different paths to get to the ultimate destination of the journey—God!”
- “People have to come to conversion gradually. You can’t rush the process.”
- “We have no excuses. If the Woman at the Well can spread the good news, so can we.”
- “We have to find ways to consider people’s stories and really listen to them. It’s their journey, and we must be Christ for them.”
- “I learned how to meet people where they are, even though every individual has such different needs and stories.”
- “We got strategies and ideas for incorporating members of the parish into the initiation process.”
- “I learned how to use the sponsors to integrate the catechumens into parish life.”
A brief overview of the institute
The way we got to all this is pretty simple on the surface. On Friday evening, we covered the six core principles and the four central catechetical lenses of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. These are the foundation of the RCIA. Actually, they are the foundation of any Christian formation process. Then we spent all day Saturday learning how to apply those principles and catechetical lenses to each stage of the initiation process. While that sounds straightforward, there are so many different kinds of inquirers and catechumens that the process can get complicated fast. So we tried to give examples of as many different cases as we could so we could all come to a deeper sense of how to adapt the ideal that’s in the rite to actual pastoral situations parish teams have to deal with.
I don’t know that we changed any lives at this institute, but hopefully those who participated walked away with some new tools and strategies for changing the lives of the seekers they encounter.
What has been life-changing for you?
Do you have a culinary, educational, or spiritual experience that has been life-changing for you? Please share your thoughts below. I’d love to know what you think.
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