The tables are cleared, the taxis have come and gone, another Conference has come and gone. This page is an opportunity for some immediate reflections. If you would like to add something please contact Martin Foster.
Some photos from the Conference have been added to the website.
The Conference has given me much to think about. Sheila remind us of the fundamentals and brought us back to what the Rite actually says. In particular the relationship of the catechumenate to the Liturgical Year. Not only that this was a key to the catechumens entry into, and conversion into, the mystery of Christ, but also that it is the celebration of the liturgical year. When we start to probe we discover that the rite has an integrity.
As ever it also the mixture of Conference sessions, informal time and prayer that make up a rich experience.
What an excellent conference we have just had. I found it really beneficial to learn from the expertise of such an experienced RCIA practitioner as Sheila O’Dea, for whom weekly dismissal of catechumens within all-year catechumenate is the norm.
Participating in the scriptural reflection process within the liturgy was a deeply profound experience, as we feasted on the Word of God. It made the Liturgy of the Word integral and inseparable from the eucharist, when during mass the first reading Ephesians 2:19-22 was proclaimed twice, with time for reflection, and this was repeated with the Gospel. It illustrated how it could be accomplished during Mass: certainly with smaller gatherings, although it would need some preparation.
Sheila offered us a vision – for the Church to honour the Word of God and the Eucaristic mystery with the same reverence.
I see the challenge is to move to all-year round catechumenate with weekly dismissals.
I think this needs to be directed at diocesan level:-
- set a timeframe that all parishes will work towards,
- within the next year there should be a consultation process, in which the perceived difficulties and challenges are explored,
- certain key parishes should be encouraged to practice dismissal during this period, so living examples can be considered,
- the result of consultation should be diocesan guidelines for Forming Threshold Companions.
On a practical basis, I liked Sheila’s suggestion of encouraging readers to attain the additional skill to form part of a rota to lead the weekly dismissal.
What an amazing conference! Input, reflection, liturgy, eating together – and of course raising the occasional glass at the end of the day.
For me personally, the mystagogical reflections were perhaps the most powerful moments – carefully woven together strands of words and music which brought to life again the experiences of liturgy and conference.
Sheila’s input around the themes of apprenticeship, community, liturgy and catechesis reminded us anew of the pillars of our ministry in RCIA and the need to keep them in balance.
I experienced a great sense of community among those gathered, and an openness and attentiveness to each other.
The ‘conference hymn’ has certainly been running around inside my head since Friday:
Stand firm, oh stand firm
Stand firm, oh stand firm
Stand firm, oh stand firm and see what the Lord can do!
‘Forming Threshold Companions’ was an excellent three day opportunity to deeply reflect once more on the rich vision of the RCIA in its wholeness. I was particularly struck by the importance of the community and how we modelled a small community, within a larger community as central to the process of the conference. Much thought had obviously gone into enabling these small fellowship table groups to function as reflective, listening, learning and worshipping communities. I felt bereft when, on the last day, we said goodbye and formed a new group focussed on geography and charged with the mission of taking it all home. What remains for me is a renewed conviction of the importance of the RCIA for the Church of today in initiating people into the radical way of life that prioritises as Jesus did.
Forming Threshold Companions did what it says on the title. It was a good place to be. It touched into the heart of the Rite Of Christian Initiation of Adults by emphasing once again the role of the community as the prime influence in the formation of all inquirers, inviting us to take seriously the power of the liturgy . To see the Liturgical Year as key to formation and helping us to feast at the table of the Word. For me the rite that holds all these aspects together is the rite of dismissal. A rite sadly more observed in the breach than the observance. Sheila was uncompromising in stressing the importance of this dimension of the RCIA and hopefully those of us who were privileged to be at the conference will re-think our practice and take the dismissal more seriously. The way in which we were led to reflect on the experience of celebrating the liturgies by journeying deeper into the Word which was certainly made flesh touched the hearts and minds of all present. For these things and for the table companionship I give thanks. It was as a blessing.
Martin writes again:
A number of people commented positively on the music and the liturgy – thanks to Paul, Philip, the instrumentalists and cantors for their help. I have added a list of the music and where it can be found on to the website.