And now for news from the front lines of evangelization:
First the good news which starts with a bit of bad news:
I told the story of a lay parish leader in Forming Intentional Disciples, who had the stunning experience of having six unrelated adults come to her in a single month last year, all saying “I’m about to leave the Church for the Protestant world because I’m having these spiritual experiences and I can’t find anyone in the parish to talk to about it”.
Word had gotten out in the parish that you could talk to my friend about issues of relationship with God and so Catholics on the verge of leaving came to her – and she was able to talk four of the six into staying.
Since then, she has been a catalyst of discipleship in her parish and region and is currently writing the first draft of a simple mini-retreat/formation process that will help parishioners gain an understanding of pre-discipleship thresholds of conversion and how to have supportive spiritual conversation with other Catholics.
I got this e-mail from her yesterday:
Our anemic little RCIA program is suddenly inundated with folk:
Last year, we had 4 baptisms: 2 youth and 2 adults. We also had 2 youth and 2 adult who were baptized but uncatechized and one adult profession of faith. (Total: 9)
This year we have eleven youth, ages 7-19 preparing for baptism, and six youth who are baptized but uncatechized. We also have eight adults preparing for profession of faith, and already four unbaptized adult inquirers...(total: 29)
Can we say explosion? We have families that walked away and are coming back...I start interviews with them next month. I look forward to hearing the stories.
Nationally, the number of people entering the Church through RCIA has dropped 35% since 2000. But the experience of pioneering evangelizers that we are working with around the country indicate that it doesn’t take a herculean effort to reverse that trend. All it takes is a clear vision for making disciples and the willingness to make this possibility visible and easily accessible to the semi-practicing and marginal Catholics and non-Catholics who float in and out of our parishes in a regular basis and are quietly scanning the spiritual horizon for options.
We’ve heard these stories before. The same spiritual hunger that lures spiritual seekers out of the Church draws them back in when parishes begin to openly talk about relationship with God and following Jesus Christ. When parishes break the culture of silence, spiritual seekers in the community and outside the community begin to come to you.
The fastest and easiest way I know of to break the silence and begin the conversation is to do what dioceses, and parishes are doing around the country: buy quantities of Forming Intentional Disciples and download the Instrumentum Laboris from the Synod on the New Evangelization and read and discuss them together.
This is the conversation we desparately need to be having in this Year of Faith!