What God can do…

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RCIA retreat day

We’re approaching Easter and so often for the parish year, this means that programmes wind up and catechists take a well-deserved rest. Well, not so in Portsmouth… We have revamped the RCIA process (read about the enquiry and evangelisation phase here) so that we are now running a year-round programme. I find that this is the only way of achieving authenticity with RCIA. If you have the same starting-point every year, the same date for the Rite of Acceptance, and the same finish-point (Easter), you are implicitly (or not so implicitly!) saying that you expect this is the length of time it will take for each person’s conversion to the Lord. The reality is, for most people, it takes longer than a year (being a disciple involves a radically-new worldview and practical changes in one’s life often), and for every single person it is different. A year-round programme is the best way of achieving authentic flexibility that is not driven by liturgical dates.

So, in fact, we have only one lady who will be confirmed this Easter. (And I truly consider this fruitfulness, because this lady really is a disciple. We have 15 people still in other stages of the Catechumenate and enquiry.)

Last weekend, we had a retreat day, which has become a termly event for everyone at whatever stage. We led a reflection on the thresholds of conversion, asking the catechumens and candidates to reflect on where they would place themselves. At the end, we all gathered around the lady who will be confirmed and prayed for her. An incredible, moving moment…

Now we are looking ahead to Catechumenate next term. I am determined it will be as evangelistic as possible! Each week will include a testimony from a different parishioner linked to the topic of the week. I have watched the transformation in people over the last two terms, and am so excited about what will happen in the coming months…

Our Bible Study also finished this week. I’ve written about it a number of times, including here. Monday night was such a joyful evening. At this stage, the fifty people who have been attending are like a family. We watched the final DVD presentation, then had a beautiful time of prayer, praise and thanksgiving, followed by a party. Such a great atmosphere. What I love about the Church is how you would never see these people together anywhere else, and yet, there is such love among everyone – this is the great blessing of the Church.  Some wonderful things are coming out of the Bible Study… Firstly, a prayer group which will meet fortnightly for praise, Adoration, teaching and fellowship. Secondly, people are beginning to think concretely about ways we can serve the poor (there is a massive homelessness problem in our city, and it is apparent that many intentional disciples have this on their heart). Thirdly, there seems to be an established core group who will keep offering Bible Studies in our parish until Jesus comes again – what a blessing!

This time eighteen months ago, I would never have guessed there would be such a dynamic group of intentional disciples with a huge range of charisms here in the city, discipling people within RCIA, sharing their testimonies, and pondering how to reach out to the community. If I read then what I am writing now, I probably wouldn’t have believed it. Lord, how you astonish me!

If this change has been possible here, it really can happen anywhere. We have done this with very little help from our priests – I don’t mean this negatively because they constantly provide us Confessions and Adoration or teaching whenever we ask. But all the initiative has come from us, and – thank God – they have trusted us to do it.

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