When I was 19, I was still living in my home town, St. Louis, Missouri. My pastor sent me to a diocesan meeting to learn about a new program called “RCIA” that would soon be starting in all the parishes. I didn’t know anything about the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults at that time. After that meeting, however, I knew this RCIA thing had the potential to be a very big deal.
What happened to my socks?
Four years later, I attended a Beginnings and Beyond Institute sponsored by the North American Forum on the Catechumenate. Minds were blown. Socks were knocked off. For the first time, I saw the clear flow between liturgy and catechesis. It changed my life. It changed my ministry.
A few years later, I was privileged to join the North American Forum team. For 20-plus years, I have been getting on airplanes, traveling to almost every region of the country, and meeting the most amazing people that exist on the earth.
Mentors, friends, and heroes
Some of these folks have been mentors to me, teaching me skills I didn’t know I had the talent for and challenging me to continuously discover new depths in the initiation process and in my own faith.
Some have become my good friends, sharing the joys and sorrows of missions accomplished and dreams still unrealized.
Some (most) are the stalwart saints who call themselves “ordinary” Catholics and who go to Mass every Sunday and the workplace every Monday with an invisible antenna attuned to locate the seekers out there who long for peaceful hearts and joyful lives.
These “ordinary” Catholics are my heroes. They are the ones who do the hard work, the extraordinary work of initiation ministry. It is these folks that the North American Forum was created to serve.
The Forum solution
Yesterday I learned that the Forum will be closing its doors on June 30. The word used was “dissolution.” This is, of course, incredibly sad for all of us who have been mind-blown and sock-knocked by the powerful ministry the Forum has blessed us with for decades. And it is ironic. The Forum has been the “solution” for so many things.
How, for instance, could a mid-twentieth century church, with no experience of liturgy that was “full, conscious, and active,” be expected to execute the complex and various rituals that make up the RCIA? The Forum gave us the solution for that.
And the RCIA itself offers no systematic catechetical process for initiation, which is so necessary for making these rituals more than mere performance. The Forum gave us the solution for that.
And really, did the Vatican or whoever really expect that initiation would become a community-based project that took place in parish halls, parishioner homes, and praying assemblies rather than pastors’ studies? The Forum gave us the solution for that too.
In preparing the Sacred Chrism, ordinary perfume is dissolved in ordinary oil, changing both into something holy. If it is time for the Forum to dissolve, pray that we all catch the scent it has swirled into our church. The Forum has changed us, and we are blessed because of it.
Share your stories
Have you experienced a Forum institute? Did it change the way you do initiation ministry? Please tells us about it.
19 thoughts on “The “dissolution” of the North American Forum on the Catechumenate”
Nick…I was so saddened by yesterday’s news and yet I am trying to find ways to move towards Easter life…as I feel those directly involved with the inception of Forum would desire. I see seeds scattered and hope now that the roots that they/we/all of us have sown have sunk deeply into the fertile earth of each who minister in this Rite.
When I think of Forum’s greatest gift it has been the way we ALL collaborated with each other as true colleagues…Jim Dunning to Jim Schellman, to liturgist, catechists, theologians, liturgical ministers, ordinary people, priests, and the many others who gathered particularly at the International Convocations.
After the shock and sorrow that followed my thoughts turned to gratitude knowing how blessed I have been through Forum and then to you and Diana for your work with TeamRCIA.
So as one chapter closes I move towards life in new forms and anticipation. For me, yesterday and today have been a deepening call to committing myself to a vision for bringing other’s into a life lived in Christ and I will forever celebrate in my heart the Christ who came alive in me through you and all who made NAForum so wonderful. Thank you!!!!
Hi Paula. You are so right about the collaboration. It was a true model. I’m glad to hear you are deepening your commitment. Thanks for all you do for this ministry.
I am stunned at the news of the forum shutting its doors. This is the first I have heard of it. I just signed up for an institute this August. It saddens me that something as valuable as this will no longer be around. Like you the forum changed my life and ministry. I have attended many forums along with bringing my team members with me.
We need to continue to move ahead with the Catechumenate.
Hi Elaine. I agree that we need to move ahead with the catechumenate. And we will. That is the great legacy of the Forum, that this ministry is firmly established in the North American church. Thanks for all you have given to help make that happen.
Will the Beginnings and Beyond Institutes that are scheduled for this year still go on?
Hi Sue. I don’t think there were any Beginnings and Beyond institutes scheduled this year. There were some other institutes scheduled, however, and I’m not sure what the status of those are. Check the Forum website for updates. http://www.naforum.org
Forum did give us so many solutions! And, so much more! Forum gave me courage to try new approaches to initiation ministry. Forum gave me the background I needed to talk about and implement the Rite. Forum showed me the importance of doing the liturgical rites well. Forum showed me what good preaching and good liturgy and good catechesis look like. Forum taught me what it means to form disciples for the life of the world. And, most important, Forum gave me some of my dearest friends.
I attended my first institute in 1984 when I was a brand new baby DRE and had no idea what RCIA was. I, too, had my mind blown away! It really was a “conversion experience.”
Thank you North American Forum on the Catechumenate. Thank you, friends and fellow seekers for being a part of Forum.
May we continue the journey, the mission, together with hearts and minds full of all that Forum has given us.
Hi Rita. Thanks for all your fabulous gifts and contributions to the Forum mission. You are one of the people that truly embodies the vision and the values of Forum. It’s been a joy being on the journey with you, and I pray it continues far into the future.
You’re in my blog this week. http://roncallicenter.org/blog/2013/5/5/christos-aneste-forums-closing-and-more.html
Thanks Denise! That is a very moving tribute to the North American Forum. Thanks for all you are doing to continue the vision.
Wow! Within five minutes I read about becoming a fuller member in Team RCIA and then about the dissolution of the Forum. In my 13th month coordinating RCIA, both you at the Forum and you at the Team have been wonderful, inspiring mentors along with dear friends in ministry. With deep gratitude I thank Forum catechists/coaches for powerful formation workshops in Cleveland and Streetsboro, Ohio. With real joy I thank Nick and Diane for great articles and questions answered. Praying with you all and wishing deep peace.
Nick, so very well said. I, too, and still in a state of shock, especially since I had just begun my own walk with Fourm as a Team Member. But the experiences I had, both in institutes that I attended and those I was a team member, will stay in my mind and have helped me grow so much in my own ministry. Whether I a active in an Initiation ministry or not, the lessons learned and Spirit shared in these sessions formed me as a minister, and I will never forget that.
Thank you to Forum, to Jim and all the wonderful people I met on the journey (including you, Nick, and Rita!)..you are an inspiration!
My first institute was a full week “Beginnings and Beyond” in Danville CA, sometime in the 90’s. The opportunity to experience the vision was priceless, and the ritual text became my best friend. (That might have been one of the most lasting benefits – an deeper awareness and profound appreciation of the text.) In the years since that first institute (and the ones following) my parish has moved from a one-size-fits-all school-year model to a year-round ongoing process, minimum 12-months in catechumenate, with distinct processes for the already baptized. More complicated, but so much richer. Forum sparked a fire that keeps burning: in the Oakland Diocese we’re fortunate to have ongoing workshops for RCIA teams; certainly not as intensive as the Forum’s, but an opportunity to share the vision and move towards fuller implementation of the Rite.
I will be forever grateful to the amazing presenters and the organizers of the North American Forum.
The Forum is the place where I began my involvement with the Catechumenate. Beginnings and Beyond was a great experience. It is sad to see a wonderful program come to an end.
The RCIA progress has assisted so many become full members of the Roman Catholic Church and I am sure it will continue for many years.
Thanks to Forum for the excellent formation you have provided for so many years to those of us in RCIA ministry. I went to two Beginnings and Beyond workshops and consequently had more formation than many others in parish ministry. The liturgies I experienced through B&B were some of the most memorable in my life – I still remember them! Because I am a cradle Catholic, this was the way I learned to enter into the rites, emotionally and spiritually. That immersion experience will always be part of who I am and will continue to shape the way I welcome others to our Catholic community. Blessings to all who were a part of this!
I joined the Catholic Church in 1997 through the RCIA process – and I was hooked. That very next year, I began volunteering on my parish’s RCIA Team and attended my first Beginnings and Beyond workshop. While my personal RCIA experience was wonderful, through the B&B I learned how truly rich the Initiation process and liturgies could and should be. We did not just ‘learn’ the RCIA, we lived it – and it was such a wonderful experience. I have since been back to B&B, and have attended other workshops offered by the Forum. I am so greatly saddened by this news, but thankful for the wealth of resources they have provided for me and my RCIA team. Their influence will live on through all the lives they have touched.
What a shock when I opened my mail just now. I started pastoral ministry here in our parish in 1915 with an RCIA process just 2 years old. I had learned about this wonderful journey of faith from one one of my community who was deeply involved in it. So here I was–the one to continue this in our parish here. I did a Forum and like you my socks and shoes were blown off!! The Spirit was a-movin all over the land! After a year, our team was well established and three smaller parishes were asking me if we could help train their team which we did with the help of their people going to the forum and working side by side with our team. Now they are all on their own but we keep in touch constantly. The process is pretty much all over Washington, Mo. and moving on. Although I am sad to hear of the dissolution, I think the Spirit is saying, “Hey. I got you going. Now it is time for you to help each other locally and through the internet. Thanks for all that you and the whole Forum have done for us so many years. This process will not die–the torch has been passed on to us nos to keep it alive. Change is good sometimes.
God bless us all —and stay with us.
Marilyn Chall, OSF
I too am very grateful for all that the North American Forum did for me. I went with my pastor, and two other people to a Beginnings and Beyond in Amorillo, TX in August of 1987. It was a powerful conversion experience for me, and showed me the gift of the RCIA process. That November we started the process in our parish, and I have been involved in it in some way or another since that time. Thanks to Jim Dunning, Ron Oakham, Rita Ferrone, and so many others, that helped me keep the fire burning in my heart and wanting to share it with others who were searching. Nick and Diana, I have learned so much from you since I first found your web site. I plan to stay connected with you even though I am moving on to be liturgist at our motherhouse here in Great Bend. My hope is that once I have gotten settled in my new ministry that I will be able to help out with RCIA again in this parish where I have worked for the last ten years. I hope to be involved in RCIA until my dying day!
My first exposure to the North American Forum on the Catechumenate was when I attended a Beginnings and Beyond Institute in 1997 at Stonehill College in Massachusetts. It changed my life. I spent better than 9 years as director for the RCIA program in my parish. We were fortunate to have a pastor who introduced me to FORUM and encouraged my participation in the workshop. I learned so much from him, studied the liturgy documents, and prepared extensively each week for breaking open the word.
When he was transferred the level of interface decreased and there was no working relationship with the new pastor. I was told by the new parochial vicor that he would not support me or any of the work I did. That was the end of my 9 years at that parish. I basically walked out.
As many US Catholics know the Boston archdiocese was considered ground zero for the abuse crisis and it is reflected in the attendance levels in just about every church I’ve attended since I left my parish almost 10 years ago.
I’m not sure what inspired me to google North American Forum on the Catechumenate today when I found this website.
I applaud you for continuing to spread the word about this wonderful program. It may just be time for the church to begin to grow again and I feel you are planting the seeds to do that. Every seminarian should attend a Beginnings and Beyond Institute as part of their curriculum. In Boston they didn’t even have to study liturgy years ago (not sure in recent years) and that doesn’t make any sense to me at all.
Congratulations. I will tell as many people as I can about this new website and your work. God Bless you all.