Margaret Matijasevic, Executive Director
A New Year of Stewardship Aligned in Mission
The National Conference for Catechetical Leadership is entering the new year with inspiring commitments. The new ENDS policies, drafted by the Board of Directors, with assessment and prioritization by the Representative Council, offer a refreshed articulation of the NCCL mission. The restructuring of committees with a reallocation of resources, both through capital and labor, has been prioritized to assure mission effectiveness. This is a critical time for the members of NCCL to embrace their entrusted role as engaged members, to assure the fulfillment of our vocational mission. Through the contribution of a varied expertise, and by fostering spiritual, professional, and personal development, the NCCL community has abundant opportunities to enhance efforts of collaboration; ensuring the strategic resourcing of professional leaders in catechesis and evangelization. In the beginning weeks of this year, NCCL has made tremendous strides to move beyond “business as usual.”
24/7 Stewardship Initiative
The launching of the 24/7 Stewardship Initiative has enhanced awareness of the importance of individual members contributing to the mission of the organization through a $24 monetary contribution. It is a contribution that is dedicated to the national work of evangelization and catechesis. A financial commitment of $24 can mean a sacrifice, and the 24/7 branding attempts to recognize this reality. Recognizing and embracing our ministerial vocation is a conscious choice, in every moment of the day, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and this initiative invites us to remember that we are all in this together.
To date, the 24/7 Stewardship Initiative is receiving great support, and is narrating a fresh story of the contribution of NCCL members to our mission. Throughout our recent history, NCCL has become reliant on a small and generous 4% of the membership community for their annual contributions. NCCL strives for 100% of its members to engage in stewardship. This would be a measurable 96% increase of stewardship that will contribute to the organization’s potential! It is also an investment in the leaders of tomorrow.
In recent conversations with philanthropists interested in supporting the NCCL mission and vision, the demonstration of this 96% growth is inspiring and reflects most accurately the catechetical leader of today, someone who is a steward of the mission 24/7 with a keen awareness of the link between sacrificial stewardship and its direct ability to reveal grace.
Synodality: A Stewardship of Leadership
This past week, on behalf of the members of the NCCL, I was personally invited to attend the Catholic Partnership Summitii, co-hosted by Leadership Roundtable, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Papal Nuncio; Cardinal Blasé Cupich, Archdiocese of Chicago; Cardinal Sean O’Malley, Archdiocese of Boston; Cardinal Joseph Tobin, Archdiocese of Newark; Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, Archdiocese of Louisville; Archbishop Jerome Listecki, Archdiocese of Milwaukee; Bishop Oscar Cantu, Diocese of San Jose; and Bishop Patrick McGrath, Diocese of San Jose. This experience assured the presence and voice of professional catechetical and evangelizing ministers in critical conversations at this point in church history. With the twin crisis of abuseiii in the Church, there has been a significant invitation by the Holy Spirit to conversion. This invitation requires an intentional movement into new processes. To that end, Cardinal Cupich encouraged the leadership model of synodality, which provided the imagery of turning around the traditional hierarchal pyramid; producing a different model of leadership that utilizes the gifts of all, reconnecting governance to service of the whole community. Presupposing the turning of this triangular structure of governance is the depth of what synodality requires, a deep understanding of dialogue, united in common priorities. For the twin crisis, those priorities are accountability, responsibility, and transparency. My friends and colleagues, these three priorities are critical to every leader in the church today, abandoning what has been, solito negotium, and recognizing the need for a conversion into a new culture of leadership. Each of us is called to contribute to a meaningful and significant change. One practical step addressed “the culture of silence” and its damaging effects. No longer can leaders remain silent on issues and experiences that compromise the integrity of the Gospel. Throughout the two-day gathering, various practical recommendations were discussed and assessed, yet the process was only the beginning of many required discussions and assessments to assure a conversion in leadership culture. NCCL will assure it is providing opportunities for the continuance of this change in leadership culture.
NCCL Convocation: An Invitation to Synodality
To commend the work of the NCCL 2019 Annual Convocation Committee, this year NCCL’s annual convocation has carved out intentional time to apply a synodal approach of leadership dialogue through various purposely themed days and processes. The Convocation theme of Nurturing the Hungry Heart surfaced from an internal longing among catechetical leaders. Addressing, through prayer and retreat, the areas in the deep silenced parts of our hearts, the first day of the NCCL convocation (Monday- Longing) is dedicated to connecting leaders to the invitation of conversion that resides in restlessness. This leads to the discovery of Christ amongst for the second day together (Tuesday – Nurturing) and challenges the members into dialogue and change by the third day (Wednesday- Preparing.) With the inspiration and encouragement of the Holy Spirit, there will be a fostering of conversion, ritualized through a commissioning liturgical experience on the last day (Thursday- Commissioned.) After the conversations at this Catholic Partnership Summit and the recognition of the demands of synodality, NCCL members are urged to invite other professional church leaders to the NCCL Convocation, especially for the third day of our gathering, that will focus on the themes of accountability, responsibility, and transparency. Modeling this has been Bishop Vann, the Bishop of Orange, who has extended the invitation to his brother bishops in his province to the NCCL Convocation. I encourage you to invite your pastors and bishops, who are the catechetical and evangelizing shepherds of your communities, as well as your colleagues in your dioceses and parishes. Be encouragers of synodality in this pivotal moment in church history. A template letter has been drafted for your use on behalf of NCCL. Since the diversity of leader invitations will vary, the provided letter is addressed as “Dear Friend.” Friends in professional ministry, those seeking accountability, responsibility, and transparency, are invited to attend the NCCL 2019 Convocation. Pray. Listen. Discern. What is the Spirit asking of you in your extension of this invitation?
Nurturing the Hungry Heart: A Stewardship for Spiritual Consolation
Lastly, I reflect on the Ignatian model of spirituality that surfaced at the Catholic Partnership Summit. The Church has been encouraged to reflect on the stark difference between spiritual desolation versus spiritual consolation. An experience of spiritual desolation cuts us off from the community, makes us turn inward, and makes us want to give up. This desolation will cover the landmarks of God’s presence. At this moment, it is not difficult to identify with those themes of desolation. For each of us, in our own story, there are different ways we have lived painfully in these characteristics of desolation with the twin crisis facing the US Catholic Church. Yet, the members of NCCL have been invited to know and live in spiritual consolation, notably through the prayerful discernment of the Holy Spirit’s beckoning that has urged your peers, committed to visioning and organizing the 2019 Convocation, to practice daily prayer for this annual gathering. This entrusted group of members have envisioned a meaningful journey for recognizing this desolation, by providing prayer and dialogue in community, while assuring processes encourage discernment of the invitation into spiritual consolation. We will gather together in the Diocese of Orange to discuss that which is difficult, to pray together to understand more fully what lies in our hearts, and to empty ourselves, reassuring a revitalized openness to the goodness of God’s presence and workings in our lives. Looking beyond ourselves and discovering new models of leadership will assure accountability, responsibility, and transparency. This is the work of all of us in the church, each in our own way. Thus, NCCL strives to make significant steps to live deeply into synodality, offering its members communal opportunities to nurture the Spirit’s invitation, and to discern its implications.
I look forward to being together in May. Till we meet in CA, know you are held in prayer.
i Based on the average number of members that donated to the Annual Appeal, Echo the Promise, and Excellence in Governance funds the past two years.
ii Reports of this gathering will be distributed to every diocese in the nation.
iii Twin Crisis defined as: a crisis of sexual abuse and a crisis of leadership and management failures that covered up the abuse and have led to distrust. Press release: https://leadershiproundtable.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/CatholicPartnershipSummit_PressRelease.pdf