By Jackie Hopper,
Vice President, NCCL Board of Directors
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
I am haunted by this scripture passage. Perhaps it is because I am not a runner. I have never gotten up and said to myself, “I am going to run today.” Actually, if you ever see me running, my advice would be to run too, because something is probably chasing me. It might scare me because I am comfortable in my way of doing things and change is hard. Yet I find myself turning to this scripture in prayer whenever I have work to do as a board member of NCCL. I pray that I will make all decisions with my eyes fixed on Jesus. I pray for the endurance to keep doing the work. I pray I will be willing to let go of my presumptions and practices when I see they are no longer working. Then I allow myself to dream, and when I dream of the future of this organization, I am filled with hope, energy and I get very excited to do the work before me as a board member.
NCCL’s journey has been a long one; we have been doing business since 1934. In 1934, Church finances began to feel the effects of the Great Depression. Building debts, loss of staff and declining collections were issues that Church leadership had to face. Sound familiar? As I talk with our membership around the country, I hear about declining staffs, increasing workloads, and low morale due to the recent crises the church has had to face.
NCCL have survived for 85 years but I strongly feel that this part of the journey is about much more than survival. We are at a crossroads in our organization and in the church. The way we have done business in the past as a church, as an organization, as a member, may need to change. We have so many opportunities for virtuous action that will bridge this crossroads.
When you go to our web page, you are greeted with the tag line “Driving the vision of catechesis in our Catholic Church.” Our mission statement is “NCCL exists to promote the ministries of catechesis and evangelization within the Church’s teaching mission and to enhance the ministerial effectiveness of its members in their service of leadership to the Catholic Church through the interchange of ideas and mutual support.”
These are powerful words. These are great visions. These dreams are possible. As the NCCL Board has reflected on these words, dreams, and visions, we have come to a consensus: we must be willing to examine our methods, our practices, our ways of doing business, EVERYTHING if we want to thrive in the future. We must forge ahead to make NCCL a vibrant organization that embraces the mission that we have all been called to. When Jesus gathered his disciples and gave them the instructions “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you,” he was quite clear. GO, BAPTIZE, TEACH, ALL. This Great Commission is our mission as NCCL. It is why we exist. We just have to be willing to rid ourselves of the burden that prevent us from doing this.
This burden may be our province structure. It may be how we gather. It may be our finances. We have to be willing to examine everything. Moreover, we have begun to do so. We have heard that many want to come to NCCL convocations but can’t because of its current length or due to finances; that many provinces cannot get a diocesan and/or PCL rep for the Rep Council; that some theological perspectives have caused division. We must continue to uncover our burdens. We must be brave.
The reason we can do this is because we have a great cloud of witnesses that have gone before us and are present with us now. Jesus is our model runner, and our sustaining God has given us everything we need to finish the race. We need to keep our eyes on Jesus in order to do so. We have the gifts, the passion, the desire and the perseverance to run this race.
As we build on our past and run towards the future, our Board has taken a bold step and engaged the services of Meitler, a well-known and experienced church management and organizational consulting firm. We have asked Meitler to listen to and work with the board, staff, and members of NCCL as together we do a comprehensive organizational review. We have asked them to challenge us and where needed to speak the truth in love so that together we can build on our rich history, while considering new possibilities for the future of NCCL.
The future of catechesis and evangelization is going to be amazing. We will soon have the General Directory of Catechesis in hand. Our executive director has been invited by our Bishops to serve in a Working Group under the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis that will present this new jewel in our church documents. We have heard it is a profound renewal of catechesis and evangelization.
We will be talking about all this and more when NCCL’s Rep Council meets again in November (we wrote about Rep Council and representation in our last monthly board message). We will be talking about all this and more with you in the months to come. We are committed as a Board to drawing our entire membership into this conversation and action of renewing our organization, in service to the Church.
We believe the Holy Spirit is hard at work in our Church. We must be ready for the race. Let us be brave. Let us GO. We have been called into greatness and there is no option for failure.