In celebration of the upcoming graduation of Echo 12 on Saturday July 29, Church Life will feature interviews with select Echo alumni.
Today's interview is with Michelle Ross, of Echo 10, who served as an apprentice for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston at Christ the Redeemer Parish. For the past two years she has Served at Nativity Catholic Church in Indianapolis as the Director of Religious Education and Pastoral Associate.
CL: How do you see yourself renewing the Catholic imagination through your work?
MR: My understanding of the Catholic Imagination is as a way of living and growing creatively in the truth offered to us through a personal relationship with Christ and his Church. When we awaken the Catholic Imagination we can dream and, in a way, play with the rich beauty and history of the teachings and tradition of the Church so that our encounter with Christ is lifted up and made present for the world.
A lot of my energy at Nativity is poured into sparking the Catholic Imagination in our parishioners, friends and family. I want them to trust that God is speaking to them uniquely and inviting them to share their relationship with others in a creative way. I try to orient all that Nativity offers through the Faith Formation Office towards an integration of relationship, knowledge of Jesus and self, and communal growth. But, the biggest hurdle for our parishioners, and I also believe of the Church in the U.S., is that we feel we are not equipped to “go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel,” so we fail to even try. Our personal hurdles have prevented us—the church of Nativity and the broader church—from sharing the good news.
CL: What has shaped your own Catholic imagination? How do you continue to nourish your imagination?
MR: I certainly include myself in this need for renewal, because I failed to allow my Catholic Imagination to be sparked and shared until I began formation with the Echo program. Upon entering an academic and holistic formation setting without any prior intentional formation, I was challenged daily to let God speak to me and to then nourish others, no matter how little I felt I knew or was sharing.
There were many moments of frustration, similar to the frustrations I now see in the parishioners I serve, in that I felt I was not qualified for the work I was being invited into. I was invited to trust that God was using me in a way that I could not see myself. Through the love and patience of my community members, classmates and the Echo staff I gradually came to grow in my ability to nourish my own imagination and that of others.
The tools that I was given during my time with Echo have continued to (re)nourish my imagination each day post-graduation. Echo sparked a desire within me to commit time to daily prayer and reading of the scriptures, regular reading of academic material, and to share with others what I have discovered in my own journey with Christ.
CL: Where do you see a need for a renewed Catholic imagination within the Church?
MR: In reflecting on the community I serve at Nativity and my own family, I see a great need to nourish the Catholic Imagination in the Domestic Church, the small Church communities we find in the home. Parents often come to me, either interested in registering their child for faith formation, sacrament preparation or to inquiry about beginning preparation for initiation into the Catholic Church through RCIA (the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults). Almost always, the parent is interested in coming to the church for this formation because they feel the same inadequacy I have previously described. I view my work at Nativity is to empower these parents to serve as first catechists, as they are called to by our Church to do.
The work I do with these families makes me wonder what the prayer of our Church, our outreach, and our relationship with the world would look like if we were committed to nourishing the Catholic imagination.
CL: What tips and tools would you recommend for others serving the Church who aspire to renew the Catholic imagination?
MR: The best tool I could offer those serving the Church is the advice I offer to the catechists at Nativity – we must first, as individuals, commit to a life of discipleship. We must first model the behaviors, relationship and devotion we want to nourish in those we serve. And, we must be open to sharing with all we encounter the work God is doing in our lives.
If we truly wish to renew the Catholic Imagination share the good news, we must allow others to see in us what we are asking of them. We must live creatively within the truth of the gospel.
Photos Courtesy of McGrath Institute for Church Life