Collateral damage is the worst of unintended consequences – at least in its original military definition. Collateral damage is what happens in war when non-combatants are wounded or killed, unintended victims of bombing or gunfire.
It is unfortunate, but less traumatic, when limited to damage to property. For example, the military bombs a suspected terrorist hideout but destroys the innocent grocery store next door.
But can the opposite be true? Is there such a thing as collateral healing? Can there be an unintended benefit? Do unintended consequences come in both positive and negative flavors?
It is easy to see the negative in collateral damage. But we also see the positive in such unintended – perhaps even accidental – inventions as the post-it-note or penicillin. In fact, Business Insider has a list of inventions nobody was looking to invent that changed the world.
For Christopher Columbus, the positive benefit of looking for a route to China was discovering the Americas. That truly changed everything.
Lucy Honner, a consecrated woman of Regnum Christi, and Fr. John Bartunek, LC, have little in common with Columbus’ patrons Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. But like the royals of Spain, they shared a vision and have been willing to put in the effort to make it happen.
Columbus discovered a new world; Lucy and Fr. John found a way to fill a burning need within Regnum Christi: The Regnum Christi Spirituality Center (RCSC).
The RCSC started simmering toward reality in 2012. Lucy was traveling around the country and providing many people with spiritual direction. But something wasn’t quite right.
“It was very fulfilling, but while I was attending to people personally I wasn’t leaving them with anything to continue growing, Lucy recalls. “I felt like we needed to find a way to be present to people when we were not physically available.”
Lucy was pulled into a discussion with Fr. John Connor, LC, North American Territorial Director for the Legionaries of Christ, and others on how to better attend to the needs of Regnum Christi members. And, of course, this was happening in the early stages of the Legion’s Renewal, coming in the wake of the scandal around the Movement’s founder – and the loss of the use of all the writings that had been attributed to him.
2012 also was a time of transition for Fr. Bartunek, as the Legionaries closed the Thornwood Center for Higher Studies where he was teaching. He had unexpected time to reflect on his future.
“What really kept coming to mind was what we should do to spiritually feed our Regnum Christi family,” Fr. John says. “I started working to create online retreat guides.”
“We had done a survey asking what support RC members needed,” Lucy explains. “What the survey told us is that people wanted the retreat guides, spiritual writings, an online spiritual direction course, and especially things that are specifically Regnum Christi.”
Those have been put in place. Now, they are looking at creating the ideal “formation pathway” for Regnum Christi members and making sure the RCSC has the resources to support that journey.
But Fr. John stresses that the website will never be the complete source for Regnum Christi formation. It is a movement that depends on person-to-person accompaniment. The RCSC is complementary. And it appears to have a broader appeal for those looking for quality spiritual materials.
“We’re extremely conscious that our target audience is the Regnum Christi member,” Lucy emphasizes. “We’re very intentional about this; when someone signs up on the website we ask if they are a member of the Movement.
“We need to be certain that the materials meet the needs of our members for their own formation and for their missionary work with others. By the very nature of the online presence, we have become a missionary effort that reaches beyond RC.”
In fact, the RCSC has 25,000 subscribers, of which 1800 are Regnum Christi members. The website has 50,000 to 70,000 visits per month.
“Still, if we are reaching huge numbers but no RC members,” we have failed in our mission,” Fr. John says. “Everything we do has to be helpful to RC members in their own growth or an aid in their outreach to others.”
Clearly, many non-RC members are using the site and there isn’t any restriction. And there is no charge to subscribe.
Much of the material from RCSC has multiple lives. For example, the online retreat guides were conceived to be something an individual could use on their own. But often a Regnum Christi group will use the guide together. And Fr. John says that many are being used by parish priests for giving retreats. (Another example of collateral benefit.)
Part of the appeal of the RCSC may be its variety of content – as well as its accessibility in terms of length and clarity. Here is a sampling of what is available:
- Ask a Priest, by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC:Today’s secular world throws curve balls at us all the time. AskACatholicPriest is a Q&A feature that anyone can use. Just type in your question or send an email to [email protected] and you will get a personal response back from one of our priests at RCSpirituality. You can ask about anything – liturgy, prayer, moral questions, current events… Our goal is simply to provide a trustworthy forum for dependable Catholic guidance and information. (And this is the site’s most popular feature.)
- Finding the Plug, by Fr. Nikola Derpich, LC:The focus of Finding the Plugis to help you draw spiritual fruit from the Eucharistic celebration. By “finding the plug,” the hope is that you’ll establish a vital connection with the Mass that helps you put your heart and mind into liturgical prayer in order to capitalize on all the graces the liturgy seeks to communicate.
- Retreat Guides: Retreat Guides are do-it-yourself retreats available in video format, audio, PDF download, and as a booklet. You can watch, listen, or read it. Use individually or as a group. Each Retreat Guide includes five elements: an introduction, two meditation-starters, a conference, and a personal questionnaire.
- Spiritual Smoothies: Looking for a spiritual pick-me-up or boost? Then Spiritual Smoothies are just for you! These short videos, two to three minutes long, include small excerpts from the growing library of our longer, Retreat Guide videos.
- Uncle Eddy: Meet Uncle Eddy. Navigating today’s world is tough and all of us could use a nudge in the right direction. Figuring out the right path to take at work, college or with friends is not always easy. Before making some of those big (or small) decisions, see what Uncle Eddy has to say. A pseudonym for Fr. John Bartunek, LC, Uncle Eddy, is an imaginary uncle who has been imprisoned for the Catholic Faith. Pointing toward the lives of the saints he sends a daily email with spiritual advice to his many imaginary nieces and nephews.
- Study Circle Guides: Are you involved in your parish or community as a small group leader? Are you looking for ways to gather family and friends together to delve deeper into the richness of the Catholic faith? Then Study Circle Guides will be a helpful tool for you. These ready-to-go resources are perfect for any small group leader to easily facilitate reflection and discussion on a variety of topics.
- The Online Classroom: This is where Regnum Christi members can take courses to specifically improved leadership skills, as well as gain a greater understanding of the Movement’s spirituality.
Of course, there is the issue of paying for all of this. RCSC has a three-pronged approach:
- Ongoing appeals to the free subscribers to contribute – even a small amount – to help keep things free.
- Profits from book sales and speaking engagement.
- Major donors who support the RCSC mission.
“We have to stay disciplined on costs,” according to Fr. John. “We grow according to our means, not just our dreams.”
Still, look for RCSC to continue to grow, especially in the formation path for RC members. In the near term, a new feature will be recommended readings for the various phases of formation. And during 2019, Lucy says there will be the addition of a speakers bureau and regular podcasts. Stay tuned…and consider one other unexpected benefit of RCSC.
“We started this mission at a time when all of us in the different branches of the Movement were starting to figure out what it means to be co-responsible for a charism,” Fr. John said. “Both Lucy and I had on our hearts a desire to provide our members with more. But none of us could do it alone.”
Fr. John notes that the RCSC core team includes three lay members: Dianne Hart, Deb Levy, and Jen Meyer (a former RC missionary). He says the branches are still learning how to work together:
“What does it mean for us to work together as different branches? How do we form and function as a team? It has been providential for us to work through this. We’re learning how God wants us to live our mission.”
Header photo by Yoann Boyer on Unsplash