The RCIA network conference Bridging the Gap has come and gone and brought with it lots of ideas. Led by Fr Martin Jakubus’, his vision of a sponsoring community was thought provoking, but as often happens it is the odd comment that hits the nail on the head.

One of our clergy participants, made the point, that we still talk about ‘groups’ when it is about ‘community’ and about the oneness of God.

The word ‘group’  gives a vision of people with like-minded ideals gathering together, whether the activity or purpose is secular or religious. But the fact that a group has a  title and consists of selected members is already divisive; whereas we are actually this big amorphous body, and as we welcome new members, we –the community, extend a bit, and open up to  welcome this new person into our midst, as another joins the Body of Christ.

In Reflections for Corpus Christi the blogger referred to 1 Cor 3:5-7 when Paul asks what is Apollos, what is Paul. Paul in writing to the community about their divisions, reminded them that the individuals and their tasks count for nothing, for it is ‘God, who gives growth’. Paul was clear that having different factions was divisive.

Yet the human in us likes groups: there is something cosy about them, but have you ever been to a group that feels closed, or more intent on pursuing a specific purpose, so that it is bowed down by its process.  I guess this is the Martha syndrome:  being busy but missing the real point of what or who is important.  A routine has to be followed with a ‘programme’ and a timetable, which doesn’t necessarily fit with every enquirer.

At your next team meeting, look at RCIA 4 & 9. You can’t swop  the term ‘group’ for ‘community’; it doesn’t have the same effect.  Why not, as part of your next evaluation -and summer makes a great time to evaluate, whether your team meets just term-time or all year round – ask how RCIA is growing in your parish.

RCIA 9   tells us  ‘the entire community must help the candidate and catechumens throughout the process’.

How many of your parishioners are given the chance to welcome inquirers into their home? #9.1;

Do you publicise and give plenty of notice of celebrations occurring during the catechumenate, so that many of the community can be present? #9.

Perhaps those with welcoming skills are where Inquirers are first directed.

Do you have a pool of sponsors who benefit from the opportunity of ongoing formation ready for when their role is called upon?

Do your catechumens accompany those in specific parish activities, justice & peace and social action?

Do they attend prayer groups, help with fundraising or social events?

Is Your Community aware they are the lynchpin to evangelisation and mission?

        Does everyone know that RCIA is carried out in your parish?

Do they know there is a team: who is involved and what specific tasks there are?

If you have RCIA sessions, are they well publicised. If they are closed sessions, have you explained why to the rest of the community

Does the community pray for its catechumens, support them on their journey and welcome them as Neophytes and befriend them for life?

During the summer break, why not get liturgists and catechists together to plan how the Rite of Acceptance or Welcome can occur at Sunday Mass, or how the Scrutinies can be celebrated at Mass next Lent, rather than at an evening group session.

When you think of RCIA as a whole community action, it makes it easier to select people for specific ministries: sponsors, godparents.

None of the above is new and probably many RCIA teams consider they tick all the boxes, but why not take the time to ask a few of your parishioners what they know about RCIA in your parish.  Is their perception of RCIA what you expected? People come and go from parishes, and I’ve not been to one yet, where everyone is aware of what RCIA is, that it is being carried out in their church, and that it is the task of ‘all the baptised’ #9

Finally, please share your good practice of whole community RCIA, as well as the hurdles that had to be overcome. That is what the Network is for: to share ideas and exchange good practice.