I agree with Martin, (May 19 2008) that one of the factors that hinders the progression of RCIA is a cloak of secrecy, perpetrated by some in leadership roles. To overcome this, I suggest it requires an appreciation by the team of the scope of adult initiation, as well as a good understanding of the rite, so as to appreciate the essential role of the community.
For example if you explore the requirements of RCIA #4,
‘The initiation of catechumens is a gradual process that takes place
within the community of the faithful. … the faithful provide an example…’
The following might be useful questions to ask:
• In what ways do we inform the parish of the ongoing RCIA process?
• Is everyone aware that RCIA is part of this parish?
• Do the parishioners acknowledge their own responsibility to those being initiated?
• Do they recognise the candidates, and the new catholics?
Next time you are at mass or at a parish gathering, do a straw poll and ask what is known about RCIA and how it occurs in your parish.
If the answers to the above are less than satisfactory, why not have a brain storming session with your team on how to publicise and promote RCIA. You could have an open meeting, or invite specific parish groups to consider practical ways, that the faithful can ‘provide an example’ of what being Christian means. Such contact is essential to the whole initiation process (see #9, #75.2).
This leads me to Martin’s point about using this time to have a “new year resolution”. My resolution would be to introduce year-round RCIA, for that is the key to making it an ongoing gradual process, which involves the whole parish.
‘During the period of evangelisation and precatechumenate…. Christ’s
message is made known by word and deed…(the people) welcome them
into their homes, into personal conversation, and into community gatherings’ #9.1
So from the first, the enquirer is in contact with the community. That same community will be present during the liturgical rites (#9.2) and ongoing through to the post-baptismal Mystagogy. Just as the community experience the liturgical seasons of ordinary time, advent, lent, easter, Pentecost, the liturgical year provides the same cycle of spiritual growth for those experiencing adult initiation.
Year round catechumenate brings its own challenges. How to introduce it, manpower, a substantial change to the school year model, a change of mindset away from ‘instruction’.
• Manpower: use it as an opening to invite new parishioners to become involved, in hospitality, formation, sponsors, etc.
• Agree a holiday rota, avoiding those with school age children.
• Introduce it this summer, as a fortnightly or 3 weekly event and gradually extend it over the year, to the same frequency as usual RCIA sessions.
• Have different teams for different parts of the process. It is demanding to attend week after week. Catechists need a break to continue their own formation, and opportunity to discuss and experience other models.
• Offer a general invitation to the parish to come along to the gatherings: a notice in the parish newsletter that all are welcome, indicating discussion will be around the Sunday lectionary, can be less daunting than offering a fixed topic where cradle catholics may think their ‘knowledge’ will be tested.
• Using the lectionary, and following the liturgical year, makes it easier for team members to drop in and out of the process, than being ‘topic-based’.
• Announce the year-round process: from the pulpit (shows clergy support), the parish newsletter, notice board, circulate to other parish groups.
• Ask the parish to pray for its implementation, in the bidding prayers, prayer groups etc.
• Evaluate, reassess, and discuss as a team – ask members to journal the process- it is wonderful to read back and see how positive a change has been, as this is often underestimated while you’re experiencing it.
• Use this site to pass on your experience, what works, what can be avoided.
Adopting a year round catechumenate will make RCIA more widely known and integrated in parish life, especially as the liturgical rites come to be celebrated in the Sunday mass, and the community is kept informed about catechumens.
The increase in team members (encouraged by requiring shorter periods of commitment ) will mean you are better placed to cater for the different stages of the catechumenate and to differentiate between the unbaptised and baptised.