Becoming a Catholic

At this year’s  RCIA conference (2nd –  4th July) we explored the catechumenate stage of the RCIA journey with Fr Paul Turner, a liturgist from the USA (and author of ’ Hallelujah Highway’).  It was a real privilege to listen to what Fr Paul had to say as we explored this important stage of the RCIA process.

The venue was somewhat unusual at the Sedgley Park Police Training Centre in Manchester, which meant sharing our meals with policemen and women on various trainings themselves. The accommodation and grounds were lovely, as was the food (very large portions). I heard that Sedgley Park used to be a catholic teacher training college and so still has a chapel, which was where we had our sessions.

Fr Paul firstly reminding us all of the overall stages of the RCIA process: the Pre-catechumenate – proclaiming the living God; the Catechumenate – providing suitable catechesis; Purification & Enlightenment – spiritual preparation and Mystagogy – participation in the sacraments. He then talked about the ‘four ways’ in the catechumen period summarized as faith: believed; celebrated; lived and prayed. The faith believed is about providing suitable catechesis for the catechumens, which should be gradual and  linked to the liturgical year. This is also underpinned by celebrations of the Word. It is faith lived with the support of not only sponsors and godparents but also the entire Christian community and this can bring about change in the person, focusing less on self and more on God. It becomes a faith prayed, where the catechumen looks to Christ, prays more, gives their lives and concerns  to God and has a greater awareness of love of neighbor.  

But you know we spent 3 days on this, I can’t possibly cover it all in this little blog but what I personally pondered over were these thoughts.

  • The catechumenate period is person centred – it is primarily about preparing the person and they move on when they are ready (not when the church process finishes). An all year round catechumenate should be the model but not many of us provide it.
  •  A major change takes place in the person in this stage and can set the course for the rest of their lives, it lays down formation for prayer, lifestyle, and attitudes. It’s about laying the foundation stones for discipleship. Get this right and we get the next stages right
  • It’s also a great time to get them integrated into the life of the church. Don’t wait until later but start the weaving at this point.

Of course the other highlight was spending time with other RCIA catechists, and sharing not just about what was happening in our parishes but also worshipping, socializing and even singing together ( after a few drinks in the bar). A good time was had by all, we received a lot of exciting material to share with our parishes and I felt renewed myself. Many thanks to Fr Paul and the RCIA Team for organizing.  I look forward to next year’s.