Who’s on your RCIA team?

team_tball_894486_lHere are some of the folks that should be on your team. And the strengths they need to have.
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RCIA Team Leader

Characteristics of a good team leader:

  1. Enthusiastic. There are a lot of ups and downs in developing an initiation process. A good leader has to see the upside a lot more than the downside.
  2. Confident. There is plenty of opportunity for second guessing and self-doubt in a fledgling initiation process. A team leader needs to be confident of her abilities and the abilities of the rest of the team. She needs to be able to instill confidence in them.
  3. Flexible. Something will go wrong. Some days, everything will go wrong. A good leader is flexible enough to take whatever is “wrong” and turns it into a learning opportunity.
  4. Excellent. Being flexible does not mean being lax. A good leader will strive for excellence in every aspect of the catechumenate process.
  5. Passionate. The pastoral care of the inquirers and catechumens should be the number one driving force for the team leader.
  6. Prayerful. A team leader understands that she is a servant. The discipline of regular prayer, both personal and liturgical, is what keeps her obedient to her call to service.

Ambassador of Welcome (RCIA Inquiry coordinator)

If you only have one other person on the team besides the assembly, the pastor, and the team leader, I would find this person. These are some of the qualities you will want to look for:

  1. Joyful. Obviously. Hard to be the ambassador joy if you’re not joyful. But their joy needs to flow from their love of Christ, not because they won the lotto last week.
  2. Attentive to stories. This person has to love to listen to stories. Other people’s more than his own.
  3. Prayerful. Beyond the role prayer plays in keeping us true to our ministry, this person will also be someone who can pray for the inquires and who asks for and receives insight into what their individual needs
    are.
  4. Flexible. But not exactly in the same way as the team leader. There is little that can go “wrong” in the inquiry period. What does often happen, however, is the inquirer is led to a path other than the catechumenate. An ambassador of welcome needs to be genuinely happy they are taking another step on their own journey and not be disappoint that
    he “lost one.”

RCIA Catechist

When you are looking for a catechist, here are some essential qualities:

  1. Faithful. A catechist has to be a person of deep faith.
  2. Catholic. I don’t mean just someone who was baptized and goes to Mass. I mean someone Catholic, who loves being Catholic, who loves all the beauty and complexity of what it means to be Catholic. I do not mean this person is never disappointed or frustrated with the Catholic institution. But the disappointments pale next to the joy of living the
    Catholic life.
  3. Scriptural. A catechist doesn’t have to be a scripture scholar, but she does need to know the central stories that are proclaimed throughout the liturgical year.
  4. Traditional (in the good sense). Again, masters-level theology is not required. But she needs to be up to speed on basic Catholic teaching.
  5. Open to learning. A good catechist realizes she is not the answer-lady (or answer-guy). She is learning more about Jesus all the time, just as the catechumens are.

RCIA Sponsor coordinator

An effective sponsor coordinator will have these qualities:

  1. Patient. The patience of Job.
  2. Intuitive. An effective sponsor coordinator will have an eye for hidden talent and an willingness to ask out-of-the-ordinary folks to serve
  3. Persistent. A good sponsor coordinator is a bit of a mother hen, constantly checking in, making sure the sponsors are doing their jobs. Also, she is person who other people have trouble saying no to.
  4. Listens well. The sponsors are like all people. They will have frustrations and fears. The sponsor coordinator needs to be a good listener.

RCIA Dismissal minister

The qualities of a dismissal minister include:

  1. Faithful. A good dismissal minister has an active faith life that is enlivened by the word proclaimed at Mass. And he is willing to share that faith with others.
  2. Talkative. If you have a new group of catechumens, chances are they won’t share too much or too deeply at first. It helps to have someone who can lead the conversation along.
  3. Generous. While you want someone who can keep the conversation going, you don’t want a person who needs all the attention in the room. At the first inkling of input from a catechumen, the dismissal minister needs to allow some space for the catechumen to respond.

Other RCIA Ministers

Liturgy and prayer leaders

You are looking for someone who has a sense of drama and who understands how symbols work. It could be a musician, someone trained in dance, someone with acting background, or someone on the art and environment committee who
is always fussing to make sure things are just so.

Hospitality

Every parish I know of has a kitchen crew, a lunch lady, a baker, or someone who just likes to put on coffee and set out some cookies. They may not think of themselves as catechumenate team members, but they are essential
to you.

Retreat Leaders

If your parish has a youth minister, see if she might help you with retreats. If you live in an urban area, consider joining with other parishes to provide a deanery or regional retreats for the catechumens. Oftentimes, folks on the diocesan staff are experienced retreat leaders.

Pray-ers

This is so easy and obvious it sometimes gets overlooked. Make lists of every group you can think of and rotate through them asking them to pray for specific catechumens at specific moments in their journey.

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Comments

  1. Nick –

    Have you seen “Liturgical Prayer in Catechumenate Team Formation” by Mary Anne Ravizza? She’s in our parish and a graduate of SCU (the book was her thesis project.) She was a very successful Catechumenate Coordinator in our parish (years ago) and I think that the book talks about an important an often forgotten aspect of the catechumenate. The Forum still lists her book as a resource (through Amazon.com).

    Your site is a great idea.
    Good luck.
    Judy

  2. First of all, your web-site is a great idea!

    Regarding requirements for team members: Both “team leader” and “inquiry” make no mention of knowledge of the Catholic faith. That is a serious omission. You can’t pass on a faith you’re ignorant of.

    My observation is that in Catholic formation in general, there is a certain anti-intellectual bent when it comes to who is doing formation. And a great deal of nice, well-intentioned, people passing along what they remember (often inaccurately, or the personal beliefs of a teacher or former pastor) from a junior high confirmation class – 20, 30, 40 or more years ago. In practice, “nice” and baptized are generally our only requirements for cathechists. I’m reminded of an old bumper sticker, “Nice girls don’t make history.”

    Nice cathechists are nice, but the fact is, the millions of American Catholics who’ve left the church received their formal faith formation largely from nice people. We need to expect more than some nice time in a nice room with a nice person from Catholic formation.

  3. Debra,

    You’ve made some thoughtful comments to which I’d like to respond.

    The characteristic named above as “excellence” should take care of the concern you raise for the team leader. Excellence implies discernment, and this necessarily includes knowledge. Even as your examples point out, what appears to some as “knowledge of the faith” can be partial, outdated, or just plain wrong. But if the team is floundering in ignorance and half-truths, a team leader concerned with excellence will get in there and set up some team formation, pronto. She or he will put better resources into the hands of the team too, and help them do better.

    Where I would press your point even further, however, is in the area of catechist formation. Being a good catechist requires the skill and ability to actually draw those being catechized into a deeper relationship with the living Christ. The General Directory for Catechesis says that the catechist must be formed in “being, knowing, and savoire-faire.” “Being” embraces the catechist’s own faith journey and spirituality. “Knowing” embraces both knowledge of the message of Christ, and knowledge of those to be catechized (their culture, customs, way of life). “Savoire-faire” is the “knowing how to do it” that makes a catechesis not just “doctrinally sound” but effective.

    I find the three-fold description from the GDC helpful in filling out the sketch above. But in the meantime, let’s not lay the burden of all the fallen-away Catholics on the doorstep of the “nice catechists.” The recent Pew study, to which I presume you are making oblique reference, does not answer the question of why people leave the Catholic Church in America in great numbers, as they do. I would want more data before making the assumption that it is all because of an inadequate catechesis.

  4. I just wanted to say that this website is absolutely wonderful. It has a wealth of information that I know will come in very handy. I’ve attended a number of North American Forums, have read the Rite book (sorry, only once through so far), and have been involved in the process as a team leader for adults and teens for seven years. In my new position, I’ll be the Direcotr of RCIA and before I came across yuour website, I was wondering where in the world to start. The articles have been very helpful and I’m looking forward to meeting the existing team members as well as forming new ministers. Thank you very much for putting all of this information at our finger tips.

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