The team you need for a year-round RCIA

RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) image posted by TeamRCIAWhenever I serve on a Beginnings and Beyond institute, we always ask how many of the teams present are using a year-round process for the catechumenate in their parishes. Typically, about a fourth to a third of the hands go up. Granted, a B&B probably has a more than average share of beginners present, but that still seems like an awfully low percentage to me.

Now in all the time I’ve been working in RCIA ministry, I’ve never met anyone who thought a nine-month program was a good idea. Nine or ten months are all they can handle. Almost everyone would, they tell me, do a year-round process if.

Fill in the blank.

Usually, the “blank” is more team members. “If we had more team members, we could do year-round.”

So how many team members does it take to do a year-round RCIA process?

It takes the same as with a nine-month process.

How can that possibly be the case? Well, granted, the more team members you have, the easier any length of process would be. However, I believe that whatever amount of person-power and effort you are expending in a school-year model can be converted to a year-round RCIA process. It may still be difficult, but it won’t be any more difficult than what you are currently doing.

First, let’s be clear what we mean by “team members.” If you flip open your copy of the RCIA to paragraph 9, you will find a listing of all the “ministries and offices” required for an effective catechumenate process. The primary, most essential team member is listed first:

[T]he initiation of adults is the responsibility of all the baptized. Therefore the community must always be fully prepared in the pursuit of its apostolic vocation to give help to those who are searching for Christ.

The ideal vs. reality

Now, I can almost hear the moans and groans. You’re probably thinking there is no way your parish is going to live up that vision. They can barely say the word “catechumen.” It would take years to catechize them and motivate them to take their role seriously.

I can sympathize. I’ve been in parishes where I’ve thought the same thing. But if you look at paragraph 9 again, you’ll see there is no escape clause. It doesn’t say the faithful will be the primary minister once they are ready. It says they have that role as soon as they are baptized. In fact, if our parishes are not filled with faithful Catholics who are living out their vocation, what exactly are we initiating the catechumens into? I wonder if we are misreading the paragraph and thinking the faithful must be ideal Catholics or at least better than average Catholics before we hold them accountable for their primary role in the RCIA.

So, in either a nine-month program or a year-round RCIA process, you are always going to have the baptized faithful. And they are already meeting year-round, even if your program is only nine-months long. Even if you are short on other team members, you have your primary team in place and already functioning, year-round, with no extra effort on your part.

What’s worked for you?

In future posts, we’ll look at other ways you can capitalize on the efforts of your current team so you can move to a year-round process. In the meantime, let’s hear from some of you who have already made a commitment to year-round. How long have you been doing it? How did you get started? What bumps did you encounter? What success stories can you share?

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  1. Nick, I would agree that it isn’t more work, just different. It took me one 9-month academic year to decide to go year round. All I needed was that one person who came in January asking about becoming Catholic. I had to tell them that they needed to wait until August when I would be starting the ‘program’ again. I never heard from that person again and decided that was the last time I would get in the way of the Holy Spirit.

    It was a hybrid for a year, but by my 3rd year in the parish we did have a year round RCIA with people to take care of precatechumenate, with people recruiting and training sponsors, and with a core of 4-5 catechists for the catechumenate.

    Was it perfect? No. But each year we evaluated the process and worked on ways to improve it. People just need to have the courage to jump in!

  2. Great insight Doug. I think your last sentence says it all. We just need to gather up our courage and take a leap of faith. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Thank you Nick
    Your “the ideal vs. reality” is, unfortunately, right on.
    Our parish has enjoyed an RCIA team of one for many years.
    This past season was my first go as ministry coordinator.
    On Saturday I attended a RENEW RCIA WORKSHOP our diocese headquarters where I learned three things.
    build a team, follow the norms, keep in touch.
    TEAM RCIA on line was spoken of many times.

    Thanks again

  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Bill. Keep up all the great work you are doing. The church needs folks like you!


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