One of the things I love about the catechumenate is the sense of community that happens within the formation group. The team bonds more closely together, inquirers take that “leap of faith” together in the Rite of Acceptance, baptized candidates share their common love of Christ and how they find the fullest expression of that love in the Eucharist, and sponsors come to a level of faith they never thought possible.
It is an amazing and awesome process to be a part of. It humbles me and fascinates me still, after more than 30 years of doing this.
But for the last few years, something has troubled me. It seems to me that the teams I’ve been a part of have been very good at creating a “faith cocoon.” We created a safe place where all of us in the process—no matter where we are on the faith journey—can share and grow more deeply in our faith. We experience conversion.
The problem is, the rest of the parish isn’t undergoing a similar ongoing conversion. Would that they were, but that’s not what is happening in most places. What often happens, then, is that neophytes and new Catholics are set free from that safe warm cocoon sometime after Easter. We shoo them off into the larger parish that is, by comparison, somewhat cold, large, and unfamiliar. Sometimes the new Catholics feel disoriented. Sometimes they want to stay in the catechumenate. Sometimes they drift away. Sometimes they find another congregation—often Evangelical or Pentecostal—because they feel a strong sense of welcome and vibrant faith there.
What has bothered me about the way I have led teams in the past is that I began to feel like the inquirers were joining the “RCIA” more than joining “St. Flocellus Parish” or the “Roman Catholic Church.” Of course what they are actually joining is Jesus Christ. The problem is that while they learn to find Christ in the small-group experience of the catechumenate, they have difficulty finding Christ in the parish church or the universal church.
What do you think?
I’d love to hear about your experiences. Do your neophytes and new Catholics immediately feel at home in the parish after their initiation or reception? Do they feel lost without the catechumenate group to support them? How have your sponsors and godparents been helpful with all of this?