After a fine meal at one of the oldest restaurants, The Ariston Cafe, on the historic Route 66, our event began Friday night at Holy Family Parish in Litchfield, Illinois. Eliot Kapitan, Director for the Office of Worship and the Catechumenate for the Diocese of Springfield and Sue Huett, Director of Worship for the Diocese of Belleville, welcomed us and we began to wade into the topic of children’s RCIA.
We first explored the child’s journey of conversion. In order to better understand conversion in children, we considered some of the qualities of children’s spirituality. We talked about how children have an innate awareness of God and how children’s spirituality is both personal and relational.In order to better understand children’s spirituality, we followed a suggestion found in Dr. Rebecca Nye’s book Children’s Spirituality: what it is and why it matters. Dr. Nye suggests getting in touch with your own childhood sense of the sacred in order better understand children’s spirituality today. And, this is where we began wading deeper. Participants shared some beautiful and heartfelt memories of the sacred from childhood. One participant recalled playing for hours in the grassy field behind her house. Another brought to mind her Buddhist upbringing. Then, on a lighter note, Sr. Mary Ellen described having “funerals” for dead animals found along the roadside. Between the chuckles and a tear or two, the group agreed that children are capable of seeing and knowing the divine.
The evening ended with a prayerful Celebration of the Word with adaptation of a Minor Exorcism. Under the leadership of Steve Stack, Liturgist and Musician at St. Jerome Parish in Troy, we experienced the formative power of liturgy done well. Although we really and truly did pray, the celebration also modeled for participants the importance of the Rites Belonging to the Period of the Catechumenate (RCIA, nos 81-103).
The next morning we spent a lot of time unpacking the meaning of the liturgical celebration of the previous night. In particular, we discussed how the rites of the catechumenate are an important part of the process of initiation for children. Furthermore, we encouraged catechists to preside at the Celebrations of the Word (nos. 81-89), the Minor Exorcisms (nos. 90-95), and the Blessings of the Catechumens (nos. 95-97).
We then moved onto a consideration of each various periods and steps of the RCIA as they are adapted for children. We talked about the importance of parental involvement and the role of peer companions. We talked about the process of discernment and we told lots of stories about children from our respective parishes.
Finally, we waded even deeper and took a look at how children’s RCIA has implications for all sacramental catechesis in the parish. Now, that was a hot topic! And, the topic for another blog post.
[To read more about Dr. Rebecca Nye’s research into children’s spirituality see Children’s Spirituality: what it is and why it matters (London: Church House Publishing, 2009)].