Children’s RCIA a hot topic in Springfield and Belleville

The historic Ariston Cafe on Route 66 in Litchfield, Illinois

Nearly sixty initiation ministers from the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois and the Diocese of Belleville, along with some folks from St. Louis, gathered August 2-3, 2013 for a workshop on children’s RCIA. The workshop, entitled Wading Deeper, is an annual event for RCIA ministers in the two Illinois dioceses and did we ever get in deep!

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.

eliot

Eliot gives many a workshop on RCIA

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.

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Participants remembered moments of the sacred from their childhoods.

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)].

 

Comments

  1. I,too, would love to hear from others how children’s RCIA has had implications for all sacramental catechesis. From my experience, I can say a few things about implications:
    1)Conversion – If we are asking conversion of child catechumens, and if all catechesis is based upon the baptismal catechumenate, then I believe all sacramental catechesis should call children to conversion. Albeit, a conversion that is appropriate for their age. I find that too often, sacramental catechesis is more of an instruction on a particular sacrament that happens at a particular grade level. I believe that children’s RCIA challenges us to make all sacramental catechesis a process of conversion that engages the parents and family as a whole.
    2) Liturgical catechesis – Liturgical catechesis, is such an foundational element of children’s RCIA that it can inspire and inform all sacramental catechesis. More specifically, I believe that doing mystagogical catechesis after the celebration of the sacraments is an essential piece for all sacramental catechesis with children – and their families! And, the whole parish for that matter!
    Those are just two of the implications that I see. What are your thoughts?

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