The benefits and challenges of a year-round RCIA process

RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) image posted by TeamRCIARecently, we asked you what your RCIA timeline looks like (click here to contribute your responses). I thought you might like to see some of the responses so far. One question we asked was, “Has your parish moved from a time-limited catechumenate to an ongoing, year-round process?”

Honestly, I was surprised by the number of people who said, yes, they do have an ongoing, year-round process. Here are a few of their affirmations of going year-round.

We’ve been at this a while

Yes, we have been doing year-round for almost 20 years. It is challenging but worth every effort.

We have been having an ongoing process for 25 years. It was a struggle at the beginning but seems so natural now.

We just started recently

We started year round catechumenate this past year. Catechetical sessions are held every other week from August to June which makes the year round process a bit more manageable and less taxing on the team. I’ve stressed to the catechumens that Sunday Mass is our primary weekly gathering. This is the first time we’ve continued with the dismissals after Easter Sunday and it has been going well.

We are working on it! It’s a work in progress, getting a little better each year. We usually have new inquirers after Easter and meet with them twice a month till they are ready to celebrate the Rite of Acceptance or Welcome, usually in late September or early October. Several people tend to show up after school starts in August and September, so we meet with them separately and then slowly incorporate them with those who started after Easter.

Some big benefits

The benefit is anyone can start at any time. I don’t have to tell someone in January they need to come back in September. I like that, because we could take a chance of losing them if we make them wait. I get a lot of negative comments from older parishioners who think it should go back to the old way. Being a convert myself and just recently taking over RCIA I enjoy the fact we have a longer time together and we can plan different activities for them to experience the fellowship and community.

One thing that recently dawned on me is if dismissals only take place from November to Lent, then the catechumens are only exposed to predominately seasonal liturgies (Advent, Christmas, Lent…) and miss the opportunity to break open the richness of the gospels of Ordinary time. I have also recruited a couple of Lectors for the team to help facilitate the dismissal sessions.

The biggest benefit is not having to say “wait until we start in (insert date here)” to an inquirer. You never want to turn away someone whom the Spirit has called at that moment. It’s much easier and welcoming to say “come join us now” or “join us whenever you’re ready.”

The biggest benefit I found is that year-round is sensitive to the individuals graced journey, allows more of an apprenticeship experience, and 90% are still with us at the end of the neophyte year.

We have more time to work on precatechumenate evangelization, we went to gospel catechesis, we got off the schedule, people now progress on their time not our schedule, everything is a lot more relaxed.

It’s what Jesus would do

We look at it as Jesus would. He did not say he was tired come back in the fall! We do take a two week break when the local county fair is on as we do see a drop in attendance because of concerts.

The year-round process recognizes that not all our inquirers are at the same place in their journey…some may take longer, others, not so long.

There are many different circumstances in people’s lives to which we must respond and flexibility is the key.

Challenges we’ve faced

One of the biggest challenges is answering the question that all inquirers ask, “How long is it going to take.” Since you can’t honestly answer that question, say so, then explain the process and the major steps along the way.

We moved to an ongoing year-round process a few years ago. Our pastor was concerned that we would discourage people because we were expecting a great deal from them rather than beginning in September and being baptized at the Easter Vigil; now they begin whenever they come and they remain at least one full liturgical year. The community that is built in RCIA sustains the people and they are more than happy to keep coming and ask if they can continue coming even after baptism. They are expected to continue until after Pentecost but they often continue into the summer and the next fall.

Some of the biggest challenges are to keep everyone straight and know where they are in their process. We usually keep the seekers in the inquiry phase for 14 weeks, sometimes longer if they are not ready to move on. It is determined by both them and their sponsor. We have people coming in all the time. It is also hard on the sponsors and catechists because they sometimes do not take a break between candidates. I try to keep a plethora of sponsors available in case one needs a break.

When I began participating in the RCIA here after I was hired as coordinator of adult faith formation, it took a while to convince the deacon who was director and had been through the parish “program” himself. He is convinced now of a year-round welcome, inquiry, catechumenate preparation, recognizing that the grace of God does not follow a calendar year. We continue to adapt to the needs of those who seek the sacraments of initiation.

It tends to be kind of messy at times, but it seems to work out okay in the end.

Take the survey

We’d love to hear more about what you are doing to either establish or maintain a year-round process in your parish. If you would take five minutes to complete a survey, we’ll share the results with you in an upcoming post.
RCIA image posted by TeamRCIA Click here to take the survey.

See also these related articles:
  1. How to make parish renewal a byproduct of RCIA
  2. Your first small step toward a year-round RCIA process
  3. RCIA: Learn why year-round is easier
  4. The benefits and challenges of a year-round RCIA process
  5. Four easy ways to start a year-round RCIA process

“Prazsky orloj” by George Groutas | Flickr

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