Somebody wake me

Dear co-workers in the catechumenate,

I had a “daymare” the other day (that’s “a nightmarish fantasy experienced while awake”). I imagined I needed heart surgery. A few days before the surgery, a nurse walked out into the hospital waiting room and said:

We have 132 people scheduled for surgeries in the next few months. We’re short on surgeons and anesthesiologists. We really, really need you to volunteer. Most surgeries last from one to three hours. We’ll train you and give you all the support you need. Please consider signing up for this important work. Contact Marge at the reception desk if you have any questions.

Thank goodness my heart is fine. But what if it weren’t fine? What if instead of surgery, it needed conversion? There’s the daymare. In thousands of parishes, similar announcements are being made asking folks to volunteer to be a catechist or a sponsor for the catechumenate. Somebody shake me! Do we really want to entrust the person who responds to such a request with the ministry of conversion? Maybe the nurse will get lucky and there will be a qualified doctor just hanging out in the waiting room with nothing better to do, but what are the chances? And maybe you’ll get lucky, and the perfect person will respond to your general plea for volunteers. But I wouldn’t set my heart on it.

Okay, I know a catechist or a sponsor doesn’t require the intense level of training that a heart surgeon or an anesthesiologist does, but they’re not walk-on roles either. And while training is important, the more important task is to discern if someone has been gifted by the Holy Spirit for these ministries.

I’ve written before about the gifts to look for in the various ministers we need for an effective catechumenate. Click here and here to read more about that.

I know what a struggle it can be to find volunteers. People are busy, and they aren’t just sitting around waiting to be asked to do something. But, isn’t that all the more reason to focus your recruiting efforts on those who have the gifts the ministry requires? As difficult as it can be to find the right person, it’s even more difficult to “unvolunteer” the wrong person.

So help me sleep better (even if I’m nodding off during Mass), and don’t be like the nurse asking for anyone who’d like to be a heart surgeon this week. Spend some time in prayer discerning who the Spirit might be calling to ministry—and what your role is in delivering the call.

Other ways to improve your RCIA process

Improving your minister selection process will go a long way toward upgrading the initiation ministry in your parish. And, as you know, there are many, many other things you could be working on. Sometimes it can all get a little overwhelming. Thank goodness Sr. Miriam Malone, SNJM, has provided some simple tips for building on what we already have to develop a richer, more effective process. First, she says, keep up the good work. Your parish’s initiation ministry wouldn’t be where it is if you hadn’t been doing good things already. Then she lists six easy-to-implement ideas for making your process even better this year. Be sure to check out Six steps toward a richer RCIA process.

Adaptations for children

Sometimes our work in the adult catechumenate may be going along swimmingly, while the children’s catechumenate needs some serious attention. TeamRCIA readers have been blessed with a couple of posts from Rita Burns Senseman, one of the foremost experts in children’s catechumenate. In Do child catechumens need both RCIA and religious ed classes?, Rita says that the way we catechize child catechumens depends on the level of catechesis they need. She gives several different scenarios and offers suggestions for effective catechesis in each case.

And then, in When should child companions be confirmed?, she leads us to a deeper understanding of how to celebrate initiation sacraments with the companions of the catechumens. There’s more that goes into a good pastoral decision than you might think. Take a look at the clear and helpful way Rita leads us through all the ramifications.

Thanks for your great work

These last couple of months have been busier than usual for TeamRCIA. We’ve been getting a lot of questions and some good comments. It’s always encouraging to know there are so many committed people working together in the important ministry of evangelization and initiation. Thanks to all of you who have given so much of your time and energy to those who are seeking to know Christ more deeply. It is vital work that you do, and you are in our prayers.


Nick Wagner
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