Expanding yourself for a continuous RCIA process

7 thoughts on “Expanding yourself for a continuous RCIA process”

  1. Nick, you’ve argued the issue of principle concerning evangelization, and argued for excluding most of the baptized potential-candidates from inquiry on the basis of that principle. If the problem is too many people, this is one way to make it more manageable.

    In my pastoral setting, however, I have to say that the ongoing pre-catechumenate has worked very well with a kind of open-ended style that allows for a free flow of people, without a lot of clarity about who’s evangelized and who’s not. I’d like you to comment on this type of scenario.

    My experience may reflect the urban setting, where we typically don’t know the inquirers and we need some forum in which we can listen to them and get to know them at a deeper level than the initial interview affords.

    I’ve found that one of the things that happens is something like a group-based version of “sorting fish.” You find out things, and the inquirers find out things about themselves. Like the person who went to Sunday School for years, but still doesn’t believe God loves her (she’s churched but not evangelized), or the youth who seemed to blow in off the street with no background, and it turns out he has a deep spirituality and doesn’t need a long initiation process. Once some trust was established, we knew what to do. If we hadn’t had that forum of the inquiry, I don’t know how we would have gotten to the place of clarity that we reached.

    I’ve also found that the open-ended nature of the precatechumenate can be helpful for the baptized person who may be under pressure from a Catholic family member (spouse, fiance, mother-in-law) but is really not sure about it all. How do we allow that person to explore and question, in a safe space? When it’s a situation of that kind, the worst thing to do is rush into it. Those are the people we lose later. But they may not wish to admit this at first. The precatechumenate gave them the time and the ministry they needed to sort things out.

    Finally, the nature of inquiry works in favor of developing an authetic understanding of the faith journey. A lot of people come expecting to “attend a few classes.” The only way I’ve been able to break that assumption is by inviting them to “come and see” through the ongoing precatechumenate, which orients people to the fact that this is really about faith, and really about freedom, and then allows them to move easily from there into whatever is the appropriate vehicle for their further faith development and formation.

    What do you think?

  2. Rita, you make an excellent point, as always. I would agree that if there is a true “sorting of fish” going on in the precatechumenate, then the inquiry process could probably handle all comers. Unfortunately, what I have more often witnessed is a defined period for inquiry (typically, about six weeks), and everyone who wanted to become Catholic had to complete the “course,” regardless of their faith journey.

    When I have tried to point out that the RCIA calls for the open-ended, ongoing inquiry you describe, the response back to me almost always has to do with lack of time and lack of volunteers available to implement such an “ideal.”

    I was hoping to provide a pathway out of that boundary for folks who can’t quite see how to expand their abbreviated precatechumenate into something more like you describe.

    I tend to think, however, the baptized, catechized among us who have been regular church goers, who know Jesus loves them, who raise their children in the faith, don’t really belong in a precatechumenate process. They do need some kind of entryway, a safe place to take a breath and decide for sure that becoming Catholic is what they want to do. But I can’t grasp why that would a function of the precatechumenate. To quote you, quoting Ron Oakham: “Conversion is not to Catholicism; it’s to Christ.”

    Great discussion!

  3. Thanks, Nick, for coaxing our readers to take a step out of the comfort zone of a six-week precatechumenate program. The ongoing precatechumenate is one of the best parts of the whole process, and I hope that everyone who reads this will take heart and give it a try. We have to do more to reach out and do some true evangelization. God bless those who are willing to step forward on this!

  4. Hi Ana,

    If you read a little further down in the post, my thoughts on “how to” are outlined there. Check out the section subtitled “Two steps to a continuous inquiry.” Good luck!

  5. Nick,

    As I read your column on an on-going pre-catechumenate period I was inspired and also a bit perplexed with your suggestion and model for this period. I was glad then to read Rita’s response because I also use a similar model to hers.

    We have been doing a year round process for over the past eight years and have grown in so many ways every year. The first year we started, we only had one catechumen who continued in the process over the summer months to be joined by the Fall inquirers who all thought that that was when we began. Eight years later we now can say that it is not unusual for new people to join us at any time throughout the Liturgical Year. Both our pre-catecumenate and Catechumenate sessions are open for this to happen and people seem very comfortable with it.

    There seems to be peek times throughout the year that we see several people show an interest in the process. So times being: following Christmas, Easter and the Fall. Since April 1 I have interviewed seven new inquirers. They are all at different levels of faith development and will move through the process as individuals entering a faith community.

    I appreciate both yours and Rita’s insight and am always looking for new ways to enhance, inspire and grow with our team in this profound process of RCIA.

  6. Hi Elaine,

    Thanks for chiming in. I’m glad to hear it is not unusual for new people to join you at any time throughout the year. It sound like you are doing a great job. Thanks for all your hard work and dedication to the catechumenate.

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