Is a complete catechumenate possible with a small team?

2 thoughts on “Is a complete catechumenate possible with a small team?”

  1. Interestingly, one of the problems with which we’re contending is not so much a lack in catechists but a consistency in catechists (possibly from having too many). We use a year-round catechumenate that meets every Sunday of the year. For each Sunday we have two catechists, one for exegesis and the other for extended catechesis. We have 8-9 catechists on the team and we sign up for exegesis and extended catechesis slots as we can.

    One of the difficulties with this (and a difficulty I find inherent in the year-round catechumenate) is the ‘gelling’ of the group. Since the catechists may not sign up too frequently and since the individuals participants at each Sunday dismissal may be different, each session can feel like ‘breaking the ice.’ I have tried to get a ‘bridge,’ such that the extended catechist (second half) this week is the exegete (first half) the subsequent week, but this doesn’t always work. One suggestion that emerged from our team meeting last night was to have pairs of catechists sign up for three months at a time and commit to that–and only that–time period.

    As I said, inherent in the year-round catechumenal model is a difficulty in creating a coherent sense of community which was one of the aspects of the catechumenate reported by participants to be the most important in their faith journey (see Journey to the Fullness of Life, USCCB 2000). This is not reason to fear using the year-round catechumenate but it does require some creative thinking as to how to create a space where those who have just begun their formation, those who have been in the catechumenate for some time (remember that the USCCB asks catechumens to spend at least one liturgical year in the catechumenate proper), and others who may come and go can all be comfortable sharing their experiences and relating them to the shared faith. I certainly do not have the answer but suspect that having fewer committed catechists may help.

    One of the other obstacles we have needed to overcome in transitioning to a year-round catechumenate are the “highs” that come with finishing. Certainly those who are preparing for baptism experience a high at the Easter Vigil, the subsequent party that goes on for hours in our narthex, and the excitement that others share with them. For those preparing for reception into the full communion, however, it is harder to generate the feel of a celebration. What I have done that has helped is to throw a party each time we have a Rite of Reception and to invite not only those newly received, but all those with whom I have had contact through the catechumenate–sponsors, those still coming to inquiry, catechumens, newly received, those received ages ago, etc. This seems to have worked well to show how much the Church welcomes them. It is a challenge, however, to host such festivities three or four times a year, as asked of us who have not only adopted a year round catechumenate but also those of us who take seriously the distinctive needs of the already baptized.

  2. I would agree with Andrew that a smaller group of catechists may be better for the sake of consistency with a group. I had a similar experience with a small group of catecheists who met with our catechumenate once every fourth week. Even they felt somewhat removed from the individuals in the group.

    Perhaps a solution with too many catechists (isn’t that a wonderful problem?), especially with a sense of people coming in and out of the RCIA (i.e. candidates for full communion)is to create a two or three tier process. Maybe it makes sense to have two separate catechumenates going on simultaneously where one group will be initiated this Easter and the other the next Easter. The third group would be just for candidates for full communion. In this scenario you could take your large number of catechists, break them down into smaller teams and intersperss them between the three groups.

    Also, we should understand that the National Statutes approved in 1986 by the U.S. Bishops are particular law for the dioceses of the United States. They really are not a suggestion about the length of time for the catechumenate.

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