Here’s the scenario:
You’ve just finished a long but wonderful Easter Vigil. After months of weekly meetings, leading dismissal sessions, and doing discernment interviews, all the Elect have been baptized, and you’re looking forward to the last few gatherings of the RCIA post-Triduum before you take a well-deserved summer break.
As you’re gathering up all the wet towels from the baptisms and getting ready to head home, a young woman shyly walks up to you.
“Hi. I came here tonight because a friend of mine sings in the choir. I really liked the service. Um, I’m not Catholic or anything, but I think I want to be.”
The towels are cold against your arms, but your spirit is warmed by her inquiry about becoming Catholic.
“Hey, that’s great! We’ll start up the RCIA again in September. You can come and join us then!”
She doesn’t look as excited as you thought she’d be.
“RCIA? Uh, okay. Thanks. I’ll come back then.” She walks away and out the door.
How much will you bet she’ll come back in September?
You and I know that really isn’t the issue. Rather, why does she have to wait until September to continue what the Holy Spirit has begun in her?
Catechumenate directors who have experienced this very scenario tell me that when they said, “Come back in September,” they knew it didn’t feel right. For some of them, it was the moment they decided to change the way their parish did the RCIA.
This Triduum and throughout the Easter season, with its weddings, First Communions, and Confirmations, you will have many visitors like the woman above. Will you tell them to come back in the fall? Or will you have a way for them to connect right away with the parish and the way of life of a Christian?
You don’t necessarily need to give up your vacation. You don’t even have to have RCIA meetings every week of the year. But you do need to make use of the parish’s everpresent resources: its weekly gatherings, especially on Sundays, and its parishioners. These resources can immediately help a person begin the initiation process.
If your formal initiation gatherings don’t begin until the fall, don’t beat yourself up or try to do more than is reasonable. Instead, connect your inquirer with a faithful parishioner. Ask this person to just be a friend for this inquirer, someone who’ll sit with them at Mass, have coffee or a meal with them once in a while, and just be someone the inquirer can talk to about their questions. Then when your formal gatherings begin again four or five months from now, your inquirer can participate in those sessions, continuing the process of initiation that had begun on that Easter Vigil night.
Here’s the story of an actual inquirer who experienced this very thing last Palm Sunday. Kudos to this parish for being ready to respond even in the midst of Holy Week!