Guest post from Katherine Coolidge, Pastoral Associate, St. John Fisher Church, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA.
Our RCIA team nearly doubled in size this year thanks to a program called Christ Renews His Parish (CRHP).
CRHP is an overnight retreat given by parishioners, for parishioners. Reconciliation and Eucharist are celebrated with our parish priests. The witness talks, table sharing, etc., are led by two teams, one for women, one for men of previous attendees who spend a year together in formation, preparing to give the weekends, each spring.
I have come to appreciate the value of this experience, which in many aspects parallels the baptismal catechumenate. Each formation session begins with breaking open the word. The themes explored, such as community, discipleship, reconciliation, Eucharist, etc., are foundational to all good catechesis, including initiation catechesis. What we have discovered is those who embrace this formation and develop the skills to lead the CRHP weekend transition well into RCIA. The vocabulary may, or may not, be a bit strange at first, but the passion for sharing the Good News and journeying with others on different waypoints of the lifelong faith journey is much the same. As a parish leader, this experience animates the words of the pages of the church documents, calling and challenging me to develop adult faith formation opportunities for all members of the church. It renews my spirit as my words, my actions, my leadership joins with my fellow parishioners to bring to life the prayer, Come Holy Spirit, fills the hearts of your faithful.
The goal of CRHP is to challenge one to go deeper in one’s walk as a disciple of Christ. Thus, at the weekend’s conclusion, we provide participants a prayerful space to explore, What, next, God?
At our parish, I am the designated spiritual director for CRHP. After the respective teams give their weekends, I lead an evening of prayer for both teams to thank God for the blessings given and received, celebrate what they have accomplished and reflect upon where God is calling them to take that next step. Thankfully, this year of forming community and faith opens the conversation about becoming more involved in the parish. For several this includes joining the parish initiation ministry. The fruit of this movement has been new members of our RCIA team.