The joys and vexations of RCIA ministry

RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) image posted by TeamRCIAWe asked you to tell us about the joys and vexations of initiation ministry. About 25 people answered the questionnaire, and here is a summary of what they said. (Share your thoughts in the comments box below.)


Most of those who responded included something about seeing adults search deeper in their faith or watching people grow in their faith. Or seeing people open up and share their struggles.

A few used analogies from nature to describe this process. One person said her joy was seeing people opening up to the Eternal Son in the same way a bud opens to the sun. Another said the faith formation process was like watching a budding flower bloom. And another said, It’s like watching a butterfly.

Seeing results

Respondents also found joy in the results of this growth in faith. Some things that gave team members joy include:

  • People becoming freer in spirit
  • Seeing the light go on in the faces of the catechumens
  • Seeing the ah ha moment
  • Being able to witness conversion in a person’s life
  • When a person turns away from a former lifestyle that did not include Christ, or Christian choices, to make amends and look towards Jesus for direction
  • Watching questions turn to new understanding

Others found joy in what happens in their own faith journey. One person wrote, I am confirmed in my faith as I experience the Spirit at work in the catechumens. Another said, I feel so humbled so privileged to be part of their journey. And another person said, Getting to know God better allowed me to realize myself in so many ways.

It takes a team

And a few noted the joy they get from fellow team members and parishioners. One person’s joy included the people who step forward to give of their time and talent; people who pray. And someone else said, The enthusiasm our team has for the catechumens gives us great joy. So do our lively discussions. And the Easter Vigil.

A few other things people said:

  • Getting to watch the varied ways the mystery of salvation gets unpacked. I am filled with joy when I see how differently God is revealed to each of us.
  • It doesn’t get much better than this. Adult initiation, year after year, is a joy to be associated with, to walk with people and see their growth in their relationship with God. It is an honor and a privilege.
  • It is a TREMENDOUS JOY in my life….I have been working in this ministry for over 20 years!!!!
  • Ministry in the Christian Initiation process is never boring. Each person I interview to begin the process is so different and it bring a newness to my ‘work’. There is always so much that each person brings.


A couple of people found it difficult their pastor could not be more involved. Sometimes it was because the pastor was already stretched to the limit and sometimes because the pastor does not want to get involved in RCIA at all.

Several people noted frustrations with the team. Sometimes it is difficult to even create a team. And without an effective team, some people feel pulled in many different directions. Learning to say no helps, but then Catholic guilt sets in.

Lacking leadership

Or it might be the team leader who is the difficulty. One person’s vexation was caused by leaders who change event dates on short notice and events that start late and go past the scheduled time.

The limits of what’s possible in a catechetical session caused difficulty for some. One person doesn’t like it when we do not present doctrinal subjects in their truth and fullness. And another had difficulty trying to condense the material into a short presentation that covers the bases. It seems we can only touch the surface. And one commenter said, We need to develop more support for the neophytes; they often feel lost in a large parish.

A few noted frustrations around the annulment process. Marriage problems are the most difficult situations I deal with. Having to explain annulments is not easy. And one person struggled with trying to explain closed communion.

Seeker distractions

There were some difficulties with the catechumens themselves—or their families:

  • When families think the catechumenate process is too much time to invest in their children
  • Some parents and sponsors (and sometimes pastors) take the children’s catechumenate too lightly; they want an easy fix
  • The conflicts that can cause catechumens to miss sessions (e.g. cheerleading competitions, football games, trips)
  • People procrastinate and don’t make a firm commitment to stay focused on the process.
  • Lack of commitment from the seekers

And one more thing

Finally, here are several comments that stand on their own.

Suffice it to say, we are constantly reminded of Who’s process RCIA truly is and that we must be vigilant lest we EVER assume any authority or take any credit. RCIA belongs to the Spirit and we simply show up.

The more I plunge into catechumenate ministry, I am convinced that the Spirit is the Director and the Guide and the sooner I let the Spirit take charge the better the seeker and the whole team will experience the process.

I am blessed with a $1,500 budget. Being in the budget shows that the parish leaders value RCIA.

I do know that it has been a call for me to step out in faith. God has truly taken me on a fantasy ride in His glory and peace. Regardless of the hardships, God always makes a way and each and every session is unique and fulfilling. I plan and prepare for every session and God orders my steps. I am grateful for having the opportunity to serve in such a capacity for it definitely is a training for life’s journey. I give all thanks and praise to God for He is worthy to be praised! I bless and magnify His name.

There are some very fulfilling aspects to my ministry…times when I truly feel like I’m following God’s call. At other times, I simply feel like an event planner and so far from God’s call that I wonder if it’s even there.

Our loving God gave me my heart’s desire by allowing me to be a sponsor for a few years and I’ve been on the team for a few years now also. What a joy! Our God is so good.

Amen! Thanks to everyone who participated!

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  1. I would think that the biggest difficulty is in designing a syllabus. People wash into RCIA classes in very different states—intellectually, emotionally, spiritually. Designing a course that will work for everyone seems like an all-but impossible goal

    One suggestion that I would make is to offer a “continuing catechesis” class, offered primarily to groups of recently confirmed—but open to any interested parishioner—and which goes into greater detail than might be appropriate in the mainline RCIA classes. Maybe there would be no takers, but who knows until you try?

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