Should inquirers be joining “the RCIA”?

12 thoughts on “Should inquirers be joining “the RCIA”?”

  1. Our inquirers/neophytes are taught from the beginning that our group is a subset of the parish community and we continually stress our missions and ministries. We introduce them to previous RCIA participants who are now lectors, Eucharistic ministers, catechists, ushers, etc. They learn that we are but a part of the bigger family and look forward to being more fully a member in the parish as a whole… Parishioners are also welcoming the newcomers.

  2. Nick, You have expressed my feelings exactly! But I would perhaps be even more blunt in saying that after the Easter sacraments, it is more likely that we are throwing our neophytes to the wolves! My experience shows me that very few of our neophytes come back for the Mystagogy period. And since they have so little connection with the larger community while they are in the RCIA, and we do not emphasize the importance and value of the neophyte Masses, they are basically on their own. We also do not have any program at all for neophytes for the year after they complete RCIA. We almost need a new group called “RCIA+” or “RCIA-2”! Bob Ulicki (Queen of Apostles parish)

  3. Debbie Elizondo

    Nick, this is one of our struggles as well. I inherited an RCIA that operated so much on the absolute importance of the “community” of the RCIA small group that the notion of integration into the parish was practically anathema. After attending a workshop last year by Mary Birmingham, I realized what we were missing and began to introduce small steps towards the year-round process.

    We are just now moving to the Year Round RCIA but it has been a challenge to get my team on board. Some were actually angry at me for proposing that we’ve been misguided into “keeping the group together.” They accepted the move to integration of each individual into the parish itself, but are not sold on it. I have used the examples used in what past neophytes have commented on this website, but to no avail. Does anyone have any guidance how to handle this delicate issue? As I am a one-person department of all Adult Formation, I rely heavily on volunteer support.

    1. Anne Marie Fourre

      Debbie – good luck with the transition! I had some push-back when we introduced year-round as well. It worked out well starting with year-round Inquiry on a different night (those team members who WANTED to help could, but it was their choice). The first time we had a mid-year Rite of Acceptance the team was blown away by the excitement and enthusiasm of the “old” catechumens in witnessing the Rite, sharing their reactions to reliving their experience, and welcoming the newcomers. The intimacy of the group merely expanded to a larger circle. After the Rite of Election, team had a choice of moving into Purification and Enlightenment (and later Mystagogy) with the “old” group or remaining in the Catechumenate with the newbies. Team also had the freedom of taking off whenever desired. During summer we might shift to Sunday dismissal only (no catechesis session), or take a month off, or whatever is dictated by the group’s and team’s needs.

  4. Hi Debbie,

    I don’t have any solutions that you probably haven’t thought of.

    *I’ve tried having one-on-one conversations with individual team members.
    *I’ve tried asking those who are angry if they would feel more fulfilled in a different ministry.
    *I’ve tried inviting new members onto the team who weren’t bound up with “the way we’ve always done it.”
    *I’ve tried getting the pastor’s support.
    *I’ve tried doing “both/and” where we keep doing things pretty much the way we always have and also add on ways to get the catechumens more involved in the parish.

    Some of these strategies have been more effective than others, depending on the time and place and personalities involved. I wish I could be more helpful. Keep praying and keep trying until something clicks.

  5. Community Sponsors is a big part of the answer…they are matched in similar interest in order to involve their Candidate/Catechumen in the areas of outreach both inside and outside our parish. IF those in RCIA have a child in our parish school (PreK-Gr. 8) they will automatically be meeting and working with numerous parishioners…and RCIA are offered several opportunities to be involved in service together.

  6. Sylvia Stephenson

    Our RCIA Leader recommends that her catecumins join other programs in the parish. The Hearts Afire Parish-Based Programs from the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception have been the most popular and helpful, running several times per year: 33 Days to Morning Glory (offering consecration to Jesus through Mary), Consoling the Heart of Jesus (drawing us closer to the Merciful and Sacred Heart of Jesus by accepting His love and trusting in Him), and The One Thing is Three (the Holy Spirit and works of mercy). Joining these programs gives the catecumins new opportunities to meet people in the parish, especially those seeking a deeper experience of God.
    With these programs and the small-group support, the catecumins are offered faith-building experiences with the aim to help set their hearts on fire with love of God and neighbor and to inspire works of mercy in their family, parish, and community.

  7. As has often been said before I think the key is the rear long catechumenate in which those journeying in RCIA are involved in the things that the parish does. Ideally they can join in on an evening of inner city ministry serving sandwiches, attend Taize prayer services, cook pancakes for Sunday breakfast along with whatever group in the parish does this, visit a nearby (Catholic) seniors residence, attend movie nights or whatever social events the parish has. Our parish is a large one with a long history. Someone from our community comes to share our parish story once a year so that the neophytes gain a wider sense of who we are. Unfortunately our parish has dropped the year long format and reverted to the school model process which has meant much more of an emphasis on ‘topics to be covered’.

    1. Hi Irene. Just because you’re going back to a “school based” calendar doesn’t mean you have to revert to a “topics to be covered.” model. Your topics can still follow the Liturgical season and the Sunday readings. You can (and should) continue to accept new catechumens “year round.” The key understanding here is that everyone is still on their own journey. Some (most) may not get be ready after the first 8 or 9 month cycle… That’s OK, they should just carry over to the next cycle when your sessions start back in the fall. And in the meantime help them in finding ways to actively share in the life of the parish (a tough thing to do during the Summer sometimes, but not impossible).

  8. This presents a myriad of problems that RCIA is constantly challenged. Many of our inquirers are on a “fast track” and we are lucky to get them to attend a session let alone extra parish functions. We know what should be done but the realities of the fast paced life of many of them just doesn’t lend itself to accomplish this. Additionally, many pastors don’t realize the importance and time for RCIA attendees and want them “to come into the church” by Easter or sooner no matter when they start the process. Last few years in RCIA ministry has been challenging and frustrating.

  9. Anne Marie Fourre

    Two things have aided our parish in addressing this. The year-round process, with people coming and leaving at different times (new catechumens enter throughout the year observing the “Easter bypass,” overlapping with “older” catechumens who will baptized this coming Easter, and candidates moving in and out based on their individual needs) avoids the isolation of a cocoon. They’re always meeting new family members and take ownership of making newcomers feel welcome. They are also introduced immediately (sometimes even during Inquiry) to other parish groups, depending on their situations. They are invited to join the Young Adult group, Young Families, or Date Night for married couples, and are encouraged to share their skills with the refugee support group, serve with St Vincent de Paul, etc. Other parishioners come to know them directly, and we’re finding they’re already integrated into parish life by the time they are baptized. Having active sponsors is obviously a terrific aid to this process.

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