Five essential elements of an RCIA sponsor’s job description

RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) image posted by TeamRCIARCIA sponsors are supposed to be good examples. It says so right there in RCIA 75.2:

As they become familiar with the Christian way of life, and are helped by the example and support of sponsors, godparents, and the entire Christian community, the catechumens learn to turn more readily to God in prayer, to bear witness to the faith, in all things to keep their hopes set on Christ, to follow supernatural inspiration in their deeds, and to practice love of neighbor, even at the cost of self renunciation.

This is one of the few places in the RCIA that actually delineates the role of the sponsors and godparents outside of the actual rites. If you were going to use this brief paragraph as the foundation of a job description for sponsors, how would you flesh it out for them?

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The first example the RCIA sponsors must give to the catechumens is how Christians pray. So perhaps your job description might include some of the following:

Worship: Sponsors are active participants in weekly Sunday Mass and the major worship events of the parish. They are responsible for the attendance of their catechumens at these events.

Daily prayer: Sponsors spend some significant, concentrated time in prayer every day (at least 15 minutes). Sponsors are responsible for teaching their catechumens how to pray daily.

Penitential prayer: Sponsors regularly examine their consciences and regularly practice the many forms of penance in Christian life (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1434-1439). RCIA sponsors are responsible for teaching their catechumens how to practice some of these forms.

Intercessory prayer: Sponsors regularly bring their needs before God (see Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2629-2636). RCIA sponsors are responsible for teaching their catechumens how to petition God for their needs.

TeamRCIA Webinar: Four Key Ways RCIA Sponsors Can Make Your Job Easier

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In this info-packed webinar, we’re going to delve into why the role of the RCIA sponsor is so important. Many of us know what a sponsor does, but maybe there is more a sponsor could do. What if every sponsor had specific tasks for training their catechumens or candidates in the areas of Christian worship, Catholic teaching, parish community life, and discipleship in the world? How would that change the RCIA conversion process in your parish?

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Date: Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Time: 2:00p to 3:00p Eastern Time / 11:00a to 12:00p Pacific Time

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The next example sponsors are to give is how to bear witness to the faith. This might stretch the comfort zone of some sponsors. Generally, Catholics are a little shy about bearing witness to the faith. Here are a few simple things any sponsor can do and can teach their catechumens to do.

Pray in public: Sponsors regularly pray before meals, even when eating in public. If they are comfortable doing so, making the sign of the cross before and after the meal prayer is a visible witness to faith.

Share a book: Sponsors regularly read good spiritual books. They bear witness to the faith by sharing these books with friends, colleagues, and family who may benefit from them. If the sponsor is not a reader, the same effect can be accomplished by recommending a movie or a television show that supports Christian values (even if the movie or show is not explicitly Christian).

Be joyful: Sponsors are joyful, even in the midst of trial, because of their confidence and faith in the paschal mystery. By remaining steadfastly joyful in all situations and sharing that joy with others, sponsors bear witness to that faith.


This one is easier for most Catholics. In general, Catholics are hopeful people. Sponsors should be especially hopeful and provide an example of hopefulness to their catechumens. When you train sponsors, you might ask them to reflect on the areas of their lives where it is most difficult to find hope. Have them role-play how they will talk with their catechumens about that struggle.

Believe in miracles

By giving example of following “supernatural inspiration in their deeds,” the RCIA is asking sponsors to show their belief in miracles. I have never met a Catholic who doesn’t have a miracle story. In your training, have the sponsors spend time telling each other their miracle stories and how those miracles have shaped the way they live today. Consider including a requirement to share miracle stories with the catechumens in the sponsors’ job description.

Practice love of neighbor

This is both easy and difficult. It is easy to love the neighbors we love. But the RCIA says the sponsors must give example of loving our neighbors “even at the cost of self renunciation.” To show how that’s done, we are most likely going to have to demonstrate how we love those who are difficult to love. In my own attempts at this, it is sometimes all I can do to simply pray for the desire to love someone I find unlovable. In writing a job description for your sponsors, how will you ask them to practice this example?

See also these related articles:

  1. Sponsors and godparents in the Christian initiation process
  2. Be sure your RCIA sponsors have what it takes
  3. The Rite of Election — a journey into the divine mystery
  4. Will your Rite of Election be a true decision point this year?
  5. An RCIA calendar for celebrating the initiation rites outside the usual times
  6. RCIA Sponsors and Gifts
  7. Why RCIA sponsors are like poultry
  8. Do your RCIA sponsors know the single reason for Jesus’ death and resurrection?
  9. Five essential elements of an RCIA sponsor’s job description
  10. A simple plan for involving RCIA sponsors in providing a suitable catechesis

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