The RCIA team at St. Elderberry was in a funk. Their team had been shrinking over the last few years as members retired or moved. And it was always a challenge to find sponsors. That is, when they needed sponsors. This year, they had no inquirers and therefore no one in their RCIA process.
Jane, the coordinator, went to a diocesan workshop to see if she could get some new ideas about how to liven things up. Well, the workshop was great, according to Jane. She came back with a folder full of strategies and a heart full of enthusiasm.
When she shared all her new ideas with the team, however, they were underwhelmed.
“We’ve never done it that way before,” said Alice.
“Father Thomas would never go for that,” said Joe.
“We tried that, and it didn’t work,” said Carmen.
Are excuses defining our RCIA processes?
We have all done this. We find excuses not to try new things. It’s human. It’s easy to understand why we do it. It’s even forgivable as long as we recognize that we are making excuses.
The hard part is when our excuses become reality. When we start living in a world where nothing new is ever possible, we are no longer living the gospel. Disciples of Jesus are always dying to the old and rising to the new. We know this is discipleship because it is what Jesus did.
- Jesus never turned water into wine before. Until he did.
- His followers would never go for him talking to a Samaritan woman. Until they did.
- Jesus tried to heal the blind man from Bethsaida, and it didn’t work. Until he tried again (Mk 8:25).
An ideal RCIA process
I imagine an ideal initiation process. It includes plenty of active, committed team members. We never have trouble finding sponsors. The pastor is deeply involved in the process and is an excellent presider and preacher. We have a year-round process that draws seekers from all over the city. The parish sees evangelization and initiation as it’s primary ministry. Parishioners are active in reaching out to people who don’t come to church. They are always inviting people on the fringes to our community. We have a separate formation process for the already-catechized so RCIA can focus on those who truly need to learn about Jesus.
Sure, this is an ideal. I have never participated in a parish that has all of this. Maybe you think it is not possible. But I know it is possible. I’m always trying something new. I’m always exploring. I’m always trying again, even it it doesn’t work the first, second, third, or fourth time. I think that’s what discipleship is all about. I think it’s what Jesus would do.
We have a choice. We can live in a world where nothing is new. Or we can live in the kingdom where everything is new. The first is easy. The second is going to take a little more work.
What do you think?
What is something new you want to try?