Diana and I just returned from the Diocese of Erie where we had an amazing institute with 100 RCIA leaders from a half-dozen dioceses. Our host, Sr. Nancy Fischer who has been serving the diocese for 29 years(!), told us she was planning for 80 participants and praying for 100. Sr. Nancy is a passionate baseball fan, and she “accidentally” drove us past PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, on the way from the airport to Clarion, PA, where the institute was held.
We begin each institute by asking what folks most want to learn in our short time together. The overwhelming response in Clarion was a need to know how to involve the parish community more deeply in the initiation process. What we told them is a little counterintuitive for many RCIA teams. The secret is not to get the parish involved in RCIA. Rather, we have to get the catechumens involved in the parish. The parish is already engaged in dozens, perhaps hundreds, of activities that reveal Christ to the world. If we can move the catechumens out of the classroom and into the real world of Christian life and action, they will learn how to live as Christians. And the parish will discover their true potential to accomplish Jesus’ final command: “Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19).
An RCIA minor rite stole the show
One of the most memorable parts of the event was the celebration of an adapted Presentation of the Creed. We were meeting in a hotel, and we didn’t have access to a true worship space. Diana figured out some creative ways to use song, gesture, procession, and table rearrangement to transform an ordinary conference room into sacred space. Many of the participants, including me, were overwhelmed by the power, simplicity, and beauty of the rite.
The local parish, Immaculate Conception Church, was a huge help in facilitating the event. They did the setup and takedown, provided materials, hauled, unpacked, and repacked books, staffed the TeamRCIA bookstore (thanks Vince!), and solved many of the little problems that always pop up during these kinds of meetings. They also rounded up a ton of freebies from local businesses to stuff our goodie bags with and surprised everyone with a drawing in which they gave away ten beautiful sweatshirts from Clarion University. (I didn’t win one; better luck next time.)
Of all the dioceses present, the Diocese of Erie was the best represented. You would expect that, since the event was held in their diocese. But that’s not the only reason. Erie has an endowment fund for lay ministry training. Any lay minister in the diocese can apply for a grant for leadership training, religious formation projects, conferences and workshops, or hardware and software for use in religious education. The endowment is funded through the diocesan Capital Stewardship Campaign. Diana and I are going to see if we can get a similar fund established for the Diocese of San Jose. You might want to consider urging your diocesan leaders to do the same.
Your RCIA team can join the fun
If you’d like to join us for one of our 2014 institutes, our next one will be in Atlanta, July 25-26, and there is still time to register. After that, Rita Burns Senseman and Rita Ferrone will be leading an institute in the diocese of Lafayette, IN, on August 1-2. And there are many more to follow. You can find the entire line up here: https://teamrcia.com/institutes/2014-rcia-institute/
If you cannot join us, there are several training opportunities available on the TeamRCIA website.
- Click here for the preparation videos we are sending to all of the institute participants.
- Click here for a free, five session overview of the RCIA.
- Click here to be notified of the August 2014 launch our comprehensive online training for children’s RCIA catechists.
Share your thoughts
If you participated in the institute, please share some of your thoughts about it below. We’d love to hear from you.