Is your parish too small for RCIA?

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2 thoughts on “Is your parish too small for RCIA?”

  1. Hi Nick, this is timely as I was reflecting at how my “parish” sees itself as the content and the place of formation. We provide a catechumentate and an RCIA process in a university with a worshipping community that is not a parish. It’s a double edge sword of providing the RCIA process in a university: deep and meaningful conversations that show evidence of the movement from head to heart, but there is a lack of a steady community that you can sometimes get by belonging to an “initiating” parish. The university has so many events that are “outside of the box” from which a normal parish would not have on their weekly calendar. In that sense, our seekers and catechumens are fortunate enough to have a myriad of activities to experience an apprenticeship in the Catholic Church.

    Want to experience community? We have residence hall activities and I can pair a catechumen up with another Catholic. Service? – We have immersion trips and weekly community based learning sites that are mandatory for some courses. Word? My office does bible study, and, oh, we’re in a university, there are courses a catechumen can take to learn of the written tradition. Prayer? Praise and worship, contemplative prayer time, daily Mass, etc. The university is a place of formation. It isn’t a parish, but my predecessor and I have been making use of what is already planned and embedded in the university. It is still a custom to gather weekly to talk about the readings and teachings of the church in an extended catechetical session that does not merely “expound doctrines and precepts” (Ad Gentes). Students are already used to sitting, taking notes, getting things done off the check list. So, I am seek out ways for them to stop sitting and reflecting, and ways that get them to roll up their sleeves, and reflect at the same time; a contemplative in action. And yes, I understand that each student is different, with various co-curricular activities, sleeping and eating patterns, majors, deadlines, and a college social life as well. So I adapt paragraph 75 to the best of my ability in a non-parish university campus ministry. And part of mystagogy and after-care is helping Neophytes be part of local communities and/or helping them bridge relationships with area churches in the area that they might be moving to.

    So when I get discouraged that seekers and catechumens are in an RCIA process that isn’t in a parish, or for the lack of parishioners to give witness to the gradual conversion of the catechumens, I can only to the various offerings and, connect with students, peers, mentors, professors of the university. And in that sense, the community is not so small anymore.

  2. How do you incorporate the demands of RCIA #75, “a suitable catechesis…,gradual and complete…”, and National Statute #7, “a thoroughly comprehensive Catechesis on the truths of Catholic doctrine and the moral life, aided by approved catechetical texts…”, into your model? Even RCIA #76 speaks of “the program of instruction…”. Your quotes from the Bishops did not exclude catechesis in the formal sense but added other things to the mix as can be seen by the words, ” in addition to” and ” includes more than…”. In my experience it is never an either/ or situation but more both/ and. The Initiation process requires a blend of apprentice style activity as well as a formal catechesis as stated in the RCIA ritual book. But the real key is not the “program” but the people delivering the program. If the team is not made up of “disciples” it is unlikely that they will encourage discipleship. It is interesting to note that Sherry Weddell points out in her book “Forming Intential Discilpes” that all the activities you listed above can be done by people who are not disciples.

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