Mary Birmingham and I just completed a TeamRCIA Catechist School in Columbus, Ohio. Toward the end of the school, we asked the participants what they learned and why that was important. Many of them said they learned the importance of providing formation for the inquirers and the catechumens all year long. And a lot of the participants also asked for more guidance on how to do that.
In 2012, TeamRCIA conducted a survey to find out how parishes are doing with moving to a year-round catechumentate process. (Click here to see the results of the survey.) At that time, many of you said the biggest challenge to moving to a year-round process is the lack of catechists and other volunteers to help out over the summer.
If a lack of volunteers is what is stopping your parish from providing formation for the inquirers and catechumens all year long, I’m going to show you how to get through that roadblock. To do that, however, you have to be willing to think differently about what is included in “formation” or “catechesis.”
Easy first step — Go to Mass
If you have Sunday Mass happening in your parish in the summer, you already have a formation process happening. You can take a first step toward year-round formation by simply bringing the inquirers and catechumens to Sunday Mass. Ideally, their sponsors would bring them and sit with them. But if you do not yet have sponsors who can do that, you can sit with them. If you can recruit just one other volunteer to sit with them as well, you have increased your summer RCIA team by 100%.
Should you do more? Sure, if you can. But if all you do is bring the inquirers and the catechumens to Sunday Mass during the summer, that is leaps and bounds beyond doing nothing. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says the liturgy is “the privileged place for catechizing the People of God.” So take advantage of the great privilege that is already going on in your parish.
Easy second step — Reflect on Mass
If you have a little extra energy and maybe a little extra help, you can also add on a dismissal of the catechumens to their Sunday experience. Ideally, you would do this every Sunday of the year. But if you cannot handle a weekly dismissal in the summer, then try for once or twice a month during the summer. The leader of the dismissal session does not have to be a catechist. What happens during the dismissal is faith sharing in response to the encounter with Jesus in the Liturgy of the Word. It’s just simple faith sharing, not catechesis. Anyone can do it. (Click here for a suggested process.)
Easy third step — Go to the parish picnic
The RCIA says that the initiation of the catechumens is the responsibility of all of the faithful (see RCIA 9). So if you have “faithful” who are doing stuff in the parish over the summer, you have a built in summer RCIA team. To take advantage of the talents of this summer team, get out your parish calendar and look for three events that are happening in your parish between June 1 and August 31. Ideally, you would find one in each month of the summer. If three is too many, then find two or even one.
Again, the sponsors would be the best people to take the inquirers and catechumens to these parish events, but you can do it yourself. It’s only three times, at most. If you have recruited just one other person to help you over the summer, then you only have to go to one or two, and your partner covers the events you don’t go to.
Here are just a few examples of parish activities that take place over the summer that you could take the inquirers and catechumens to.
|Communion to the sick||Vacation Bible School||Adoration|
|Parish picnic||Bible study||Prayer shawl ministry|
|Appreciation dinner for ______||St. Vincent de Paul food pantry||Parish golf tournament|
|Parish garage sale||Cancer support group||Legion of Mary|
Easy fourth step — Reflect on the event
If all you did was take the inquirers and the catechumens to Sunday Mass and one to three parish events over the summer, you would be providing them with an extraordinary amount of formation—especially in comparison to doing nothing. However, if you have some active sponsors or if you and your summer RCIA team partner have a little bit more time to spare, consider doing a brief reflection process with the inquirers and catechumens after you take them to one of these events.
After the event, go someplace for coffee and pie and ask them to recall their favorite part. Ask them if they experienced the presence of God at any time during the activity. Ask them if they learned anything about Catholics. Ask them if, because of what they learned, they can think of one way their life might be different in the coming week.
Take the survey
We’d love to hear more about what you are doing to either establish or maintain a year-round process in your parish. If you would take five minutes to complete a survey, we’ll share the results with you in an upcoming post.
If you would like to learn more about why a year-round initiation process is important, what it looks like, and how to do it, check out these resources:
Free training articles and audio files
Year-Round Catechumenate by Mary Birmingham
The Way of Faith: A Field Guide for the RCIA Process by Nick Wagner