Every parish thinks their team is too small. I met some folks from a Texas megaparish that has 35 people on their RCIA team. They think their team is too small. The smallest team I have served with is three — me and two others.
Jesus started with one and maxed out at 12. And most of those guys were a little unreliable at times. Honestly, you already have more resources than Jesus did, even if you are team of one. Look around. You have a parish, a ritual process, a catechetical process, meeting spaces, a phone, print resources, video resources, the Internet, electricity, and pizza delivery.
The point of this article is to say that no team is too small to run an effective RCIA process. The reason we all think we are too small is that we think RCIA is supposed to be a mini-theology school, filled with students and classes. You will probably never have enough team members to run a school. But you have plenty of resources to help people “seek the living God and enter the way of faith and conversion” (RCIA 1).
Here are four ways you can lead people to Jesus, no matter what size your team is.
1. Take seekers to Mass
If you have Mass on Sunday, you have a ready-made process for leading seekers on the way of faith. Pope Benedict XVI called liturgy the “privileged context in which God speaks to each one of us, here and now.” He also said:
Thus, by participating in the liturgy we make our own the language of Mother Church, we learn to speak in her and for her. Of course, as I have already said, this happens gradually, little by little. I must immerse myself ever more deeply in the words of the Church with my prayer, with my life, with my suffering, with my joy, and with my thought. It is a process that transforms us.
If you do nothing but take your seekers to Mass, they will learn to speak as the church speaks, and they will be gradually transformed.
2. Order pizza
Invite your seekers to dinner. Or better yet, ask some parishioners to invite them to dinner. If you ask a parishioner to “join the RCIA team,” you aren’t going to get a lot of takers. Whenever I ask a parishioner if they would be willing to have someone over for dinner who is interested in becoming Catholic, I almost always get a “yes.” The parishioner doesn’t have to do anything except order pizza and be hospitable. If you get your seekers into Catholic homes four to six times a year, you will be helping them “enter the way of faith.”
3. Take seekers to choir practice
Or the Mom’s Club, or Bible Study, or the Knights of Columbus meeting, or the St. Vincent de Paul meeting, or the parish council meeting…. Take your seekers to whatever your parish is already doing to live out the “way of faith.” Better yet, ask a member of each of those groups to reach out and invite a seeker to their meeting. The RCIA says that “the community must always be fully prepared…to give help to those who are searching for Christ” (9). If you ask a member of the parish council to “join the RCIA team,” you’ll probably get a “no.” If you ask her to invite someone who is thinking of becoming Catholic to a parish council meeting, you will probably get a “yes.” And you will be teaching the community how to fulfill their mission of offering help to the seekers.
4. Ask the pastor to bless the seekers
If you have difficulty getting your pastor involved in the RCIA process, here is an easy way. Ask him to come bless the seekers. He doesn’t have to teach anything or solve any problems. He just has to come and pray with the seekers for 10 or 15 minutes. He can probably do that impromptu, but if you want to give him a script, there are blessing prayers in the RCIA. See paragraphs 95-96. Technically, these blessings are for catechumens. So if your seekers are not yet catechumens or if they are baptized, you will need to adapt some of the language to fit.
Live the way of faith year-round
All of these faith formation activities take place at all year long. There is no need to tell a seeker to “come back in September.” And there is no need to try to “catch up” a seeker because they missed class.
Nothing in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults asks us to run a theology school. When we are talking about true beginners in the faith, the RCIA asks us to introduce them to Christ and to train them in the Christian life (see RCIA 75). These four faith formation activities will go a long way toward accomplishing that goal, no matter the size of your RCIA team.
What do you think?
How is your RCIA team leading seekers on the way of faith? How are you teaching your parish to be the RCIA team?