The problem with RCIA formation

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8 thoughts on “The problem with RCIA formation”

  1. Theresa Kelley

    I just spent the weekend at a Life in the Spirit seminar…renewal of the charismatic movement. The “assumption” by the team was that EVERYONE there would have the gifts of the Holy Spirit not only stirred up, but whirled into fire. There was a gentleness, but a persistence in the teaching:You have these gifts, now set your hearts on fire with a loving passion for Jesus/God/Spirit. You won’t burn up, but you might help ignite some other hearts. By the end of the weekend our backsides were tired of sitting but we were in awe and wonder at what was happening. On the best days at RCIA gatherings we have seen this happen. If we are persistent in staying on the journey WITH each catechumen rather than insisting on them joining us on our journey we will experience the fullness of God in them and share in the gifts of the Holy Spirit waiting to be all stirred up in them. Pretty exciting place to be called to be?

  2. Fantastic article, Nick… thanks for sharing this with us! You said it well… We have to be “with” our catechumens and candidates on this journey. In order to do this we have to make time to get to know each of our catechumens and candidates. By learning each of their stories, it helps us to better understand their formation needs and together craft a plan that will lead them toward their goals. Here are some of the things we do in order to better get to know those who are in our process:
    1) Have an in-depth entry interview. I like to leave at least an hour for this, and I prefer to do this prior to them joining our regular weekly sessions. This not only helps you as the catechist get to know them and their needs, but allows you the chance to brief them on the process and on the format of your regular weekly sessions.
    2) When we have new people join our group, have everyone introduce themselves and give a little of their story. Not just the new members, but all the members of the group, including the catechists.
    3) Setup periodic “discernment” interviews with your catechumens and candidates… at least twice a year with everyone (more if needed for those who may need more attention).
    4) Keep an open dialog with your team. Very often our candidates and catechumens will stay after the session for casual conversation, or to talk something over with one of the team members. Catechists must always remember to “stay on” an be open during these times, and if needed, make sure that any issues or questions that arise are shared with the team leader.
    5) Make every effort to avoid treating your candidates and catechumens like a “class” or “cohort.” This helps both catechist and candidate remember that they’re all on an individual journey. Typically we don’t finalize the list of candidates and catechumens moving to the stage of Purification and Enlightenment until we’ve completed the round of discernment interviews just before the beginning of Lent. Individual “readiness” must be based on discernment, not just length of time in the process.

    These are just a few of the things we like to do in order to help us connect with the catechumens and candidates on an individual level. The more we try to step away from traditional “academic” models and language, we become more open to the catechetical model of formation.

  3. Ralph Alameda

    Peace be with you. I have been a catechist at my parish for 12 years. I teach RCIA and Faith Formation. I see the ebbs and flows of the parish. I have taught other catechists. Sometimes people come into faith and are on fierce fire. They want to teach, and they feel that others have to be where they are. This does not work. I have had Atheists, Baptists, Lutherans, Santeros and others in my classes. They are there to inquire, I am there to help them fall in love with Christ. Some are on fire, some are not. Too many catechists complain to me, saying they are not ready to receive the sacraments. I say, they may not be ready now, they may not know all the prayers, but there is hope for the future. I received Holy Communion at age 8, was not ready. I received Confirmation at 12, was not ready. It is not us anyway who makes ready or convert. That is the job of the Spirit. Our job is to live the Gospels, so they can see a difference. I teach compassion, mercy, love, forgiveness, charity, humility. I do not teach doctrine or dogma. I have an hour a week to teach and hear what they have to say. Doctrine and dogma come later. I teach feeding and clothing the homeless in the streets. Visiting the sick. Too many catechists focus on shoving doctrine and dogma down their throats. They are not ready for that yet. Yes many receive their sacraments on Holy Saturday………and feel they are done. This always happens. We always pray that the foundation has been laid. There is hope for the future. We had a DRE who made life difficult for the community. Very legalistic. Very little compassion and mercy, in that many left the church for other parishes or other faiths. Lots of compassion, mercy and patience are needed when teaching in the ways of Christ.

  4. I was welcomed into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church in April 2004. In January 2005 I was asked to be a sponsor and I have been involved in RCIA ever since, having been on the team for the past several years. Last year I stepped back to help with another ministry and to discern where God was calling me to minister – it turns out that I’m back on the RCIA team once again.
    I would agree totally about teaching doctrine and dogma – they won’t mean anything to a person until that person has a relationship with Jesus. That is the goal of RCIA – to be present as the person explores and walks their journey with Jesus. Only if they fall in love with Jesus will they desire to become active in the parish. When a person falls in love with Jesus, everything changes.
    To be honest, not one of us is truly ready for the sacraments – there is always more to learn and more ways in which we can become more godly. We have the privilege of walking with people as they discover what it means to love God and love our neighbour and what it means to experience the mercy of God and to be a conduit for that very same mercy so that others may experience it as well.
    Nick and Diana, thank you for the incredible resources that you continue to provide for those of us who are privileged to be on the front lines with those who are seeking a relationship with our Lord.
    Blessings,
    Lynda

  5. Theresa Secord

    Thank you Team RCIA. we enjoy reading about other ideas and people’s experiences as we all journey with our candidates and catechumens. I meet one on one with each inquirer when they call to express an interest in RCIA. this may be at a coffee hours, ice cream bar or a park, wherever they wish. In our parish, we have a team composed that includes several veteran catechists as well as each year one or two of our neophytes ask to come back and be on the team. we have a welcoming dinner when we begin inquiry in August, another meal for the rite of acceptance and a social at Christmas after everyone helps put the food baskets together for Christmas delivery. Our team members also serve as parish sponsors and walk with our candidates and catechumens throughout the process. this helps them get to know the greater community. at least half of our weekly sessions are devoted to prayer and faith sharing and listening to one another share God stories. during the catechumenate period we offer topics they have asked for, but we still take a good portion of our time together to focus on sunday scriptures and faith stories. we have interviews before the Rite of Election done by our pastor (who serves on the team, often presents and attends each session), as well as our coordinator and myself. During the year together we invite past RCIA participants to attend one or two reunions at the parish. Past RCIA are always a part of welcoming the inquirers at the rite of acceptance ceremony. Thank you for your support and prayer.

  6. I came into full communion with the Catholic Church in 2013 and my RCIA class was led by a priest with an obvious love for RCIA and evangelization. There was ample time for discussion and the group was open and involved. After the Easter Vigil, the priest encouraged me to become part of the team the following year. That summer the priest was transferred, our DRE retired and most of the team from the previous year quit for various reasons.
    The last three groups that I have helped bring through have gotten progressively quieter, to the point that this year we seriously wondered if we were getting through to them at all. Attendance for half of this year’s group was hit and miss – sometimes we had a reason, sometimes not. About 6 weeks in, we were so concerned about the lack of participation we sent an email asking for feedback – they unanimously said they wanted the information for the following week’s topic ahead of time so they could review it and be ready to ask their questions… we started doing that and they never looked at it before the next class.
    We were at a loss of what to do, and decided all we could do was continue to enthusiastically continue to present the topics and leave the rest up to them and God.
    At our retreat before this year’s Easter Vigil, we asked them to reflect on their journey. I was nervous because we allotted 20 minutes for group discussion for a group that had shared very little all year. Not only did every one of our group share that day, I was thrilled to hear that they actually heard and got what we had been telling them, even the ones whosee attendance had been hit and miss! Our 20 minutes turned into 40 minutes and I had to reluctantly end the discussions because our priests were waiting for them for their first confessions.
    I am constantly amazed what God and the Holy Spirit can accomplish with imperfect human teachers – and that is the key to my approach with RCIA…it is not MY program, it is GOD’S program and He will not allow me to screw it up!

  7. Wow. . I am dumbfounded. I am in RCIA right now, and it is a painful, slow, brain-numbing process. The article really hit home, yet the comments show (in my opinion) that the catechists are grasping and exulting in the very things that make RCIA so torturous. The emphasis on faith formation and faith stories is the very reason that you may be losing people. Not because these aren’t important, but because so many of us already have this thing handled. It was recently presented that the Rite of Acceptance is our “first affirmation for Jesus.” How incredibly insulting! I am a Protestant. Before getting involved with the Catholic Church, I made an “affirmation for Jesus” every time I went up for Holy Communion, as well as every time I showed up and participated in church in general, attended and contributed to Bible studies, and a host of charity outreaches, to name a few. Certainly, I am not perfect, but certainly I do not need to be INTRODUCED to any of these things. Perhaps — and this is a guess– the catechists are emphasizing faith and faith stories because they/you feel you were deprived of these yourselves. My suggestion: Find out what people are actually interested in and teach them that. I am offering up my RCIA experience as a sacrifice because I don’t think my husband would join on his own, and doing it with me is what it will take. But is it like any adult who is forced to sit in a kindergarten class. And this seems to be very common. If you listen to most of the people who are on The Journey Home, they share little comments with each other about their negative experiences in RCIA. Of course, a lot of them have Divinity degrees, but that should be a tip-off that their needs are in no way being met. They have to just do like I do and “take a shot of novacaine,in the brain” grin, and bear it. Are you losing people because of this? Without a doubt.

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