Change can be hard. As human beings we are, by nature, resistant to change…especially when we think what we have right now is just fine as it is. But God and his creation are not static. Our relationship with God is dynamic…living, breathing, and constantly evolving, and sometimes that means altering course to keep moving in a positive direction.
As catechists we teach that God always meets us where we’re at. But this idea also prompts us to ask: Is our RCIA process meeting our people where they’re at?
What happens when we’re not open?
For many years now, leaders in the RCIA have been urging us to examine our processes in ways that can better deliver on the promises of the RCIA. This not only has brought us a better understanding of the stages of conversion (as embodied in the steps of Inquiry, Catechumenate, Purification and Enlightenment, and Mystagogia), but also helps us to recognize that the desire to begin the process may not always follow our traditional academic calendar. This is why moving to a year-round process is so important.
Imagine for a moment a person who has been thinking about becoming Catholic and after weeks or months of consideration finds the courage to call the parish office, only to be told that the process has already started and that they should call back again in the fall. I’m sure many of you are familiar with this scenario because I’ve seen it play out far too many times, including at my own parish.
Is this how we invite people into relationship with God and his church? I’m sure you will agree with me that the answer to this question should be a resounding “no!” But how exactly do we do this? How can we move from a traditional academic model to a year-round process? What does it really take in terms of actions and time and resources?
We’re in the business of making change
I’m here to tell you that it’s not as hard as you might think. Having been able to accomplish this at my own parish, I’ve been able to identify a series of steps that you can use to move your process to a year round model. This kind of change doesn’t happen overnight, but with my sincere thanks to Nick Wagner and TeamRCIA, I’ve been given the opportunity to share these steps with you through a continuing series of articles. Every month I will focus on a different step and how you might best adapt it to your parish needs.
I realize that change is difficult, especially when it comes to your RCIA process. You immediately start thinking about all the reasons why this or that can’t be done or what additional resources might be needed. But I ask you to prayerfully consider this: Change is our business. The people who come to us are looking for change, and they’re coming to us to find it. The change they’re looking for is bring God into (or back into) their lives, and finding that path through our Catholic faith. The whole RCIA process (as well as all Sacrament preparation) is one of changing our lives to be more like Christ. It’s a change like that takes time, patience, prayer and fortitude… all of which we as catechists and team members try to provide through our RCIA processes.
So if you think changing your RCIA process is something that can’t be done, I challenge you to think again. As with our catechumens and candidates, it will take time, patience, prayer and fortitude, but I like to think if our parish can do it, so can yours. So I look forward to sharing with you these various steps with you, and as part of my own ongoing formation, I’d like to hear about your stories and challenges, along the way, and together we can continue to spread the gospel.
What questions do you have about making the switch to a year-round RCIA process? If you’ve made this change, what encouragement would you offer to other RCIA teams who are ready to change? Leave your comments below!
John McGlynn is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and RCIA at Our Lady of Refuge Catholic Church in Long Beach, California. John became a catechist and lay minister where he grew up, Our Lady of Lourdes parish in Tujunga, CA, where he served as a junior high catechist, youth minister, and young adult minister, as well as singing with the contemporary choir and serving on the liturgy committee. After getting married and moving to Long Beach, he joined the RCIA team at Our Lady of Refuge in 1997, and was appointed director in 2007. John has regularly attended numerous catechetical and RCIA workshops over the last 35 years, including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the North American Forum on the Catechumenate, and with TeamRCIA. After 12 years of Catholic education, John earned a BS in Business Administration from the California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. John also owes a lot of thanks to his wife Pat, who is a Theology graduate from Loyola Marymount University and served as a parish Director of Formation for 20 years.