In all my years in RCIA ministry, one of the easiest things to do was to match inquirers with sponsors — in my head. One of the hardest things to do was to get those perfect sponsors-in-my-head to become real, live, actual sponsors for someone.
I think other RCIA team members must have struggled with the same thing. I was at a parish once that was celebrating the Rite of Acceptance. The catechumens were assembled, along with their sponsors. But one sponsor was missing. The presider kept calling out his name, hoping he was somewhere in the assembly. It was like that homeroom scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off as Ben Stein reads out roll call, repeating: “Bueller, Bueller, Bueller.”
Are right sponsors getting involved?
At another parish, at another Rite of Acceptance, I saw the sponsors being introduced to their inquirers. At the Rite of Acceptance! It made me wonder if parishioners had been asked to “help out” with the liturgy as they arrived for Mass in the same way we’d ask folks to bring up the gifts to the altar.
Another experience I know a lot of you have had—because you have told me—is the inquirer who shows up with a sponsor already attached. It’s like those all-in-one printers you can buy. It comes with everything, ready to go. Except, not. Sometimes the “sponsor” isn’t even Catholic. Or if, she’s Catholic, she’s not a parishioner—at least not a parishioner anyone has seen since founding pastor Fr. Finbar McGlitchy’s funeral. And sometimes it’s unclear who needs more formation—the sponsor or the sponsee.
Honestly, I’ve given up. I don’t look for sponsors anymore. I look for a person who is good at looking for sponsors. And yes, that’s hard. But it’s only hard once. I look for someone who knows lots and lots of parishioners, who is difficult to say no to, and who sees sponsor-inquirer matchmaking as fascinating puzzle to be solved.
How to “give up” looking for RCIA sponsors
This requires a bit of letting go on my part. Sometimes the sponsor-finder finds people I would never have chosen. However, part of the process of finding a sponsor-finder is being clear about what the RCIA team is looking for a in a sponsor. Once your potential sponsor-finder knows the job description and criteria for a sponsor, turn her loose and trust in the Holy Spirit.
Once I figured this out (and I’m slow; it took me a while), I witnessed amazing, blessed, grace-filled matches. The lives of the inquirers were enriched, and they had powerful conversion experiences on their journey of faith because of their relationships with their sponsors. And I also witnessed powerful conversion experiences in the lives of the sponsors. Many of them have told me they received much more than they gave in their sponsor roles.
If finding sponsors is hard for you, my advice is stop looking. Instead, look for someone who the Holy Spirit has gifted with that particular talent. And then find something else to do with all your new-found free time.
Share your story
Who has helped you find sponsors in your parish? How have you stayed away (or gotten away) from last-minute sponsor pairings? Tell us in the comments below!