10 Ways to Involve Parishioners in the RCIA Process

RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) image posted by TeamRCIAAre you having trouble getting your parish involved in your RCIA process? Do you sometimes feel like you and your team are working off in a corner somewhere, unnoticed by the larger community? When you celebrate RCIA rites at Sunday Mass, do you sense the assembly is disgruntled because the liturgy might go longer than normal?

If that’s true for you, you are not alone. Many RCIA teams experience similar things in their parishes. What you need to know is your experience is pretty common.

You also need to know that things can change. Change is never easy, and I’m not going to give you a one-size-fits-all solution that will solve all your problems in the next week. But I am going to suggest a small step your parish might consider implementing. You are going to need your pastor’s cooperation for this step, and getting that cooperation may or may not be a challenge, depending upon your pastor, but it’s worth a try.

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Stay on message!

On the Second Sunday of Lent, I was in a parish I had not been to before. In that parish, someone (the pastor?) had decided to forgo the homily and instead show two videos that promoted a social service ministry within the parish that was seeking more volunteers. While service to those in need is an important ministry in any parish, the primary focus of Lent should be on the journey of the Elect as they prepare for initiation.

If we want our parishioners to become involved in the catechumenate process, we have to use every opportunity available to us to catechize them about primary importance of this ministry. If your pastor and the liturgy planners in your parish agree with that, here are ten different things you can try on the Second Sunday of Lent next year.

  1. The most obvious thing to do is to preach on the gospel. The Second Sunday of Lent focuses on the story of Jesus’s Transifiguration. As the Elect enter their final period of preparation, they will be focused on their own transformation that will take place at their baptism. How can this gospel encourage them and all of us on our Lenten journey?
  2. Another option is to structure the homily as a mystagogical reflection on the Rite of Election that took place at the cathedral the week before. Summarize what the bishop asked the godparents about their catechumens and explore the primary symbols of the liturgy.
  3. It is always an option to preach about the liturgical season. Often, we think of Lent as a time of penance and fasting. But it is equally a season of preparation for baptism. Make sure the baptismal font is full of water throughout Lent, and use this Sunday to preach about the baptismal call of the Elect to missionary discipleship.
  4. The following week, we begin the celebration of the scrutinies. The Second Sunday of Lent is an ideal time to foreshadow what is going to happen in those rites. The homilist can give an overview of the progressive nature of the three scrutiny gospels and invite the community to come participate at the Masses where the Elect with undergo those rites.
  5. Either in addition to or instead of the homily, one of the Elect could give a testimony about his or her experience of the Rite of Election. If you have several Elect, you can divide them up and ask them to testify at different Masses over the weekend.
  6. If the Elect are too shy to offer testimony, you could ask some of the godparents to testify to their experience of the Rite of Election and of their commitment to guide the Elect to the font, as well as walking with them in their mission as Christian disciples.
  7. This might be a stretch, but I’ve always wanted to ask the bishop to video tape a message that would go out to all the parishes in which he would talk about the Elect. Often, bishops are willing to do this for a stewardship campaign. Perhaps we could convince some of our bishops to do the same kind of thing in support of those who are about to become disciples of Christ. The Second Sunday of Lent, just after the Rite of Election, would be the perfect time for his message to be delivered in all the parishes.
  8. Another option for the homilist would be to preach about the Creed. The Elect will be presented with the Creed during Lent, and a homily that explores why that is significant could be very helpful to them and to the parish.
  9. If you are not able to have much influence over what happens during the homily time, another possibility is to ask the cantor to chant the intercessions. Be sure that one of the intercessions is a prayer for the Elect. In that intercession, call out the names of each of the Elect.
  10. One option that I would not do is the optional penitential rite for the baptized candidates. The best place to mark the penitential journey of the baptized candidates is with the rest of the baptized faithful at the parish reconciliation service that happens in most communities in Lent.

Click for a FREE copy of “Thirty-two best RCIA practices for the Easter Vigil”

Your Turn

Do you have other ideas for how we can use the Second Sunday of Lent to catechize about the central place of initiation ministry in our parishes? Please share your thoughts below.

Photo by bk1975 | Flickr

See also these related articles:

  1. 17 best prayer practices for RCIA team members
  2. Reflection Questions for RCIA Seekers: Year C – The Fifth Sunday of Lent through the Second Sunday of Easter
  3. Reflection Questions for RCIA Seekers: Year C – The First through Fourth Sundays in Lent
  4. Initiation team resources for Lent, Triduum and the Easter Season
  5. What does Lent have to offer the baptized candidates?

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  1. One way we have increased participation is to use a worship aid, two-sided folded, which gives the names of the candidates and Elect and also the paragraphs from the RCIA which help to let them know what and why of it.

    Also, more needs to be done for candidates baptized Catholic as infants with no formation who are now adults. (I’m thinking ahead to the upcoming revision of the RCIA.) 3 out of 5 of our candidates meet this criteria. We have year round RCIA and we already have several more like this entering the process this winter.

    I believe the collective Communion of Saints is praying them home.

  2. We started a new tradition within my parish this year, where we held an hour of Adoration immediately following the Stations of the Cross, last Friday night. The hour was dedicated to praying for and with those candidates entering into full communion with the Church at the Easter Vigil. It offered an opportunity for parishioners to gather with the candidates in prayer. We started with some sacred music, gently playing in the background, then our DRE read a meditation from Saint Mother Teresa’s published works; then we had a period of sacred silence, where everyone was encouraged to come forth and kneel before Jesus, to touch the base of the Monstrance. We concluded with Benediction. It was a very powerful experience.

  3. I love all these ideas and we do use some of these. But one thing I hesitate about is having the already baptized candidates be involved at the parish’s communal reconciliation service. Maybe our parish is different than many others, but we combine with another parish in both Advent and Lent, with up to 10 priests available for confessions. The lines are long, and it is emphasized that it is not a time for lengthy counseling or discussion with the priest. A candidate’s first confession should be a powerful and memorable experience. They need to feel as relaxed as they can and that the priest has time to listen to them, without the pressure of a long line of people waiting behind them. We recommend they go to one of the regularly scheduled opportunities for confession or to call the rectory and make an appointment with a priest.

  4. In our parish we do not feel it is a good idea that our baptized candidates attend the parish communal celebration because there are so many people there that even with 9 or 10 priest, the lines are very long and it’s announced that this is not a time for lengthy counseling or discussion with the priest. We recommend that they go to one of the regularly scheduled confession times or make an appointment with priest so that they have the time to make their first confession without feeling pressured by a long line of people waiting behind them. This is their first experience and it should be powerful and memorable. Communal reconciliation can happen the next time around.

  5. Oops Nick

    The 2nd Sunday in Lent is Transfiguration Sunday.

    We have the great pairing of the Temptations on the 1st Sunday with the Rite of Election

  6. One way we involve the community with the elect and candidates is we ask them to write a brief narration of their journey. We put their story, their name and picture on a half 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper (a different color paper for each person.) On the paper, there are instructions that ask for prayers for this person and or a sacrifice they will make for this person on the final leg of their journey. There are blank lines for this. We distribute them before Mass on two Sundays and ask that they be returned next week. The completed papers are then given to the elect and candidates at their next gathering.
    The elect and candidates get hundreds of responses. There is an overwhelming outpouring of prayer and sacrifice for these elect and candidates. I find it very revealing about the spirituality of our community too. Many comment that they too have gone through RCIA and are so glad they did; some give up tv, deserts for them, one said he’d wear his watch on the wrong hand to remind him to pray for the person he selected, the parishioners all comment on and identify with the story that they shared. It has become a treasured Lenten discipline in our community.

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