Can we pass the RCIA test?

9 thoughts on “Can we pass the RCIA test?”

  1. Margaret Erickson

    When I began working in campus ministry I looked through some old files and found one for RCIA at another university which stated that if a participant missed a class they needed to write a paper on the topic they missed. I was appalled. Despite the beauty of the RCIA process there is still a strong tendency to make it into solely a classroom experience. I try to keep bringing the different aspects of prayer, liturgy, community, service, and mission into the process to get people thinking beyond the classroom model. But when the leader comments publicly that the Easter Vigil is “too long” I want to weep.

  2. Obviously the RCIA is not solely a classroom experience – it *also* involves going to Mass each Sunday, participating in the Rites, and participating in the activities of the parish community on a regular schedule – and these are things they find out about at the meetings.

    I don’t think it’s possible to become a Catholic by not showing up. Becoming a Catholic is not about meetings, but the meetings are where the opportunities to become Catholic happen.

    Becoming Catholic is an interior journey, but it doesn’t take place without external influence, or without the instruction and guidance that are made possible at the meetings.

  3. Sandy Gallegos

    Thank God the initiation team at my parish already had the right mind/heart set for the process when I arrived , and we never “measured” or tested anything but their desire to become closer to Christ within the Catholic Church and their sincere efforts to move in that direction. One always has to take into account their schedules, their personal stories, etc. I remember one beautiful young woman, mentally challenged, who had a mental age of about 12. She was 24 and in our adult group. At first she was so shy we couldn’t hear her when she whispered a short answer. She reached the point where her answer to any question was, “All I know is I have Jesus in my heart.” We couldn’t imagine holding her back.

  4. I’ve been around RCIA a long time and thought I had seen or heard everything. But now a test……. a little bit of a shock there.
    We try to be year-round, avoiding a cookie cutter approach, discerning and accompanying individuals . that’s the goal. We get excited seeing growth in prayer, sharing daily experiences of grace and so highlighting a “disciple’s journey”.. the rite speaks of ‘sufficient knowledge”. We share the basics as much as possible in an interactive way. I figure if they know we have a catechism which has a tremendous index they’s be able to pick up the information when it becomes important to them. We seek to move forward one heart at a time.

  5. No there should not be a test. We (all of us) are learning and experiencing God every day. Now that being said, RCIA is a process and I the seeker does not attempt to participate in the process ( no meetings, no mass, no dismissals, no church community activities) how are we as catechist able to model good catholic practices?

  6. I think it’s important for us to process the difference between engaging in the process – whether it be participation in rites, attendance at catechetical session, or presence for breaking open the word – and the interior movement of the soul, motivated by the spirit of God.

    I tell all inquirers/candidates/catechumens – and yes, even the Elect – that we are not attendance takers – this journey is theirs with God and we are merely humble and thankful companions along the way. Obviously, if someone was a virtual ghost and never around for anything, I’d ask their sponsor what was up and even schedule time to talk to the individual about the journey, but I’ve never – not once – had someone seeking sacraments who was just checked out. Just the opposite, our catechumenate is thriving, and people are more eager than ever for opportunities to pray, learn, and celebrate!

    I have an overwhelming urge to insert a happy face here!!

  7. Your story about “anger” reminded me of a young girl a couple of years back who was dying.

    Her parish in the next county over refused to give her First Holy Communion because she was “too young,” and so her grandmother contacted our parish for help.

    The child (about six years old) came to our Sunday night Mass, received the Sacraments of Confirmation, Eucharist, and the Anointing of the Sick, and was treated to so much love by our parishioners, who didn’t even know her: something I’ll never forget.

    One woman even came up after the Mass and gave the little girl a beautiful gold crucifix from her own neck and Mom and Dad were so touched, as was the child, and of course Grandma who made this all possible.

    We are not perfect as a parish (who is?), but I thank God we were able to help this young lady receive the Sacraments at such a young age as she approached glory. She died a few months later…

  8. I have never heard of such a thing as an RCIA test that one can pass or fail. I have been leading and participating in RCIA for 25 years in several different dioceses in western Canada. The process has always been totally flexible adhering to the participants needs. It is experiential in every aspect with myself and the team as co-journeyers with them through thick and thin. I have been on many joyful trips over the years.

    This reminds me of my contract as a Pastoral Assistant in a parish in which the parish council felt that the catechism students hadn’t learned their rote prayers well enough and so refused to renew my contract the third time. The catechism process was run this way as a diocesan initiative. I instructed the parents in the passing on of the faith to their children, using a specific catechism, then the parents did just that but this particular parish council couldn’t see the value in it.

  9. This is a fascinating topic and it is a reflection of the STILL cloudy nature of what a good RCIA program should look like. Nick, you guys do a fantastic job and I like that you wrote this article. I hope that people don’t interpret it as “don’t teach doctrine” What I see in many RCIA programs in my area is people either doing one or the other – they focus on doctrine or they focus on scripture when it really should be “both/and” not “either/or”. Sadly, the focus on one or the other is often not done well.

    Do I think participants should be assessed on their understanding of doctrine – yes.

    Do I think they should be given a pass/ fail test – NO! NO! NO!

    Our parish RCIA has evolved over the years and a lot of the ways it has evolved is based on the needs and reflections of the participants and their sponsors and well as the experiences of the team members.

    Years ago, I went on retreat and during one of our discussion sessions, there was a wonderful young lady who had recently become Catholic because she had married a Catholic. After spending a year in RCIA, she burst into tears because she felt she really didn’t understand the Catholic faith. She described her experience as mostly being “touchy feely” and she still felt lost during mass and during other Catholic liturgies.

    Another reflection I would like to share happened just two weeks ago. As we were breaking open the Word on the Samaritan Woman, I asked the participants what touched them in the gospel. One person stated that they loved the line from Jesus where he said:

    “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming
    when you will worship the Father
    neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem.
    You people worship what you do not understand;
    we worship what we understand”

    The participant then stated that this line spoke to her because she felt that she really understood the Catholic faith and she was excited about becoming a Catholic because she understood worship, the doctrine and how to live as a disciple of Christ.

    I think the components of a good RCIA program should be based on the following:

    1. First and foremost, what does it mean to be an intentional disciple of Christ
    2. Understanding this discipleship in light of Scripture.
    3. Understanding what it means to be a disciple as a part of Catholic lifestyle and practices (apprenticeship)
    4. Understanding how aspects of discipleship are reflected in Catholic doctrine.

    I think the problem was not so much the test but how it was used and the spirit in which it was used. It should NOT be given in a school room pass/fail test! Doctrine should be and can be presented in a way that the participant grows and understands it over time.

    In our RCIA program we do have a final interview where participants are asked the basics of doctrine. Along the path, many many MONTHS before this interview, I will have people respond to a text message or a simple written question such as ” Every Sunday in the creed, we say ‘I believe in one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic church”” What does that mean to you? As someone with a degree in education, I know that writing is a great way to clarify ones thoughts. But the writing is NEVER GRADED. It is used as a basis for starting a discussion. Doctrine is discussed over a long period of time and in the context of an activity, so it makes sense to the learner. By the time we have the final interview, the participants do very well AND the interview is a part of a discernment process that examines evidence of faith such as prayer habits, church attendance, willingness to do social service and a desire to grow close to God.

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