Do you ever find yourself getting frustrated with your whole RCIA process? Sometimes I sure do. Dealing with team members with different ideas, catechumens and candidates who don’t show up, or pastors who want things a particular way that might go contrary to the way you would like. There’s any number of frustrations that go with this ministry and the lead-up to Lent only seems to magnify them.
Now whenever I start to get frustrated about our ministry I usually try to find a good book or workshop from TeamRCIA to help rejuvenate my spirit. Recently I turned to Diana Macalintal’s book Your Parish IS the Curriculum for some guidance, and given that I was getting frustrated with our catechetical process it seemed like a good choice. If the parish is supposed to be the curriculum, if the intent is to have your catechumens and candidates integrate themselves into the life of the parish and involve themselves in the various activities and spiritual growth opportunities already available, then I found myself asking if we even needed to have catechetical sessions for the RCIA. Was I making more work of this than needed?
What defines your RCIA process?
The truth is, for far too many years, my parish operated like most others — our RCIA process was defined by our regular catechetical sessions. So much so that it was the sessions themselves and the session schedule that drove the RCIA process, which in turn made the catechumens and candidates subordinate to the process. Those regular sessions were the RCIA. But as I and others have written here before, that method negates the needs and the experiences of our seekers.
Time and experience have taught us that the RCIA process is not just a series of classes, but rather, an individual journey. A process that has logical steps with certain guidelines and goals that seekers grow through, individually, to reach the next phase. Trouble is, as parishes try to adjust their processes to this newer vision, I’ve seen where they just tend to modify their terminology and curriculum without necessarily adjusting their overall approach to the process. Attending regular classes or sessions still remains the core of the process. And further, we still remain leery of having our catechumens and candidates venture out into the parish community, as if the rest of the parish was something from which they need to be protected.
When to scrap the regular catechetical session
As I’ve written before, if you want to change your process you need to throw out your syllabus. But after I started reading Diana’s book, I began to think even more about whether we should just scrap having regular catechetical sessions all together. But after reading some more, and taking some time in prayer and reflection (as we all need to do from time to time), I realized that my problem wasn’t with having regular catechetical sessions, but what we were doing with those sessions and how we were scheduling them.
What regular gatherings are your catechumens attending?
There are certain benefits to having some kind of regularly scheduled sessions, for both the team members and the catechumens and candidates, the primary benefit being the chance to gather as a “small church community.” Having a place where we can gather with others who are also going through the process – a safe space where we can share experiences as they move through the process. To have an opportunity to see how the Spirit is moving and manifesting itself through their lives. As catechists, we then can share with them how those experiences reveal the truths and doctrines and traditions of our Catholic faith. We’re not setting the catechetical agenda, they are.
But attending regular catechetical sessions is not the only thing they should be attending. They should be attending Mass every week. They should be participating in other activities of the parish and connecting with other parish groups that fit with their particular needs and interests. And they most definitely should take the opportunity to help with some community outreach.
Are your catechumens taking charge, or just along for the ride?
The idea here is to not have your regular sessions drive your process, but to have the process drive your sessions. In doing so, you flip the traditional model, having your catechumens and candidates each individually driving themselves through the process, instead of having you drive them. This leaves you and your team to act more as facilitators and coaches instead of instructors, and affords you much more flexibility in how you might schedule your sessions.
A year-round process does not mean having sessions every week all year. Instead any schedule should be what best fits with the needs of the community. Your catechetical sessions should become a support mechanism to the RCIA process, not the process itself. They should facilitate the exegetical catechesis of those going through the process as they continue their active involvement with the rest of the parish community.
So while having some kind of regular catechetical sessions remains a useful tool in our tool box, we also need to reconsider how we use that tool in light of the many other tools available to us.
When have you made changes to your RCIA process in terms of the “attendance requirements”? How was the change received? Where did your seekers and Catechumens most appreciate the changes? Share your thoughts in the comments below.