Parishes have a tendency to shift into low gear during the summer. Schools are closed. Most school-aged formation programs shift to summer camp mode or shut down all together. The choir takes the summer off.
The same was also true for initiation ministry. The catechumens have been initiated and the candidates have been received; what’s left to do? Plenty! And it all comes down to one very important point: the Holy Spirit doesn’t take summers off.
Over the years my team and I have developed what we call our “primary credo:” If the Holy Spirit is calling someone to our door, who am I to tell them to come back later.
In other words, no seeker should be told that he or she should come back in September. Instead, we should meet with him or her as soon as possible. We start the conversation. We begin the journey. Now.
When it comes to the RCIA, we need to distinguish between the adult formation process and other aspects of school and parish life.
Most adults don’t get the summer off
For most working adults, a summer day is just another work day. Unless they work in a school or are parents of school aged children, their lives are not ruled by the school calendar.
Mass doesn’t take the summer off
Celebrating Mass is one of our most sacred obligation as Catholics, and that obligation doesn’t take a break during the summer. The Mass is our primary catechetical tool, and we need to encourage all our seekers, catechumens, and candidates to attend regularly through the summer.
If you are your seekers are traveling during the summer, there are websites and phone apps that can tell you when and where to find a Mass at a church near to where you’re traveling, both domestically and internationally. Some of my most memorable experiences have been attending Mass at different churches while traveling.
Seekers don’t take the summer off
If you’re running an individualized, year-round process, not all your catechumens and candidates will have been initiated or received into full communion this past Easter. You’re going to have folks who need more formation. You want to continue to maintain contact with them throughout the summer, even if you’re not having regular catechetical sessions. It’s also a great time to do follow-up discernment interviews and see how they are doing on their journey.
The USCCB National Statutes for the Catechumenate tell us that the period of the catechumenate should last at least one year. Not an 8 or 9 month academic year, but a full liturgical year of 12 months (see paragraph 6). This is to allow catechumens to experience the full story of Christ as presented in the Sunday readings; within the liturgical year, and traditions of the church are revealed. In fact, for many seekers, a complete formation may take several years (see RCIA 76).
Remember also that the period of the catechumenate does not include time spent in the precatechumenate, nor the time spent in the period of purification and enlightenment that begins with the Rite of Election. We should never compress these separate and distinct stages of the process for the sake of expediency or convenience.
Your parish doesn’t take the summer off
Pick up a parish bulletin or go to the website. Look at your diocesan website or newspaper or other announcements. There is always something going on during the summer in which seekes can participate.
The Holy Spirit doesn’t take the summer off; neither should we
I’ve mentioned before that a year-round process doesn’t mean you need to have catechetical sessions all year round. But we do need to make sure we stay engaged on some level with remaining catechumens and candidates and also be available for when new seekers might come calling.
I’ve also mentioned before that while catechetical sessions are a part of the formation process, we need to make sure they are not the only part of the process. We need to be encouraging everyone to engage with the rest of the parish, not only at regular Sunday Mass, but with any other activities and events that may be going on during the summer. When you consider all this, staying open through the summer isn’t as hard as you might think.
What does your RCIA look like during the “summer” months? How are you engaging with your seekers and catechumens? Share your thoughts in the comments below.