What do RCIA teams do with the elect now that baptisms are postponed?

RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) image posted by TeamRCIAMany parishes organize their catechumenate ministry on a school-year model. While this is not the vision of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, it is nevertheless a reality in many communities. However, the isolation and distancing requirements of the coronavirus outbreak have disrupted that model. And now, we’re feeling a little panicked. What in the world are we going to do with our elect as we await the time when we can initiate them?

This is the time to look at the formation principles of ongoing initiation process and apply those principles to this unique situation. I urge you not to simply schedule more classes to be delivered digitally. Instead, let’s ask ourselves the purpose of formation in the Christian life and how the church envisions a process for that formation.

What does the Christian life look like for the Elect?

The RCIA tells us that we are supposed to provide “pastoral formation and guidance aimed at training [the seekers] in the Christian life” (RCIA 75).

The rite then goes on to tell us what the Christian life looks like. Disciples of Jesus practice four types of Christian behavior.

  1. Word. We reflect on and ponder the teaching of the church as revealed by the Logos (God’s incarnate Word) over the course of the liturgical year (RCIA 75.1).
  2. Community. Because we support one another and serve one another, we are able to keep our hopes set on Christ during difficult times. We do this together through faith in the power of the Holy Spirit. We do this even when we lose patience or are short-tempered. We continuously reconcile with one another by asking and offering forgiveness. The rite says that when we do this, and when the seekers follow our example, “they also taste the joy that God gives without measure” (RCIA 75.2).
  3. Worship. The most powerful means of formation that we have is the liturgical life of the church. While we cannot form our seekers through Sunday Eucharist in communities that are under quarantine, we can still worship. Our buildings are closed, but the church is open. Our households are small churches where we continue to pray and worship. (RCIA 75.3)
  4. Witness. We never cease to spread the Gospel, even if we cannot physically connect with one another. Through digital communication, financial support, and even volunteering for safe activities, we can continue to serve those most in need, bringing them the good news they desperately long for. (RCIA 75.4).

So in this time of physical isolation, we continue to form the seekers not with more classes but with a true training, an apprenticeship, in how Christians live when faced with adversity. Here are some specific examples of ways you can pastorally form and guide your elect, your catechumens, your baptized candidates, and, indeed, your whole parish community.

Word

Cook meals based on Bible stories

You can suggest the elect cook some of the foods Jesus might have eaten at the Last Supper. See this article for ideas.

This site is good for families with kids.

Read messages from popes

Reflect on the Sunday readings together as a household

Give Us This Day is an excellent resource to help you do that.

Community

Set up a Netflix watch party

If all your elect have Netflix accounts, you can join together to watch a spiritually uplifting movie. Find instructions here.

Some movies to watch include:

  • The Pursuit of Happyness
  • My Life as a Zucchini
  • Mary Poppins Returns
  • The King’s Speech
  • Miracle
  • Same Kind of Different as Me

Tour the Vatican Museums

Encourage your elect to explore one or more of the free virtual tours of the Vatican Museums. Learn more here.

Practice forgiveness

Because we are all forced to stay at home during the pandemic, tensions can rise. Suggest ways to your elect that they can practice forgiveness in their households.

Worship

Plan a household foot washing for Holy Thursday

Also, plan for domestic church worship for all of Holy Week. See the Liturgical Press website for adapted rites and liturgies to celebrate at home.

Pray the Liturgy of the Hours

A simple way for households to mark the hours of the day is the pray the Lord’s Prayer at morning, at noon, and in the evening.

A slightly more advanced option is to use the digital version of Give Us This Day.

Set up a home altar

You can probably guide your elect about how to set up a prayer space at home, but if you need inspiration, see this article.

Witness

Donate

Give to organizations that help those who are more drastically impacted by the shutdown. For example, Catholic Charities, Meals on Wheels, and the International Medical Corp.

Give blood. There is shortage, and you cannot catch the coronavirus by donating.

Reach out to those on the peripheries

Discover some ways to reimagine Jesus’s command to love our neighbor. Read this article from the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Your Turn

What’s most pressing on your mind at this time about your Elect? What are you trusting them to do in the coming weeks and months? How will you help them do it? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Read more about other RCIA team training ideas here:

Photo by Martin Shreder on Unsplash

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Comments

  1. I was a catechist/coordinator in the RCIA process in our Parish for 20 years. We were a year-round, whenever-you’re-ready process. If it worked out to include The Vigil, we were most pleased. However, often the ‘time’ the candidates entered and the ‘time’ they needed to develop their relationship with Our Lord and the’time’ they needed to accept in their hearts the teachings and wisdom of the Church and what discipleship would look like in their lives, often didn’t fit a vigorous schedule of lectures driven by yearly liturgical calendar pressures. With some obvious Liturgical exceptions, we brought folks into the Church when they were ready. Probably the most pro-active thing we did was during our first interview with a Candidate was telling them we weren’t certain when they’d be “finished”; it all depended on how The Holy Spirit designed their formation in length and depth. Interestingly, our Team would somehow come to the same conclusion of WHEN at about the same time during each individual’s formation! Sometimes it took a year from their entry, sometimes a little more, sometimes less. We only had a Team of 3 people and while we were stretched to walk with each person at their own pace yet often within group sessions and activities God gave us what we needed………focus,energy, patience and humility. We often had Inquiry, the Catechumenate and Mystagogy going in different places simultaneously! Our Team learned to tap into our creativity to adapt each phase either to the time of year and/or what their upcoming Rites might be or within a Mystagogical or ministry setting. Our Team certainly learned discipleship and the joy of partnering with the Holy Spirit in the formation of the Candidates! As I look now at this time of year and the adaptations that must be made in RCIA, I think this is a GOOD thing. Those doing the calendar-year model might see the value of a year-round process and muster the courage to deal with the sometimes ‘messiness’ of it in anticipation of the beauty it offers as it forms the Candidates in ways they couldn’t see or understand. And, as a bonus, they would also see how adaptable a year-round process is to developments and circumstances that come up beyond anyone’s control.
    Let us all look upon this virus as an opportunity to admit we are not in charge and put ourselves in the capable hands of the Holy Spirit and allow Him to work with HIS agenda and in HIS time for the good of our Candidates and Catechumens and for all the RCIA teams struggling during this difficult time. My prayers go out to all of you as I know your fondest desire is for only the best for everyone!

  2. I am thankful for the sentiments expressed in this article. At this time of forced social distancing and physical isolation, I find that it’s all too easy for me, as a catechist, to “retreat” into a routine that only weakly models those four types of Christian behavior you mention. A few weeks ago one of our catechumens suggested that we could organize weekly Zoom videoconferences in place of the usual weekly RCIA dismissals and meetings. We are trying to do that in my parish. It seems doing something is better than doing nothing….. yet are we doing anything that truly forms our seekers, that makes real the life of disciples of Jesus, that somehow demonstrates how Christians live when faced with adversity? These are questions to ponder as we eagerly anticipate Easter and all its glory!

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