Keeping adults engaged
LISANNE V. JENSEN
Adults who wish to become Catholic, desire full communion with the Catholic Church, or simply want to learn more about their Catholic faith can participate in a parish’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).
For RCIA team leaders, guiding these inquirers through a meaningful and comprehensive program of study involves months of preparation, effort, and research. The experience can be eyeopening for the leaders as well — causing them to think about and appreciate their faith in new and different ways.
When this period of inquiry culminates in the joyful celebration of receiving the sacraments during the parish’s Easter Vigil, RCIA team leaders might breathe a sigh of relief and feel that their job is finally complete. But the adults who have completed the program might question, “What’s next for me?” How do they put their newly discovered knowledge and experience into practice, and how can RCIA leaders encourage them and keep them engaged during this new chapter of their faith journey?
Numerous resources are readily available for adults who want to enter the Catholic Church, but after the sacraments, effective methods to aid in nurturing these lifelong relationships should also be easily accessible. From USCCB.org:
As a newly initiated Catholic, … their formation and education continue in the period of the post-baptismal catechesis, which is also called Mystagogy. This period continues at least until Pentecost. During the period the newly baptized members reflect on their experiences at the Easter Vigil and continue to learn more about the Scriptures, the Sacraments, and the teachings of the Catholic Church. In addition, they reflect on how they will serve Christ and help in the Church’s mission and outreach activities. (Read more at CATmag.us/2CTCFLc.)
Keep the fire
In other words, after building close relationships with RCIA participants, don’t let the fire of
that strong connection burn out.
“After the RCIA, adults need to stay connected and feel ownership,” says Lyn Mettler, a blogger at CatholicNewbie.com and a Catholic convert since 2013. “Our parish’s program goes for a month after our RCIA ends. We encourage participants to become involved with the parish, to participate in an adult Bible study, and to continue learning by watching great videos (such as Bishop Robert Barron’s Catholicism series or videos by Ascension Press).”
Mettler’s parish also invites different ministry groups to its RCIA gatherings, encouraging
awareness of the parish’s various ministries as well as offering opportunities to become involved.
“What’s it like being in the parish choir, for instance?” she explained. “We bring in lectors,
Eucharistic ministers, etc., to talk about their ministry roles with RCIA participants.”
Involving the entire parish is another strategy for providing RCIA participants with a sense of community and belonging. Mettler invites parishioners to attend RCIA presentations and offer their perspectives.
She recalled her own experience of participating in RCIA and striving to discern the calling for her life as a brand-new Catholic — and she noted that RCIA “graduates” must possess a passion for learning.
“It took about three years before I felt like I truly belonged to the parish,” she said. “I tried really hard. Participating in small groups, such as a small-group Bible study, are good, especially if you’re an introvert. You have to discern where God wants you to serve in his Church. You have to be committed yourself to continue to learn. Be persistent!”
In her article, “13 Things to Do after RCIA to Keep Your Catholic Faith on Fire” (May 2014), Mettler offers the following strategies for adults and RCIA team members alike to continue the engagement of lifelong faith:
■ Go on a silent retreat.
■ Make prayer part of daily life.
■ Begin praying the rosary.
■ Read the Bible daily.
■ Read Catholic books.
■ Go to Mass each Sunday.
■ Attend daily Mass.
■ Commit to regular time in Eucharistic adoration.
■ Take time for a daily reflection.
■ Get involved in your parish.
■ Take a class.
■ Receive the sacrament of Penance.
■ Consider total consecration to Jesus through Mary.
Make it personal
Reaching out personally on a regular basis to those who have completed RCIA is also a simple way to continue meaningful relationships. A phone call, card, email, or in-person conversation — as well as including these adults in parish activities and events — helps them know that they are cared for, respected members of the parish community who have tremendous gifts of faith to share.
Lisanne V. Jensen serves as the coordinator of Faith Formation and Youth Ministry at The Church of St. Joseph and as the secondary Faith Formation and Youth Ministry coordinator at St. James, both in the Diocese of Albany, New York.
This article was originally published in Catechist magazine, March 2019.