The first of a two-part series. For Part 2, click here.
Since 2017, I have helped my parish’s RCIA program move from the school-year approach to the year-round approach. In this two-part series, I will address developing a top-notch team, regardless of approach — crucial for a year-round program. The follow-up article examines advantages and disadvantages of running a year-round RCIA program.
With the school-year approach, only a small team is needed. With the year-round approach, people move from phase to phase at differing intervals, depending upon their readiness. Therefore, since I had not yet learned how to bilocate, I needed to greatly enlarge the team to make this process work effectively and efficiently.
Matching team members to different phases
With the inquiry phase, I quickly realized that I needed two team leaders who:
◗ are good listeners
◗ can evaluate where each new inquirer is on their faith journey
◗ can answer questions with simplicity and clarity
◗ knows when each inquirer is ready to move to the catechumenate phase
These skill sets are essential because we do not want to move an inquirer into the catechumenate phase until most of their questions are answered and they are ready to dig deeper and learn much more.
For the catechumenate phase, I needed presenters knowledgeable in the faith, capable of answering more in-depth questions; people who could steer the candidates and catechumens in the right direction. I selected presenters with advanced degrees in both theology and education because lesson planning is required. Lessons are based upon the upcoming Sunday readings. With approximately 48 lessons per year, a team of seven to eight presenters works well and avoids burnout.
For Dismissal Sunday sessions, I needed a dismissal team of another seven to eight people
who could alternate at leading the discussions. For this group, I wanted active, devout parishioners who can really drive home the Catholic way of living in correlation to the Sunday readings. Their personal lived experience makes Jesus come alive to the catechumens.
Twice each year, we move those ready to enter in to full communion with the Church into
a period of purification and enlightenment. I lead this last phase of preparation. As they approach the “big day,” I offer them time to experience the faith through evenings of prayer, times of adoration, attendance at parish events, and preparation for the
sacraments of initiation.
I am blessed to have a seasoned RCIA volunteer who effectively leads the final mystagogy
phase, sharing the true meaning of Catholic prayer and spirituality with the neophytes.
Trust the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit guides the entire process and blesses me with what I need. Recently one of my presenters stepped down to take a different parish position. Before I could begin to fret about how to replace this person, I got a phone call from a qualified individual saying she wanted to get involved with RCIA. God does provide! So, to develop a top-notch RCIA program, it takes the Holy Spirit, the entire parish community, and a few personally selected individuals. At my parish, I’m graced to work with the best!
Virginia Lieto, MA is an adjunct professor for the online theology program at St. Joseph’s College of Maine. She is a speaker, blogger, and the children’s book author of Adventures of Faith, Hope and Charity–Finding Patience.
This article was originally published in Catechist magazine, March 2019
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