Part two of a two-part series. For Part 1, click here.
I am the coordinator for the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) in my parish. Back in 2017, we moved from the school-year approach to a year-round catechumenate. The advantages of moving to the year-round catechumenate are many, while there is only one major disadvantage.
■ We welcome people into the program when they are ready to begin.
■ We teach the truths of the faith in alignment with the Sunday Gospel.
■ We can bring people into full communion with the Catholic Church twice per year.
■ The full parish becomes more engaged in the RCIA process, due to more rites shared during Sunday Mass.
■ More volunteers are needed to run the various phases simultaneously (see part 1 “Developing a Top-Notch RCIA Team”).
With the change to the year-round catechumenate, I now get calls in February and July, as well as every other month of the year. And when I get those calls, it gives me great joy to say, “Come! We look forward to meeting you this Thursday night.” It doesn’t matter when someone starts in Inquiry because we cycle through specific introductory topics every 12 weeks in addition to answering their questions. This prepares them well for entering the second phase — the catechumenate — where we go much deeper in sharing the truths of the faith.
It’s easy to plan what we teach each week in the catechumenate, as we create our lesson plans based upon the upcoming Sunday Gospel. We use RCL Benziger’s Foundations of Faith (Years A, B, C) books to guide us, both in the creation of our lesson plans and the Sunday Dismissal discussions.
There was initial concern that, given the time we had with the participants, we wouldn’t cover everything they needed to know to become faithful Catholics. What the entire team learned was that this process works! The participants were well prepared for their sacraments of initiation, with initiation being a key word. This is just the beginning of their faith journey, and with that, we planted seeds in fertile soil.
With the year-round catechumenate, we now have the luxury of bringing baptized Christians into full communion with the Catholic Church in October as well as at the Easter Vigil. If a baptized Christian begins the RCIA program in November, and the Easter Vigil is in April, they may not be ready. Rather than waiting an additional year to enter the Church, we can bring them into full communion with the Church in October.
Parishioners become more engaged because we conduct more of the Rites at the Sunday Masses, such as the Rites of Welcoming and Acceptance. Rather than once a year, we now conduct these Rites three to four times a year. Since the year-round program allows us to engage more participants, we must obtain more sponsors from the parishioner base. This approach offers more opportunities for parishioner engagement all throughout the RCIA process.
The advantages far outweigh the one major disadvantage of needing more people to run the program. If the Holy Spirit wants this to work, it will work! Seek and you will find the volunteers. Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance, and it will be granted. Allow new inquirers to knock on the door at any time, and you will reap many blessings for your parish.
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, April 2019.