Our parish recently hosted a major event in collaboration with two local parishes in our area. The speaker was well-known; and as the volunteers gathered in a circle with him to pray before the event, I looked up at one point and noticed something striking: a full seventy-five percent of the volunteers standing in the circle were past RCIA participants! As the RCIA Director of this small to mid-sized parish of around six hundred families, I was thrilled. I silently added a prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord for doing great things for us, because I was certainly filled with joy! (cf. Ps 126:3). The words of Pope St. John Paul II ring true in this regard, “In both accepting and proclaiming the Gospel in the power of the Spirit the Church becomes at one and the same time an ‘evangelizing and evangelized’ community, and for this very reason, she is made the servant of all.”
Reflecting back on the journey we have traveled to reach this point, I can say with some satisfaction that we have come a long way. Admittedly, we still have far to go. Rome, as they say, was not built in a day. The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is most certainly a process for the parish, as well as for the RCIA participants.
Beginning the Process
Transitioning from a nine-month RCIA process (with a combined Breaking Open the Word/catechetical session on Sundays) to a year-round process (with extended catechesis on a weeknight, including childcare), took a lot of prayer, courage, and organization. This change has made a positive impact on our catechists, catechesis, and the parish as a whole.
Included in this adventure was a fair amount of hand-holding and accompaniment by my mentor, especially in the beginning. She should be canonized for her encouragement and patience with me! Eight years later, our team can now look back and say with enthusiasm and a fair amount of zeal that it was ALL worth it!
Once we synchronized our methodology with the rhythm of a year-round model for adults, we moved on to building the catechetical team. We then began to incrementally add the following: a hospitality team, intercessory prayer team, set up team, RCIA adapted for teens, RCIA adapted for children (Jr. High-6/7/8 combo, Children-3/4/5 combo), and RICA (for adults in Spanish). All of the above are offered on the same night at the same time in our parish in order to accommodate entire families. Along the way, I was invited by the pastor to become a staff member. Initially it was five hours per week, then it was increased to nineteen and a half hours. We even obtained…gasp…a real office! Finally, my hours were increased to a full-time, thirty-hour per week position with benefits. This is what it takes to direct a full-scale RCIA process in a parish. Our newest endeavor, due to begin this spring, is our neophyte team. These catechists will be present during the Mystagogy sessions where they will become acquainted with the neophytes. After Pentecost, this team will then accompany the new Catholics during their Neophyte Year by meeting regularly with them on a fixed schedule, taking them deeper into discipleship, and beginning to move them toward apostolic works according to the differing charisms of the individuals.