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Selling or Fishing? The Importance of Assessment in RCIA
In 2004, I resigned from being a Pentecostal pastor to enter the Catholic Church, and therefore needed to find new employment. The only job I could find was selling cars. Going from pastor to car salesman was an extreme culture shock. In training for my new job, one principle loomed large over all others: no matter what happens, do not let the customer leave without making a purchase. If a customer responded to my sales pitch with “I’m just looking today” or “I need to talk to my wife,” I had a litany of responses close at hand. If a customer was balking at the negotiating table, I was to turn the deal over to a designated “closer,” who was a master at keeping people in their seat. The mission was to make whatever concession necessary to get the customer to say “yes” and close the deal. As I have witnessed the implementation of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) in parishes throughout the country, I have seen many RCIA directors who operate like they are selling cars, willing to make any concession as long as the “customer” says “yes.” They seem to operate by the principle that they must never let a participant leave RCIA, no matter what Church teaching they refuse to accept. If participants are cohabitating or unrepentant about sexual transgressions or if they reject important doctrinal teachings, many RCIA directors might say, “No problem.” You support same sex marriage? No problem. You don’t like confession? No problem. I once received a call from a priest, begging for help, because the RCIA director in his parish told him, “We mostly focus on building relationships in RCIA, and we cover the Creed and the moral life in one session.” The Catholic Church does not recommend that we model RCIA on selling cars, but on catching fish.