One Stop RCIA

4th Century Baptismal Font, courtesy of Vangelis Valtos

4th Century Baptismal Font, courtesy of Vangelis Valtos

Over the two years (yes, two years!) I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve written a number of posts on the RCIA. I still think this is one of the processes in the Church that is barely understood in many, many parishes. ACM resources are fantastic in emphasising that RCIA is not just a doctrinal process, but also a liturgical and pastoral one. I think they are the best resources we have to help priests and catechists create a life-transforming RCIA process in the parish. However, you need a huge amount of patience and dedication to read and understand the principles and methodology behind them, and I think you need more than this, too: great RCIA leaders will have a round-the-clock passion for helping souls convert to Christ.

In the three and a half years I worked in the parish coordinating RCIA, I was blessed with the opportunity and support to get to grips with a true vision for RCIA. We already had an excellent doctrinal process. But our vision was to create a process that had liturgical gateways marking stages of conversion; that had pastoral flexibility in allowing people the time they needed in each phase; that had a large team of committed sponsors dedicated to help the conversion process.

Here, I have pulled together in one post all the posts on RCIA I wrote over that time. They may be helpful either practically, for those trying to implement a true vision of RCIA in their parish, or theoretically, to help you grasp the vision.

A couple of disclaimers: Firstly, not all the posts are systematic; some are reflections which may not be exhaustive, but hopefully give some ideas. Secondly, they are not chronological. Sometimes I have written about the period of enquiry with one particular group of people, but what I have written for a later period (e.g. the Rite of Election) is with another group. Probably about five different groups of people passed through this process (which shows you need different starting points through the year).

What I hope you get from these few posts is that RCIA is messy! We can make very nice, neat structures (and it’s important what we do is ordered towards an end and is systematic) but at the end of the day, people are messy and RCIA needs to be flexible. Isn’t that what Pope Francis said recently?! “Make a mess!”

  1. An overview of the structure of RCIA
  2. Top Ten RCIA Traps!
  3. From the very first moment: Meeting the enquirer the first time they make contact
  4. Enquiry sessions – a year-round period of evangelisation
  5. Proclaiming the Kerygma
  6. Motives for Conversion
  7. The pastoral role of the Sponsor 
  8. Starting out…
  9. Liturgical Steps and Discernment Interviews: Rite of Acceptance
  10. Slow Evangelisation…
  11. Catechesis of the Catechumenate
  12. Telling the whole Story
  13. Catechumenate and Natural Family Planning
  14. Life in Christ: One and Two
  15. Contraception, Cohabitation, and the Catechumenate
  16. The Challenge of Conversion
  17. The Rite of Election: “I have chosen you”
  18. Period of Purification and Enlightenment: Preparing Candidates
  19. Preparing Adults for Confession
  20. The Triduum
  21. Period of Mystagogia
  22. Easter Catechesis

About transformedinchrist

I live in Southsea and work for the Diocese of Portsmouth. My first love is for catechesis and evangelisation: until January 2013, I worked for a busy, thriving parish in south London coordinating the catechesis - sacramental programmes and adult formation. In November 2013, I completed my MA in catechetics at Maryvale Institute, Birmingham. View all posts by transformedinchrist

6 responses to “One Stop RCIA

  • William

    Thanks for pulling these all together!

  • Paul Rodden

    Thanks for this distillation. Much appreciated.
    You say, ‘RCIA leaders will have a round-the-clock passion for helping souls convert to Christ’, but for us self-taught catechists, that’s about all we have. 🙂

    Your ‘tripartite’ model of RCIA – doctrine-liturgy-pastoral – is especially useful, as it helps me situate/contextualise some of my comments in a couple of recent articles here: a concern with the wider pastoral context of catechesis.

    Got another book recommendation, if you haven’t read it already. Easy to get for Kindle, v. hard, in print. Jean Daujat, The Faith Applied, Scepter, 2010. (Original publication 1958).

    ‘To teach Christians what a Christian’s life means is the object of this book. …The fact is that theology is both doctrinal and practical, and we cannot separate the two aspects. Christ is at once Truth and Life, and we cannot separate our knowledge of him from our life in him.’ (From the first chapter).

    It then proceeds to outline how this fully integrated Catholic life works itself out, thereby providing a summary of what this life looks like too, and therefore a focus, or concrete, catechumen-centred objective, for catechesis beyond being a good-in-itself.
    It’s another one of those underline/asterisk on every page gems, in my opinion.

  • Mike Carroll

    I do hope some more of the Youth 2000 generation (which I include myself from the early days), who are more on fire than some of the previous generations, get involved in running RCIA in the future. Generally RCIA has a bad reputation. This is because RCIA has historically been led by liberals who do not fully believe in church teaching, but want the kudos of running the course.

    There are some good catechists coming out of the Maryvale Institute which is now widely recognised as the only authentically Catholic place of education in the UK (the equivalent of Steubenville University in the US).

    I personally had a good experience of RCIA as I was taught by a highly orthodox Roman Catholic priest who didn’t hold back from the ‘difficult bits’ and thankfully knew his stuff.

    The only problem I do have with RCIA is that we have a log jam of people who know more about the faith (and believe it more) than those on the inside of the church, but who are kept hanging on for 18 months (or even two years with often unnecessary pre-courses which enquirers, in my experience, are harangued on to rather than it being voluntary – yes, this does happen).

    It’s not the people coming in that are causing the problems, it’s the people on the inside of the church, often referred to as the Spirit of Vatican II generation, that really need the RCIA course. Hence the need for the authentic version of the New Evangelisation.

    I think that if the new generation understand the problems of the past and start to deal with them then things should start looking up in the future.

    • transformedinchrist

      Hi Mike, thanks for your comment.

      I would agree with you completely about the types of catechists who are needed for RCIA: inspiring disciples of Christ who are living the faith out every day.

      Re the ‘log jam’ you describe: in my experience, by far the greater problem is the lack of time spent in RCIA. Often RCIA is a question of ‘completing sessions’ rather than undergoing a process of conversion (which takes time, intense prayer, pastoral support). This means that often people are received into the Church who have undergone, perhaps, a half-conversion.

      At the same time I agree that those who have a clear conversion to Christ already should not go through ‘evangelisation sessions’. This needs to be discerned in an in-depth conversation with a priest (materials and suggestions for such interviews are provided by ACM).

      I agree, too, that often those who go through RCIA are more deeply converted than average parishioners. But that simply says that the catechetical-spiritual life of the parish needs to be intensified – rather than the RCIA being watered-down.

      Thanks for your comment!

      • Paul Rodden

        I agree with both of you!

        But firstly, isn’t Mike saying something slightly different about the ‘log-jam’?

        To me, Mike isn’t talking about those only more converted than those in the pews or even the dissenting (‘liberal’) catechists, but the level of understanding of doctrine, morals, and discipleship of some of those those going through RCIA: ‘people who know more about the faith (and believe it more) than those on the inside of the church’, as he puts it.

        At the same time, I agree completely with your comments, if he was talking about those who were only converted, but ignorant. But then I don’t think he was suggesting watering it down, just possibly shortening it (not just avoiding the ‘evangelisation sessions’), wasn’t he?

        Maybe our problem is trying to put people at different stages of discipleship through the same RCIA, Confirmation ‘cookie-cutters’? It’s easier for a catechist to have a boilerplate, ‘one-size-fits-all’ course, but is that how we should work?

        As catechists, should we be capable of being ‘all things to all men’, on this front, and so able to adapt to them? (Thinking of the recent conversions of two high-profile Evangelicals, Jason Stellman (the prosecuting judge against the theologian, Peter Leithart) and Christian Smith (who coined the term, ‘Moralistic Therapeutic Deism’), who still both went through RCIA, but at their own level, as I understand it.)

        For example, I wouldn’t expect the person who’s already in a growing and ongoing relationship with Christ and the teachings of his Church (the person I think Mike is describing), to see any teaching as ‘completing sessions’ anyway, would they? My concern would be boredom: the catechumen having to go over what they already know for 30 weeks, or how ever many sessions it’s tabled for, and designed for neophytes.

        Secondly, I think Mike’s point in his penultimate paragraph is the most crucial. We tend to ignore the dire crisis in the pews – what he calls, ‘the Spirit of Vatican II generation’ (BTW SoV2 is the Catholic version of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism!).

        I think until they are evangelised and catechised, the post-RCIA/Confirmation/FHC catechetical entropy which results from a ‘dead’ congregation will continue. It sucks. Literally.
        As you say, H, ‘…the catechetical-spiritual life of the parish needs to be intensified’. Absolutely. But how?

        In other words, how can we get those who think all they have to do to ‘fulfil their duty’ is to get their Mass Book stamped every week, like a UB40, so, ‘when St Peter checks it, he’ll let me in’?

        In my experience, the only people who attend catechetical events in our parish are the already converted to some degree or another, and not those the ‘New Evangelisation’ wants to address: the stamp-collectors who still put two shiilings in the collection because their parents did…

        Your ideas, thoughts, insights, would be greatly received!

  • Paul Rodden

    As to ‘Messing things up, here’s a piece by Marcellino D’Ambrosio:
    Pope Francis (and Jesus) Wants us to “Shake things up!”

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