I just got back from Orlando where I was attending the Emerging Models of Pastoral Leadership conference. I was hoping to learn some things about how the catechumenate is handled in clustered parishes, but, regrettably, there wasn’t much discussion about that. Many years ago, I worked in the very rural diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota. (There was a priest from New Ulm at the conference. We were talking together for about five minutes before we recognized each other. I guess we’re both a little older and grayer!)
At that time, the diocese had several clustered parishes but not too many that were really doing the catechumenate. Most had something they called “RCIA,” but only a few were really implementing the full process. And those tended to be the larger, non-clustered parishes.
At that time, these were some of the challenges I thought the clusters would have to deal with once they moved closer to full implementation:
- What do you do when you have no catechumens—sometimes for years? How to do keep a team together, or pull one together, when an inquirer shows up?
- If you have two or three catechumens, spread out over two or three parishes in the cluster, how do you manage the catechetical sessions? Separate sessions in each parish? Rotate sessions among the parishes? Stick with just one parish? And in each of these examples, how do you make it clear to the community that they are the primary catechist?
- Celebrating initiation itself is actually not much of a problem. If there is a single priest for two or three parishes, he can only celebrate the Easter Vigil in one of them, so the catechumens from all the parishes in the cluster will be baptized in whatever parish the Vigil is in. But what about the rest of the rites? Would the Rite of Acceptance and the Scrutinies be celebrated in a single parish or in the home parishes of the catechumens?
Click on the comments link to share your own questions or your experiences. I have another thought to share in the comments as well.
2 thoughts on “RCIA in clustered parishes”
We didn’t have a lot of catechumens in the diocese when I was there, but we did have a lot of snow. The weather alone would make it difficult to try to combine the catechetical process for catechumens from different parishes. If I were in charge of the RCIA in a rural parish with few catechumens, I think I’d try to get creative with the catechesis. Nothing in the RCIA says catechumens have to come to weekly classes. It says they have to have a beginner’s level understanding of word, worship, community, and service (para. 75). Rural parishes tend to be pretty good at all those things. Maybe I’d deputize the whole parish (which might be under 100 people) to be the “team” and tell them it is their job to be sure the catechumen learned those four elements well enough to be Catholic. And then maybe we could gather monthly or seasonally with the catechumens from other parishes for more formal day-long sessions of mystagogical catechesis. Another thing we didn’t have back then was Internet access. Today, rural parishes could use technology to combine resources.
got your comment on my long ago post – rarely have time to check comments. You’re right bout Easter Vigil, and I, as a Catholic, consider them one and the same – that is Easter. But the pope did do it on Easter Sunday, I think, not during the vigil, so that may have been a wee bit of a political statement on his part. thanks for the catch.