Whenever we lead an RCIA institute, we tend to ask how many of the teams present are using a year-round process for the catechumenate in their parishes. Typically, about a fourth to a third of the hands go up. That seems like an awfully low percentage to me.
Now in all the time I’ve been working in RCIA ministry, I’ve never met anyone who thought a nine-month program was a good idea. Nine or ten months are all they can handle. Almost everyone would, they tell me, do a year-round process if.
Fill in the blank.
Usually, the “blank” is more team members. “If we had more team members, we could do year-round.”
So how many team members does it take to do a year-round RCIA process?
It takes the same as with a nine-month process.
How can that possibly be the case? Well, granted, the more team members you have, the easier any length of process would be. However, I believe that whatever amount of person-power and effort you are expending in a school-year model can be converted to a year-round RCIA process. It may still be difficult, but it won’t be any more difficult than what you are currently doing.
First, let’s be clear what we mean by “team members.” If you flip open your copy of the RCIA to paragraph 9, you will find a listing of all the “ministries and offices” required for an effective catechumenate process. The primary, most essential team member is listed first:
[T]he initiation of adults is the responsibility of all the baptized. Therefore the community must always be fully prepared in the pursuit of its apostolic vocation to give help to those who are searching for Christ.
The ideal vs. reality
Now, I can almost hear the moans and groans. You’re probably thinking there is no way your parish is going to live up that vision. They can barely say the word “catechumen.” It would take years to catechize them and motivate them to take their role seriously.
I can sympathize. I’ve been in parishes where I’ve thought the same thing. But if you look at paragraph 9 again, you’ll see there is no escape clause. It doesn’t say the faithful will be the primary minister once they are ready. It says they have that role as soon as they are baptized. In fact, if our parishes are not filled with faithful Catholics who are living out their vocation, what exactly are we initiating the catechumens into? I wonder if we are misreading the paragraph and thinking the faithful must be ideal Catholics or at least better than average Catholics before we hold them accountable for their primary role in the RCIA.
So, in either a nine-month program or a year-round RCIA process, you are always going to have the baptized faithful. And they are already meeting year-round, even if your program is only nine-months long. Even if you are short on other team members, you have your primary team in place and already functioning, year-round, with no extra effort on your part.
What’s worked for you?
In future posts, we’ll look at other ways you can capitalize on the efforts of your current team so you can move to a year-round process. In the meantime, let’s hear from some of you who have already made a commitment to year-round. How long have you been doing it? How did you get started? What bumps did you encounter? What success stories can you share?
See also these related articles:
- Expanding yourself for a continuous RCIA process
- Year-round RCIA on campus
- 100 ways to involve parishioners in the RCIA
- Is this the year to go year-round?
- 15 ways to catechize this summer
9 thoughts on “The team you need for a year-round RCIA”
Nick, I would agree that it isn’t more work, just different. It took me one 9-month academic year to decide to go year round. All I needed was that one person who came in January asking about becoming Catholic. I had to tell them that they needed to wait until August when I would be starting the ‘program’ again. I never heard from that person again and decided that was the last time I would get in the way of the Holy Spirit.
It was a hybrid for a year, but by my 3rd year in the parish we did have a year round RCIA with people to take care of precatechumenate, with people recruiting and training sponsors, and with a core of 4-5 catechists for the catechumenate.
Was it perfect? No. But each year we evaluated the process and worked on ways to improve it. People just need to have the courage to jump in!
Great insight Doug. I think your last sentence says it all. We just need to gather up our courage and take a leap of faith. Thanks for the comment.
Thank you Nick
Your “the ideal vs. reality” is, unfortunately, right on.
Our parish has enjoyed an RCIA team of one for many years.
This past season was my first go as ministry coordinator.
On Saturday I attended a RENEW RCIA WORKSHOP our diocese headquarters where I learned three things.
build a team, follow the norms, keep in touch.
TEAM RCIA on line was spoken of many times.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts Bill. Keep up all the great work you are doing. The church needs folks like you!
Since 2015 we have been developing a year round Catechumenate. We have monthly inquiry sessions sharing a Scripture reading and our lives. Those who attend are encouraged to participate in the Sunday liturgy and to be ready to share where they saw God acting in their life at the next session. We also give them a booklet of prayers and ask them to spend at least 5 mins a day in prayer with God. We also go over the way to participate in the Mass as well.
We begin to gather in weekly sessions once we have a group of 5 or more persons. This happens at least twice a year as our Pastor insists that we include Adults needing Sacraments in the process. We do have some differences in how actual catechumens are included in the process which is unique to them. We have about 8 regular team members and involve the parish as sponsors on the journey and at Sunday Liturgy. We have lots to work out but have been pleased with the effect on the Parish and the Catechumens and Candidates. We evaluate after each Group and use your materials for training 2 -3 times a year.
Great article Nick. Thanks for your insights. Since you asked, hopefully I can add to the conversation. We’ve been doing a year-round catechumenate for about 15 years, but it’s important to point out that this didn’t happen overnight, nor was it without some challenges along the way. It was a process… an evolution over time that continues to this day. So here were some of the steps we took along the way:
1) Recognize the need for change. The first step toward our year-round process began with team formation. TeamRCIA is an invaluable resource in that regard.
2) Throw out your syllabus. Many RCIA teams and leaders have lovingly crafted a “course of study” that they feel every good Catholic should know… and crafted it so that all the “important” topics can be covered over the course of 8 or 9 months. Just toss it out. Formation is a continual process even after they receive their Sacraments. You’re planting seeds, not growing trees.
3) Let the Lectionary be your guide. A year with the Sunday readings takes us through all the important teachings of the Church. Not only does it teach them what they need, but it gives them something familiar when they hear those readings again at Mass (which they should be attending every Sunday
4) Stop treating them as a group on a singular journey, but as individuals on a personal journey. A “one size fits all” approach to the RCIA and adult formation does not work because they’re not all at the same level. Some will get shortchanged while others are being overcharged. How long they spend with the process will depend on their individual needs (not the syllabus), which should be assessed with periodic “discernment interviews” between a team leader, the catechumen (or candidate) and their sponsor.
5) Be flexible. Aim for the ideal, but remember that not every “ideal” approach will work, or may not work right away. Especially with running your process through the Summer season. While we’re called to be active members of the community all year long, many parishes (especially those with schools) tend to go into shut-down mode during the Summer. Nothing says that your Summer program needs to be business as usual. The only criteria is that you need to provide opportunities for inquirers and catechumens to be welcomed and actively engaged. We’ve done this with a series of field trips and with summer long video series. See what works best for your community.
6) Engage in social outreach. Find opportunities within your parish where catechumens can engage in the social mission of the Church. Get them out outside of the meeting room and the church building and give them a chance to “get their hands dirty” in service of the Lord.
7) Continually review, evaluate, and evolve your process. At least once a year we review what worked, what didn’t, and what should be the next steps as we continue to get to that “ideal” as established by the RCIA.
I have a lot of stories on each of these points, but these are the things that have helped us to develop our year-round process… a process that continues to evolve as we reach for that ideal.
I am with John, throw out the syllabus, sort of. We went year round 3 years ago and our program exploded. We try to hold to hosting two Inquiry times but often folks just appear so we work with them as they Spirit sends them. We have probably welcomed well over 30 new Catholics and see them at church regularly. We take them where they are and our team firmly believes our job is to plant the seeds of faith and “light the fire” of God’s love. Upfront we tell them they will not learn everything there is to know about Catholicism but we will do our best to answer their questions while giving them “the basics”. We use the lectionary but sometimes veer off course as the Spirit prompts. Some have asked why they have to “wait so long” and when we tell them that they are really just getting the tip of the iceberg with the few months we have them, they quiet down pretty quickly. We also make the schedule work for those who cannot attend Monday evenings due to work or family concerns. One team member offers sessions on Wednesday evening and Friday morning at our other campus (we are a blended parish) which has been well received. We work with them online using FORMED or other resources so they see that their faith journey is what matters most and not the almighty schedule.. Welcome and flexibility are paramount to how we operate.
Not a sermon, just some thoughts.
I am a Team Member with our leader being Bob Sutliff and he and John have hit the nail on the head. From my point of view we have had great success in accomidating
our people as Bob said. The year round process works so well with us doing our best to Plant the seeds of faith and light the fire of Gods precious love and watch the process work and grow within each person. I am such an advocate of the year round process that I can think of no better way to work the program. The Spirit definitely moves among us all.
We have been year round for over 20 years now.
Ever since our team members attended The “Beginnings and Beyond” Conferences, it became a no brainer.
In talking to other parishes who do not have an all volunteer team, but are directed by a paid staff member, those seem to be the one’s who are stuck in the “Academic Year” process.
This seems to be because of a DRE mentality.
I think the first step in moving towards year round, is having an all volunteer team..