My last article concerning the use of online resources (Much ado about doing the RCIA online) elicited some interesting comments. As I considered some replies to these comments, I found myself writing enough for another full article.
The heart of my previous article was to emphasize the importance of face-to-face interaction that our catechumens and candidates have with us and with the rest of the community. That the Christian experience is a lived experience, not an academic exercise. Gratefully it seemed everyone agreed with that premise, in theory. But as always, the devil is in the details, and there are those people and situations where this kind of catechesis in a fixed group setting can be difficult, as noted in the comments.
What is “ideal” in a parish RCIA process?
First let us recognize that not every situation is “ideal.” As some of you commented, the use of online resources can be very helpful when dealing with those “non-ideal” situations. I completely agree. For certain individuals in certain situations, online resources can serve as a valuable supplement to face-to-face catechesis.
The key, however, is remembering that these are only supplements.
They can serve as good conversation starters or for addressing specific questions, but should always be followed up with a discussion with a catechist or sponsor. What we want to avoid is what I have seen with some initiation processes where these online resources become a defacto “curriculum.”
Remember, initiation ministry is not an academic process, but a conversion process. We shouldn’t be creating church scholars; we should be creating disciples for Christ. Our processes should not revolve around our catechetical sessions. Rather, our catechetical sessions should be only supporting player in a larger apprenticeship process.
Providing remote catechesis in the RCIA
Another reader commented that they used online resources as a supplement for those who cannot attend their regular catechetical sessions, instead having them use these resources and then meeting with them occasionally to discuss things face to face. To those catechists I say bravo! While it may not be the ideal way to deliver catechesis, it is a way to keep them in the parish and in the process.
We as initiation ministers need to be flexible in both how we deliver the process and how we serve those seeking to be part of the church. And how we accomplish this should be a big part of the discussion during the precatechumenate process.
I too have had a number of individuals whose work or school schedules prevented them from attending our regular catechetical sessions. Like this reader, I or one of our team would meet occasionally with these individuals (every other week or once a month) to review the progress of their journey and to review the key teachings found in the recent Sunday readings.
It was also a time to address specific questions they may have with regard to the Catholic faith. So while online resources can be helpful in these circumstances, they should always be followed up with some one-on-one time or smaller group discussion separate from regular catechetical sessions, preferably with the sponsor as part of this small group.
Supporting catechumens with unusual circumstances
This same reader ended their comment with a lament, wishing there was a “better solution” for these people. In truth, this sounds like a pretty good solution to me. In fact, I applaud this catechist and their pastor for finding ways to work with those who have unusual circumstances. I have talked with far too many catechists over the years, especially back in the early years of my ministry when those who were not able to attend our catechetical sessions were not allowed into the process, with the only alternative being to find another parish who’s sessions were more accommodating.
And to justify this attitude we would hide behind the excuse that if they really wanted to become Catholic, they would make the time. When confronted with situations like this, however, I am always reminded of the Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:1-7). What a blessing it is to seek a way to work with this one lost sheep! This is a parable all of us working in Initiation Ministry need to be thinking about when working with those who might have unusual circumstances.
What is required for a parish RCIA process?
And that leads me to perhaps the most important part of this discussion: Nowhere in the RCIA does it talk about attending catechetical sessions as being a requirement to be received into the church. The period of the catechumenate is meant as a time for those initial signs of conversion (the qualification for the Rite of Acceptance/Rite of Welcoming) to develop and blossom. It is a chance for the catechumen or candidate to become a true disciple of Christ.
It is an apprenticeship in the life of the Church, lived out in the life of the parish. Having regular catechetical sessions is only one tool in a vast toolbox for our work in creating disciples for Christ. Like so many other tools in that catechetical toolbox, we need to make sure we’re using the right tools for the right reasons, and we should never rely too much on any single tool least we forget our overall mission, leading our seekers to Christ.
4 thoughts on “Is your RCIA open all year-round? Being flexible and going after that lost sheep”
I agree with you about RCIA being more than just coming to classes. We are faced in our parish this year with many young people working and having a difficult time coming to classes.
What on line resources would you recommened for people who can not make class every week?
Thank you for you do for our RCIA .
I just want to tell you how much I appreciate all you are doing. I have now been retired for 23 years and miss being involved in this ministry. I had been in RCIA ministry since the very beginning with Jim Dunning and Christiane. I wish I could still be involved but energy does not permit. I have helped with some one on one tho. Blessings and thanks for all you do. You help fill the hole when NA Forum had to close down.
Thank you for your ideas. We too have issues with some people not being able to attend RCIA sessions and church events, but we have really tried to make the RCIA sessions engaging, informative and worth the time of everyone involved. What we have found is that people will rearrange schedules to come to sessions they find worth while! We do also use online, video, and individual conference time when needed. But, these resources are also available to anyone that attends. We feel the face to face and community meetings are vital for growth in the family aspect. It is amazing how many questions can be answered over a 20 minute meeting a restaurant while enjoying a soda!
Thank you all! Your posts, articles and webinars are awesome!
In our small cluster RCIA, we usually have only one Inquirer at a time. This year we have a woman with a handicapped child who cannot be left with babysitters. So we invited her to bring the child to our RCIA Sessions. Sometimes she even has to bring her other children too. We have a play area and it has worked out wonderfully! The children are a blessing!