Antonia is the catechumenate coordinator in her parish. She recently went to a diocesan workshop that encouraged parishes to accompany seekers all year long — not just October to April. She got very excited about implementing some of what she learned. But the pastor likes the current school model and refuses to change.
Theo had a similar experience after he read a book that described how to get parishioners to accompany the seekers. But in his parish, the head of the RCIA team didn’t think any of the ideas Theo was excited about would work.
Candice took on an online course on moving the parish to a year-round accompaniment process. She’s wondering what to do now since the deacon in charge of the RCIA in her parish thinks a year-round process would be too much work.
Do any of these stories sound like your story? Sometimes we can feel stymied when we want to change systems for the better and the systems refuse to change.
It helps to pray about discouraging situations. And it helps to remember that, in initiation ministry, the number-one thing God is always asking us to do is to accompany. Seekers mostly need someone to walk alongside them on the journey of faith. Instead of trying to change your pastor or your deacon or the head of your team, find ways to walk with one or two seekers.
Here are some ideas to try when you’re feeling discouraged about changing the system:
Accompany seekers who aren’t in the RCIA
Most people who need to hear the good news are not in your catechumenate process and maybe aren’t even coming to your parish. How can you accompany them?
- Be alert to situations outside the parish when you can offer to pray for or with someone
- Engage in conversations with newcomers at Sunday Mass. Almost every Sunday, there is someone there for the first time
- Engage in conversations with non-Catholic spouses of parishioners
- Invite people from outside the parish to come to Mass with you
Accompany new seekers in your parish catechumenate
- Take a seeker out for coffee to get to know them better
- Offer to sit with a seeker at Mass on Sunday
- Invite a seeker to your home for dinner
- Invite a seeker to join you and your family at a parish event
- Introduce a seeker to the head of the parish council
- Introduce a seeker to your parish music director
- Introduce a seeker to the parish catechetical director
- Introduce a seeker to someone who went through the catechumenate process recently
- If a seeker is named after a saint, ask if they know anything about that saint; or explain who the saint is that you are named after
- Explain to a seeker or two who or what your church is named after
Accompany seekers who’ve been around a while
- Invite a seeker who has been in the process a while for coffee to talk about how the journey is going
- Suggest a book or movie the seeker might like. Not necessarily something spiritual but definitely something meaningful
- Introduce a seeker to one or two parish ministries they might like
- Suggest a prayer resource that you use and that the seeker might like
Get parishioners to accompany
- Include a short blurb in the bulletin or on the parish website inviting parishioners to the next celebration of an RCIA ritual at Mass
- Write a short article on the parish website that explains the ritual and the parishioners’ role in it
- Create prayer cards with the names and photos of each seeker and hand them out to parishioners; include a prayer for seekers on the back of the card
- Ask whoever writes the intercessions for Sunday Mass to regularly include a prayer for the seekers
- Ask for time on the parish council agenda to talk about catechumenate ministry and the parish’s role in initiating seekers
- Ask for time on the adult faith formation committee agenda to talk about catechumenate ministry and the parish’s role in initiating seekers
- Ask for time on the youth ministry committee agenda to talk about catechumenate ministry and the parish’s role in initiating seekers
- Ask for time on the liturgy committee agenda to talk about catechumenate ministry and the parish’s role in initiating seekers
- Invite parishioners to become sponsors; even if they say no, encourage them to meet and pray for a specific seeker
- Ask the parish rosary group (or other prayer group) to pray for a seeker or two; let the seekers know they are being prayed for
- If your seeker is a parent, arrange for a parishioner to babysit so the seeker can have a date night with their significant other
- Ask a communion-to-the-homebound minister to invite the seeker along next time
- Ask someone who goes to weekday Mass in invite a seeker along next time
- Ask someone who regularly lights votive candles to explain what it means to her to the seeker
- Ask a parishioner to invite a seeker over for dinner
- Set up a Zoom chat with two or three seekers and a few parishioners to discuss the Sunday readings
Accompany seekers in the domestic church
- Provide seekers with prayer resources for their households
- Encourage seekers to pray every day
- Teach seekers how to bless. They can bless meals, significant purchases (e.g. car, house), household members in transition (e.g. new job, engagement, travel), children, grandparents, and special events (e.g. birthdays, anniversaries)
- Teach seekers how to create a prayer corner
- Be sure each seeker has a personal Bible, and teach them how to use it
Help the RCIA team accompany seekers
- Ask for time for the team to read and discuss some sections of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Be sure to invite the pastor
- Ask someone in the diocese to provide some formation for your team
- Start a book club with interested team members and other parishioners
- Ask team members if they would like to receive the TeamRCIA newsletter
- Invite team members to watch some free videos on the TeamRCIA YouTube page
- Invite team members to the free online trainings from TeamRCIA (usually held monthly)
Accompany the newly initiated
- Continue to do all of the things you have been doing with the seekers. If your parish is currently doing a school-year program, it is likely the newly initiated have not yet grown strong in their faith. Continue to connect with them and walk with them to deepen their conversion.
Use your imagination
Once you get started, you’ll begin to think up even more ways to accompany seekers on their journey of faith. For all the activities I’ve listed here, you don’t need to change your current system. You don’t need to convince the pastor or the deacon or the coordinator to do anything differently. Just listen to the Holy Spirit, and reach out to one or two seekers in ways that are comfortable for you and that provide real support for those who wish to find and follow Christ.
What does accompaniment look like in your parish? What strategies have engaged seekers in your community? Share your thoughts in the comments below.