Thursday, March 3, 2016

Back Home: The RCIA's Implementation

Thursday greetings from the snowy Midwest.

What a week it has been. I was at the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress with another 40,000 Catholics (youth and adults) from last Wednesday through Sunday evening, then spent a few days relaxing in the California desert.

I must say that I was heartened and disappointed at the same time in my discussions with RCIA ministers. I gave two presentations: "The RCIA: Who Really Belongs" and "The Catechumenate as the Inspiration for All Catechesis: Why and How." Both presentations seemed to be well received. Several people, either on site, or in email conversations since the Congress, have reached out.

Here are a few samples:

"Thank you for your presentation "RCIA:  Who Really Belongs" at the Los Angeles Religious Ed Congress last weekend.  I want to thank you for your sensitivity to Christians from other traditions who seek reception into full communion with the Catholic Church.
I am one of those other Christians.  I was received and confirmed in the Catholic Church during the Easter vigil in 2013, yet the process of entering the Catholic Church was difficult for me and led to some wounds that are still painful.  Your talk provided a step in my healing process, as it affirmed that the subtle condescension toward Protestant Christianity that I encountered from many RCIA instructors and other Catholics who were sincerely trying to help me on my journey, is not the way things are supposed to be.  It is hard for me to express how much this affirmation means to me.

Thank you for affirming the respect for other Christian traditions that is built into the RCIA rite, though not always expressed in practice."

"Your books and workshops have been an inspiration to both me and my predecessor as we've worked for a number of years to re-form our entire Adult Faith Formation process... turning it from a "traditional" yearly academic exercise to a year-round welcoming journey that considers each individual's needs."

These are truly heartwarming comments for me. The first is certainly eye-opening, pointing to the fact that at least in one RCIA parish process, someone who was already baptized was treated without the dignity that baptism affords.

And the second example really does my heart good, as those of you who are regular readers of this blog know.

What was disappointing? The fact that there are still so many people doing a course in Catholic dogmas and precepts and calling it the RCIA. I try to be as gently challenging as I can. Many complain that they would like to move the process into a direction that is much more holistic, embracing the apprenticeship model. But many of these ministers say that it is their pastors that are telling them to "teach, teach, teach."

All in all, I was so glad to be able to be with those who are earnestly trying to figure all of this catechumenate "stuff" out. 

The image I use for the implementation of the catechumenate in the United States and Canada is this:

"When I was in the first grade, Sister James Cecilia gave us each a styrofoam cup, a bag of soil and one bean seed. She instructed us to plant the seed, water it every day, and check it every day. I remember dutifully watering the seed in the little cup. I will never forget my glee one morning as I went to water the seed before going to school. There was a tiny green shoot that had just broken the surface of the soil. That is the metaphor I use for the current implementation of the RCIA; we have just about broken the soil. Lots more watering (and fertilizing!) needs to happen."

Glad to be back home.

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.

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