Is your parish creating new Catholics?
Maybe it’s time to rethink RCIA.
When Rocio showed up at our parish, she knew nothing about the Catholic Church. All she knew was that her life was filled with darkness and she hungered for something more. It was January, and our Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) sessions had begun months before. So our catechetical team asked Rocio to come to Mass each Sunday and hang out with the community. We hoped this would keep her interested until she could join the next RCIA in the fall and we could teach her about becoming a Catholic.
Rocio came to Mass every Sunday and sat with several people we had asked to keep her company. After Mass they would go out for coffee and answer her questions, basic things such as, “Why do you put your hand in that water?” or “Where do you find all those readings in the Mass?” They introduced Rocio to their friends and other parishioners. Some of them invited her to their homes for dinner. Others told her about their Bible study group and made plans to bring her when she was available.
Some young adults close to Rocio’s age discovered they shared a love for cooking, and Rocio became a regular at their monthly cuisine nights. Rocio saw a bulletin announcement about the rosary and asked her new Catholic friends about it. They connected her with the parish rosary group and accompanied her to one of their gatherings. The group heard Rocio was coming and gave her a rosary of her own. They were so patient with her that day, teaching her how to pray this devotion they loved as she imitated their gestures and prayerful demeanor. When they saw her at Mass, they would always stop to chat with her.
That summer the parish was going to Tijuana for an annual service trip at an orphanage. Rocio’s new parish friends convinced her to go with them. She fell in love with the kids there, and her previous shyness gave way to an exuberant personality.
Meanwhile my RCIA team had been meeting every Wednesday night with that year’s catechumens, candidates, and their sponsors. We had our lessons neatly scheduled and our Powerpoints all planned. By the time Easter came we had covered all our topics, but our biggest challenge every year was keeping the newly initiated involved in the parish. No matter how much we encouraged them to be part of the community after Easter, they still lamented that they “couldn’t be part of RCIA anymore” or disappeared from the parish altogether.