Ways to Improve the RCIA Program

Dear Mark,

Christ is risen!

I have sometimes disagreed with you in the past but I must say you are 100% bang on with your observations on the RCIA in the Catholic Exchange. I completely agree with your four points and would go even further than you on two of them. To wit:

The RCIA split into a two-track system could even add a third stream for people who are Catholics in name only. In the RCIA teams I have worked with we sometimes had people who had been baptized as children but they were never catechized. These were people who took their faith seriously and who reached out to learn more but they don't really fit into the RCIA model and in most places there is no other place for them to learn.

Mystagogia be much more heavily emphasized. Indeed! And isn't it actually a life-long job for all of us? We should get back to the early church's understanding of every Sunday being a new Easter.

Like you I have had a long journey in the Church and never cease to amaze at how the Holy Spirit continues to work in wondrous and mysterious ways. After completing seminary studies I discerned that the priesthood was not the path for me. As it turned out a wonderful woman, whom I met during theology studies, is now my wife and I have moved from the Latin Rite to join her in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. But I remain involved with the western diocese as a volunteer teacher in a variety of their formation programs, including training RCIA teams, for Church leaders.

Peace, and a most joyous Easter,


Dear Patrick,

Amen to all you say! Congratulations on your marriage and Happy Easter!

Mark Shea

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  • Guest

    I loved the original article, and love the comment by Patrick.  I worked in RCIA in 2 different parishes for a total of 16 years.  I found that the candidates and catechumens related to me better than to the deacons I worked with because I had been both a convert (pre-Vatican II) and a re-vert (post-Vatican II) and could "speak their language".  The deacons, cradle Catholics, could not.

    I do have a problem with your "cognizences", however.  I've been taught that "ministry" is what a priest does, while "apostolate" is what a lay person does.  ??  Also, where did you come up with "gift of mercy"?  With all the Fundamentalists and Evangelicals I talk to, they have no concept of "mercy", and I have to "catechize from scratch"!

    Finally, I do not now, and don't believe I ever will, use the word "merit".  My Protestantism is showing, but I have yet to hear an explanation that doesn't boil down to "earned".  How about a "new" word, there?

  • Guest

    I read with interest in this and other Catholic forums the excellent suggestions for improving implementation of the RCIA process in parishes. May I add a further one, which I repeat with boring regularity, if you have complaints, become involved in your parish with that process. If all you do is complain, but do nothing to assist your overworked pastoral staff and volunteers, you are part of the problem.  It is always hard to recruit and train volunteers for RE in any setting, but RCIA is the hardest minstry in which to engage committed parishioners, particularly as sponsors. As long as that remains true, we are not impementing RCIA as envisioned, and we are not evangelizing as commanded by Christ.

  • Guest

    I agree that involvement is a good thing. Many come to learn a great deal about the faith when they become sponsors and try to teach it in the RCIA program.  That is how I got involved with RCIA.

    But there are many people who have legitimate complaints and simply can not volunteer to become more involved in their parish. A young parent with several small children is an example.  Or someone who is already involved with the parish prison ministry and has a complaint about their child's Sunday Faith Formation class or a liturgical abuse. That does not invalidate the merits of the complaint. The key is to approach all these things in love — the love of Jesus Christ.

    It is difficult not to take personally the complaints about things going on witihin one's area of responsibility. But the various ministries and apostolates are not our personal reality shows (starring us, of course).  

    It is impossible to be taught something you are convinced you already know.