Local leaders trained in
the art of being a guide
along the journey
Wichita RCIA leadership workshop
draws 27 from Southwest Kansas
Gone are the days when becoming Catholic required a series of meetings with a priest and memorizing facts about the Catholic Church.
Through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) -- the process by which those wishing to become Catholic receive the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist – the road to Catholicism has become a “spiritual journey.”
And it’s a journey recognized and supported visibly by the community, which wasn’t always the case.
On Sept. 17-19, 27 priests, women Religious, and laypeople from the Diocese of Dodge City attended the North American Forum for the Catechumenate “Beginnings Institute” in Wichita, which was designed primarily to train parish leaders to initiate the RCIA process in their community. For some, such as Coleen Stein, the message reiterated some valuable teachings.
“One thing that they try to get across is that we don’t call RCIA a ‘program,’” explained Stein, who has been involved with RCIA for 14 years. “We call it a ‘process;’ it’s about individual journeys.”
Like any individual journey, the length of passage is not always entirely clear. RCIA leaders discern each individual, case by case; the RCIA process could take six months for one person, and three years for another.
With this in mind, Stein said that the many sessions which the “catechumen” (those seeking to become Catholic) attend while on the road to entering the Church are not classes – as if designed to teach facts and figures – but instead are called “sessions.”
“They’re part of the personal journey,” Stein said. “The catechumen will continue until they’re ready to enter fully into the Church.”
Stein added that prior to the introduction of RCIA, the process of becoming a Catholic did not require the involvement of the individual’s surrounding community.
“He or she missed out on all the community support,” she said of the earlier process. “There was no communal aspect. It was not about a journey, but more about questions and answers.”
The RCIA journey includes several stages, one of which requires that the individual stand before the parish community in church and be accepted as a “catechumen” by the entire congregation.
To further press the notion of “community,” Stein recently hosted an RCIA session in which she invited Edie Loughmiller from the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish to speak about Faith & Light, which offers prayerful and fun gatherings for developmentally disabled adults and children, as well as their friends and family.
“I want to bring people in to tell stories,” she said, “to help the catechumens to see the Christ in other people. With adult learning, what you walk away with is what you hear and see that fits into your story.”
The three-day Beginnings Institute, which was hosted by the Diocese of Wichita, was presented by North American Forum for the Catechumenate, which holds numerous institutes at dioceses across the country based on the different stages of the RCIA process. The Forum’s mission is to provide parish and diocesan leaders with a “deeper understanding of the vision of the RCIA process,” as well as the “fundamental and advanced skills to implement all aspects of the Rite.”