How do catechumens contribute to the Catholic community?

How do catechumens contribute to their local Catholic community?

I read the article on Wikipedia about the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, and it said that the RCIA program’s purpose is to give the prospective convert some background information of the church, so the convert will know what he or she is getting himself or herself into. The article detailed the exact process of the RCIA too, including the part about making the catechumens inquire about the religion and know their fellow parishioners.

I am just wondering about how the catechumens contribute to the Catholic community. Since Catholics usually just attend the Catholic church of their neighborhood or city, there may be thousands of members on a given Sunday Mass. How would they all get to know each other? Are there any special activities for the parishioners to do together? What happens if there is no one in your parish that is in the same age group? And seeing that women tend to be more religious than men, along with the fact that Catholics are normally barred from marrying non-Catholics, being Catholic may be a turn-off to prospective spouses.

So, I am wondering about how prospective Catholic converts contribute to the Catholic community.

Integrating the Catechumens into the parish life and culture can help invigorate current parishoners, and help them renew their faith.

In our parish, the RCIA asks the inquirers, Catechumens to perform volunteer hours, parish based or not. Gender and age don’t really play a role when you’re helping someone, and you can usually find someone to connect with in the process. Based upon my personal involvement with our RCIA program over the years, I have witnessed young and old, rich and poor, male and female connect with each other on a very genuine basis when they volunteer together.

As a point of clarification, Catholics are not barred from marrying Non Catholics. However, on occasion, that can be a hurdle to a successful marriage, just as it would with any other interfaith marriage.

The “contribution” of catechumens to their local Catholic community differs from parish to parish because the community aspect of each parish differs.

Parishes that are filled with mostly large, extended families (several generations of one family), sometimes feel cold to outsiders. This is because their “fellowship” doesn’t end after mass, but will continue by going to brunch or dinner at grandma’s house, etc. In those parishes, the parish is literally an extension of the family.

On the other hand, more “transient parishes” tend to have lots more fellowship programs because they understand that many parishioners do not have family attending the parish.

So in my opinion, as a cradle Catholic who has moved away from my family and attends a parish with lots of large multigenerational families and where many parishioners are all neighbors; I feel its important to have programs for parishioners who have no family at the parish. Whether social or prayer based, I think its helpful to provide a format for people who want to meet people a chance to get to know one another.

In regards to marriage, Catholics can marry non-Catholics. The confusion comes in when Catholics marry outside the Church. Catholics need a dispensation from the Catholic form of marriage to insure that the Catholic has a proper understanding of the sacrament. When a couple gets married inside the Catholic Church, they attend pre-Cana sessions which teach them about the sacrament AND gives the priest an opportunity to get to know the couple. If the priest doesn’t think they are ready, he can refuse to marry the couple. When a couple marries outside the Church (without “permission”), the priest (and the Church) typically doesn’t know the couple. And since one is Catholic, then it safe to assume that either the Catholic doesn’t understand the Catholic meaning of marriage or choose to ignore it. Either way, the Church cannot “vouch” for that marriage because it may serious lacked the religious understanding of marriage. But which dispensation, the pre-Cana takes place (at least in some form) and the priest gets to know the couple or at least is able to have discussions with the Catholic party… Enough that the priest (and hence the Church) is able to “vouch” for the marriage.

I hope my post makes sense.

May The Lord grant us peace, wisdom and understanding. Amen

That is a very good question the OP poses. I did not go through RCIA when I converted since I grew up in the episcopal church and I had been learning about Catholicism for several years and it was right after Easter so I studied one on one with the RCIA director for 6-8 weeks.
After I converted I became heavily involved.

What do you mean by “became heavily involved”?

I am not Christian, let alone Catholic. So, my experiences with Christianity are mostly based from what I read in the academic literature, books, and online material, and from discussions with Christians. I find Christianity fascinating for some reason, especially its long history and influence in society. In my experience, I’ve noticed that Protestants have Sunday school or Bible study programs, which allow fellowship and friendship. These typically occur during the middle of the week, while worship services occur on Sunday. In the above posts, I sense that Catholics are more about volunteer work and serving the community? Could it be that Protestants emphasize faith over works, while Catholics emphasize works AND faith?

It seems that, in Protestant groups, laypersons can serve the church ministries and teach. Sometimes, Protestants may “remove” the clergy altogether, which may be an expression of the priesthood of all believers. This may be different from the Catholic way of doing things, which involves a clergy.

The “service” of Catechumen far eclipses “contributions” to parish activities or tasks, although these things are important.

But the greatest contribution of Catechumen might be by giving a venue for others already fully received into the Church opportunities to receive grace.


[LIST]Family members, friends, catechists, and sometimes even complete strangers will receive grace for their acting as catechists, directly or indirectly, during the formation of catechumens.

[LIST]Members of the parish, family members, friends, catechists, priests, deacons, ministers receive graces for praying at Rite of Acceptance, Rite of Election, throughout the course of formation, at Easter Vigil or other Masses where Catechumens might enter into full communion with the Church.

[LIST]Any, directly or indirectly, evangelizing the Catechumen by formal instruction or example during their formation.[/LIST]

I’m sure there are many other opportunities presented to many other people to pray for and assist in the formation of Catechumen which God will impart special graces on for their good works.

A caveat: to be quite frank, this is one of those questions it’s better to ask your local parish about. We can speculate all we want about what types of programs parishes in general have that would be open to Catechumens, but all of that is immaterial if such programs don’t apply to you at your local level. :slight_smile:

Now, having said that, I’ll give some examples of the sorts of things folks can do at my parish that would certainly be open to Catechumens. I would also point out that such programs usually attract a core of folks who are very committed to their faith, and would be an excellent way to get to know others. Also, my parish is a Dominican parish that services local families, along with the students and staff of the University of Virginia. As such, we may have programs that have a more intellectual bent than other parishes.

  • Our Frassatti Fellowship, a young-adult ministry aimed at those aged 21 - 35.

*]On Tuesday, their book club meets.
*]Their women’s club meets on Sunday.
*]On Tuesday, they meet for Vespers and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in our chapel.
*]On the third and fourth Wednesdays of a month, they meet together at the Salvation Army Soup Kitchen.
*]On the third Thursday of a month, they meet for Theology on Tap (
*]Every fourth Thursday, they have a special 9pm Mass together.

  • Our Parish runs a consistent “Catholicism 101” series of lectures. At present, we’re viewing the “Theological Meaning of the Lord of the Rings” by Joseph Pearce. This lasts 8 weeks, and then is replaced by another theme. (They recently finished a series on Dante’s Divine Comedy.)

  • We run a monthly “date night” for couples, which consists of having food together, listening to a talk, and then discussing it. This month’s talk is entitled “Family, Become What You Are: The Evangelical Power of the Family,” and is given by Fr. Paul Scalia, a local speaker from a neighboring diocese.

  • We have somewhat regular talks given by Dominican Brothers from the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C. These are young men who are in priestly formation.

  • We recently had Dr. John Bergsma speak out our parish, which was part of a 6-hour long event that included a talk by our pastor, Mass, and having a meal together.

  • We have ministries specifically tailored for seniors and for men, and they meet together to do things like have fellowship or study the Bible.

  • Our parish’s homeschooling children recently put on an awesome production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

  • There’s consistently new events always being announced, and there’s all sorts of things to become involved in, whether it’s the Frassatti Fellowship, the various ministries, meeting for talks, meeting for dinners and dances, meeting for Scripture study, etc.

All of these things would be available to Catechumens, and the most important of all would be their participation in RCIA.

If the RCIA program is as it should be, then this is the best possible way for Catechumens to become involved in their parish. Yes, you really do learn a lot about the faith, and yes, you really do have opportunities to meet folks, to exchange numbers, and to get to know each other. You can absolutely make lifelong friendships, and establish an entire network of support, just in RCIA.

I would also add that Catholic parishes can have just as much to do (if not more) than really great Protestant churches. The idea that a large parish is impossible to get to know folks in simply is not accurate. I assure you, 3,000 families are not attending our events. As I mentioned before, there is a much smaller core of folks who are especially committed who will go out of their way to do special things together.

But while our parish is awesome, and while our parish has loads of stuff available for folks, let’s not forget that we don’t become Catholic to get to know people, but to get to know Jesus.

The Miracle of Transubstantiation is worth infinitely more than all of the fellowship opportunities of the world combined, whether religious or not.

Parishes are not country clubs, and the most important question about Catholicism is whether or not it’s true, not whether or not there’s something to do.

Fellowship with each other is important, but far more important is that we are called to communion with God.

One does not just “drop” into a Mass one Sunday and become a Member of the Catholic Church. There is much study and prayer and time that takes place leading up to the Easter Vigil.

Because, and this is my experience, catechumens bring a fresh and new Energy to the congregation. They are on “fire” with their new faith and can infect (in a good way) the cradles. I am an outgoing person and would drive the cradles absolutely crazy:p with questions while I was going through RCIA.

Yes, us converts can be a bit annoying:rolleyes: What is their contribution? Maybe its the gentle reminder of how great a faith we have.

An example. When I was going through RCIA I would pester my sponsor with questions about Church doctrine that I did not understand. She was honest and told me that as a cradle, she never gave it much thought but would do a little study and research on the side and help me. After the Easter Vigil she came up to me and thanked me for being a “pest”:p, because it strengthened her faith.

Ahhh, the Power of the Holy Spirit:thumbsup:

There are over 50 different groups in my Parish, some faith based, some not. From the Adorers of the Blessed Sacrament to Line Dancing.
I’ve been involved with RCIA for over 10 years at my parish. Over the years, I’ve seen many of our catechumens get involved with various ministries. At this point in time, one of our current catechumens is volunteering with a local street ministry out of our church. Another from last year is in the Legion of Mary. Others are lectors, involved with Pro Life and some are helping at RCIA!
When we had an open house with the various groups in the Church hall recently, our Parish Priest noted that almost every single booth was manned by a convert.

The same way anybody else does - we show up and we get involved.

As many have already pointed out, RCIA is not just a process you go through on your own. It is often a communal experience, through classes conducted with others who also want to convert. That is the beginnings of your “community”, as you get to share your experience to help others on their faith journey. It is also a part of the larger faith community, especially for catechumens (those who are being baptized, as opposed to those who are being received). The Rites are all held during Mass, so the wider parish community gets to join the catechumens along the way, and if witnessing our faith is one of the best ways we can evangelize, then I can think of no better witness than the catechumen who is coming forward and announcing their belief and their desire to embrace that faith. Many people approached me after the Rite of Acceptance and Rite of Election to talk about my decision to join the church, and I felt that my sharing my enthusiasm and excitement helped them and strengthened their own faith.

Outside of the RCIA program, I am a parishioner and a member of the church community like anyone else. There are certain ministries in which I can’t participate yet (such as being a lector or EMHC), but I can help in the church with events (I’ve become really quite proficient at serving coffee), I can join service ministries like the CWL, and I can attend functions like retreats and Bible studies.

I see being a catechumen as a time to learn and instill the habits essential to living a good Christian life. I’m not going to be handed a golden ticket at the Easter Vigil that suddenly opens all these closed doors behind which lies the key to being a good Catholic. I’m going to continue to grow and build on the foundation I’ve established as a catechumen, just with the added strength of God’s sanctifying grace to help me.

What did the people say to you about your decision to join the Roman Catholic Church? How did you respond? In what ways did your enthusiasm and excitement help strengthen their own faith?

Outside of the RCIA program, I am a parishioner and a member of the church community like anyone else. There are certain ministries in which I can’t participate yet (such as being a lector or EMHC), but I can help in the church with events (I’ve become really quite proficient at serving coffee), I can join service ministries like the CWL, and I can attend functions like retreats and Bible studies.

How did you gain proficiency in serving coffee? Do you mean the social skills while serving coffee or the technical skill involved in brewing and making coffee? What is a “retreat” in the Catholic church? What are “Bible studies” in the Catholic church?

I am just curious, because I don’t come from a Christian background, and the brief imagery that I get from popular culture is associated with low-church Protestantism.

Generally, people are curious about what brought me to the Church and how I decided to join. My story is somewhat different than others - I come from a secular background, with no faith upbringing, and I got introduced to Catholicism through my academic studies. When I decided to join the Church, I could count the Catholics I knew on one hand, and yet I knew I belonged there.

I have had many “cradle Catholics” who tell me that my story is a strong reminder to them that God really does work in our lives. There is no other way I would have found myself standing in the doorway of a Catholic church feeling like I needed to be a part of this.

The coffee remark was me being a little bit facetious. We often have “coffee socials” after Mass or after meetings, and I like to help out with those events. As such, I spend a lot of time serving coffee to people. :wink: It’s a great way to meet unfamiliar faces in the parish, but it is also a service to the parish community. We are commanded to love our neighbour; sometimes a smile and a coffee is a loving gesture to your neighbour that means more than you think it would.

A retreat is simply a special gathering of the parishioners to give a time to worship, usually with a theme (I’m sure someone else here can describe it better than me). Our parish held an Advent retreat, where another priest came in, who is a wonderful speaker, and for four evenings he spoke to us on various subjects and offered insights into the faith. There are also day-long retreats held, either with speakers or as “silent retreats”, which provide opportunity for prayer and reflection.

A Bible study is exactly that - a group of people who come together to study the Bible and reflect on the Scripture.

Well after I became Catholic I attended as many adult classes as possible to learn more about being Catholic. I signed up for weekly Adoration. I attended the annual parish retreats held every year during Lent… I volunteer at St. Vincent de Paul when I can. There are many ministries one can be involved in. I have not stopped learning about being Catholic. By that I mean I participate here at CAF, I read a lot (right now I am reading a Scott Hahn book The Lamb’s Supper. I watch EWTN. I keep up with what Pope Francis says and where he travels.
It is a daily Catholic walk.

Great story and post!

Great testimony!

Some parishes even have a donut ministry you could join. You could start there and meet lots of parishoners and proceed from there.

I’d rather like to see a Healthy Food Ministry. :smiley:

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit