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.
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 (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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.