How to Develop a Strong RCIA Program


#1

Recently I joined an RCIA team with a new director. We are looking for some best practices and ideas to develop a strong RCIA program in our church. I am curious if anyone has anything that they love about their RCIA program or anything that they wish an RCIA program contained. Thanks in advance.


#2

I think the most important thing is to know what RCIA is supposed to entail. Get to know the text and understand the Church's vision of RCIA. Read and study. Take classes and webinars.

RCIA is often done by well intentioned volunteers who have no idea what they're doing. Don't be one of those people!

A good team will have people with different strengths and talents. All of them should love the Church and love being Catholic. Beyond that, some may be strong in theology, others in spiritual direction/companionship, others in prayer/devotion, others in social justice/parish activities, etc. Each has something different to offer the people in RCIA.

Don't try to turn RCIA into a religious education class where everyone is the same, everyone starts at the same time and finishes at the same time, etc. Recognize that it is a formation process and it is different for everyone. Be prepared for the person who needs very little formation as well as the one who needs an extended time. Be flexible and adaptable. But all of this goes back to my first point. Get to know the text and know what the Church wants RCIA to be.


#3

I LOVED RCIA when I attended.
The very best thing about the classes that I went to is that they were interesting and sometimes fun and always well done. We had a priest, a nun and a deacon at each class… they weren’t the teachers/leaders but they were there to support everyone, and to answer questions and such. We had different teachers for different parts. There were a lot of speakers that would come in and speak on the different things we were learning. That way if one of the teachers was a tad boring etc. we got a lot of variety of teachings. It was a pretty big class as well and we’d often break down into groups of 6 or 8 to discuss things. Our sponsors attended each class with us, that was good too!

My parish now has a good RCIA class. The priest and a man who teaches are in charge of it. The guy who teaches it is VERY knowledgeable and a pretty good teacher. What I hear is so good about the class is that they aren’t on a terribly hard and fast road, that the conversations can get off the road a bit. They tend to run late too, which could be bad, but everyone who attends doesn’t mind a bit because they are interesting.
With our tiny parish, it’s a great thing that we even have an RCIA. In past years we never had one, but our new priest (I keep calling hiim new, he’s been here about 18 months now!) is so good that this is the second RCIA we’ve had to have!!! Love it!


#4

I have been the Director of RCIA in our parish for the last 10 yrs.

It has become the model for our diocese.

I would be happy to talk to you via PM if you would like to know more.


#5

Please vet everyone that teaches any classes. In our RCIA program, quite a few different laypeople (as well as Deacons and priests) taught classes on different topics, and they were all well-meaning and very nice people.

However, that doesn't mean they know what they are talking about! Some people are confused or out of line with Church teaching, either knowingly or unknowingly.

Make sure that the instructor is fully in line with Church teaching and knows what they are talking about.

Also, if you're doing BOW, I would recommend you approach it from a teaching standpoint rather than an emotional standpoint. Same for P & E. For us, BOW and P&E were approached like this: "Would someone like to read the first reading/question? Thanks. Now, does anyone have any thoughts?" long awkward silence of at least one minute I always got the impression that the BOW leaders hadn't put anything together and just wanted us to do all the talking. Why not teach us about the readings? One excellent instructor (who was a friend and my sponsor's husband) prepared everything and actually taught during BOW, cross-referencing with the Old and New Testaments, explaining the historical references and backgrounds of verses, etc. It was AWESOME. No touchy feely "How does that make you feel?" blech. I think most people want to be taught, not go to a "let's all share our thoughts and feelings" session. At least limit that type of thing.

Anyway, that's my recommendation as a product of RCIA.


#6

I started RCIA at one parish. They taught nothing other than going slowly through the changing liturgy...a useless exercise as no one had known the old version anyway. They did not answer questions or teach important topics. One of the team leaders is an active and open homosexual. I found that strange, though I happened to like him personally.

I then switched to a Dominican parish and the program was fantastic. Mostly priests and experienced and informed Catholics teaching. A few lay people that didn't know much or had ideas inconsistent with Church teaching but overall probably as good as it gets.

My advice: vet the program and don't be afraid to switch.


#7

ACM materials are excellent.

I just learned that at my parish, some of the RCIA team members are in adoration praying for the candidates/ catechumens while RCIA classes are going on. So at each session, some teach while others pray. How amazing is that?! :thumbsup:


#8

Use ACM materials and training. They are the best.

acmrcia.org/


#9

Some priests I know combine RCIA with ongoing adult catechesis. They say that mixing the two groups of adults brings the catechumens into the "social" group at the church. They become a part of everything - dinners, fundraisers, prayer groups, ... That's the goal - give newbie Catholics ties to the parish community which in turn strengthens their ties to the Church.


#10

I also think it is important to get priests, deacons, nuns, etc. to teach classes. You can tailor those classes to be more of the heavy stuff. It’s great when you can get them to just sit down in a small group and talk about the faith. It’s great to hear their knowledge in an environment outside of a mass. You can really learn many things that you may not have learned otherwise. It’s also interesting to hear the little differences in their personalities and the way it shapes how they talk about things.


#11

The first thing I would recommend is to read the Rites and the accompanying instruction. Also RCIA is a process, not a program. it is not a one size fits all type of thing.

I also disagree with the poster who said the BOW should be more of a lesson on Scripture. Breaking open the scriptures is helpin them to make the Word of God come alive in their hearts. It is a time to help them to hear God speaking to them in His words. Exegesis can come later. They need to form a relationship with Christ first.


#12

I have one recommendation. Don’t tell people that if you miss Confession that you can still receive Communion because that sacrament also takes away your sins. I actually heard this from a recently confirmed man a few weeks ago that he was taught this in his RCIA classes.


#13

Have them each purchase a good Catholic Bible. (Maybe knights of Columbus or another group in your Church could donate them!) Then buy Catholic Answers Topic Tabs. They install on the pages of the bible and are color coded. For example the purple tabs are bible verses about the Eucharist, Black - Mary & Saints, Yellow- Trinity & Holy Spirit...

As new Catholics they will refer to these tabs often as people ask them about Catholic teachings, and "Where is that in the bible!" they are awesome!


#14

Our RCIA program at my parish is taught by a nun and a deacon along with several other people. probably having some clergy or consecrated would be a good idea because they tend to know a lot.


#15

[quote="Joannm, post:11, topic:308810"]
The first thing I would recommend is to read the Rites and the accompanying instruction. Also RCIA is a process, not a program. it is not a one size fits all type of thing.

I also disagree with the poster who said the BOW should be more of a lesson on Scripture. Breaking open the scriptures is helpin them to make the Word of God come alive in their hearts. It is a time to help them to hear God speaking to them in His words. Exegesis can come later. They need to form a relationship with Christ first.

[/quote]

You need a little of both. Remember some people in your class will already have a relationship with Christ. Also, people can miss the message without a little help exploring them and some background information. And scriptures have specific meanings and truths, it isn't what "I feel this means..." you can get some wackadoodle interpretations that way.


#16

One thing that drove me crazy...If you ask if anyone has any questions, be sure to actually answer that question. There may be "a whole lesson on that later". But if you opened up the floor for anything, at least take a minute to give a brief answer and even take a few follow up questions.

We always had sessions where they would open up the floor for questions and then simply answer every question with..."we'll talk about that later" "thats another lesson" or "that's too complicated to get into right now". I never heard those lessons come back to either.


#17

[quote="smndtupidisaftr, post:12, topic:308810"]
I have one recommendation. Don't tell people that if you miss Confession that you can still receive Communion because that sacrament also takes away your sins. I actually heard this from a recently confirmed man a few weeks ago that he was taught this in his RCIA classes.

[/quote]

We had a Deacon who said the exact same thing. In his words confession was not truly necessary as Holy Communion would absolve all sins, mortal and venial. The Priest of the Parish happened to agree with this particular philosophy,although he never came right out and said so in so many words. He had no scheduled confession times and was extremely reluctant to hear confessions by appointment. When you did confess he would discourage you from coming back and urge you to make use of frequent communion for forgiveness instead. Just about the only time you could really make a confession in that Parish was around Easter, but the people there were so well trained or maybe sinless, I suppose, that few ever took advantage of the opportunity when it was offered.:(

As far as having a good program, I would reccommend that at least several of the team members receive catechist training. Many Dioceses offer it at a reasonable cost and it can really help out a lot.


#18

I wish our RCIA program was better staffed so that we could treat people as individuals. Putting practicing Christians of 30 years through the same program as those who don't know who Mary and Joseph are or that Jesus is the Son of God doesn't work so well for either group. I think the catechumens deserve classes or instruction that is aimed at them, and not at a higher level to suit the others. I think the catechumens get hit the worst in our program, but often it is the teens in our program who seem like catechumens in their knowledge, and they get hit hard as well.


#19

It is good to involve new Church members who entered in prior years, as well as other parishioners. Some of these can give faith witness talks. As was mentioned earlier in the thread, RCIA is envisioned as a process of initiation into the Church community, not merely a program of education, although it is certainly that.

Make sure those who teach are qualified to do so. We are blessed in that we have either priests or deacons available to do all the presentations. Our handouts are taken directly from ACM or the USCCB etc...


#20

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