What is a Pastoral Associate - and other questions


#1

Hi,

I am new to the forum and saw some RCIA topics here, so hope this is the right section to post.

I was raised very devout protestant and have been baptized. Now, as an adult, I am exploring the Catholic faith and feel it is a good fit for me (long story).

First, what is a female Pastoral Associate? Is she a nun or a layperson?

Second, is RCIA only for people with no exposure to religion or is it more specific to Catholicism, so that someone like me won't be going over things they already know?

Third, are converts looked down on in Catholicism? I know that if you convert to Judeism, for example, it is never the same as being born into that religion/faith and sometimes you are looked down on as sort of second class. I want to feel I am 100% Catholic once I go through the process, despite my Protestant roots.

Of course, I have lots more questions, but will be asking them at the church. Just don't want to seem like a total moron at my first meeting with the pastoral associate :o

Thanks!


#2

[quote="Ava_W, post:1, topic:289496"]
Hi,

I am new to the forum and saw some RCIA topics here, so hope this is the right section to post.

[/quote]

Welcome to CAF!

[quote="Ava_W, post:1, topic:289496"]
I was raised very devout protestant and have been baptized. Now, as an adult, I am exploring the Catholic faith and feel it is a good fit for me (long story).

[/quote]

Welcome, again!

[quote="Ava_W, post:1, topic:289496"]
First, what is a female Pastoral Associate? Is she a nun or a layperson?

[/quote]

I wasn't familiar with the term being applied to non-clergy, but I found a PDF with guidelines for Pastoral Associates from the Boston Archdiocese, which says: "The title Pastoral Associate is used to describe those Lay or Religious full-time and part-time, salaried/stipend persons who are members of the parish staff, sharing responsibility for the daily pastoral care of the faithful."

[quote="Ava_W, post:1, topic:289496"]
Second, is RCIA only for people with no exposure to religion or is it more specific to Catholicism, so that someone like me won't be going over things they already know?

[/quote]

It's generally a one-size-fits-all approach, starting with the basics of Theism and Christianity before moving into the more specifically Catholic things. So you might be bored for the first few sessions, but be patient, and hopefully, you'll hear the questions you've got addressed in due time.

[quote="Ava_W, post:1, topic:289496"]
Third, are converts looked down on in Catholicism? I know that if you convert to Judeism, for example, it is never the same as being born into that religion/faith and sometimes you are looked down on as sort of second class. I want to feel I am 100% Catholic once I go through the process, despite my Protestant roots.

[/quote]

Not in my experience. If anything, people tend to have more respect for converts, because they actively chose Catholicism, rather than simply growing up considering themselves Catholic. So they're often (but not always) thoughtful about the faith in ways that we cradle Catholics sometimes aren't.

[quote="Ava_W, post:1, topic:289496"]
Of course, I have lots more questions, but will be asking them at the church. Just don't want to seem like a total moron at my first meeting with the pastoral associate :o

Thanks!

[/quote]

You're in the right place. You're welcome, and God bless!


#3

Third, are converts looked down on in Catholicism? I know that if you convert to Judeism, for example, it is never the same as being born into that religion/faith and sometimes you are looked down on as sort of second class. I want to feel I am 100% Catholic once I go through the process, despite my Protestant roots.

Actually my ex-husband is Jewish and this is not true. Once you have converted and become Jewish they are not even allowed to mention that you are a convert and as far as they are concerned, you are Jewish.


#4

I haven't heard of anyone looking down on a Catholic convert. Also in my area the Pastoral Associate essentially runs the parish but doesn't make certain decisions. I guess I am not being clear. I mean the Pastoral Associate appears to do the event planning and making sure the Masses come about. Ours was virtually living in the church around Easter time.

Also I found it very, very helpful that I knew a lot about Christianity before I started attending RCIA. The RCIA process can be tailored for the participants.


#5

Welcome, Ava! :D

[LIST=1]
*]Pastoral associates aren't always female, can be male, we've had both. Our PA's have assisted Father, wherever he feels they are needed--child education, adult education, RCIA, etc.
*]RCIA is specific to Catholics--Bible reading, CCC (Catechism of the Catholic Church) reading, lecture, and discussions. There's homework, reading and preparing for the next session.
*]Converts are welcomed with open arms. I speak from experience, converted in 2000, or as some say, swam the Tiber in 2000.
[/LIST]

Moron?!? Absolutely not! You chose Catholic. To me, it makes you one of the smartest people in the world. :thumbsup:


#6

I’ve never heard of any Catholic convert ever being looked down upon. Indeed, I think a lot of people may even have a certain amount of respect for a convert because converting isn’t easy and isn’t an overnight process. It’s not like a “Come on down!” altar call and you’re magically a member of the church. But there are few things more rewarding and worth the time commitment than the journey through RCIA.

RCIA can be a wonderful process, enlightening and educational, but it is a time commitment. Our RCIA classes are taught by our pastoral associate. He is a layperson who is in charge of adult faith formation and is a full-time, salaried parish staff person. RCIA can be beneficial for anyone from those totally ‘unchurched’ and unbaptized to those who are actively practicing Catholics that just want to renew their commitment to the Church.

Welcome to the forums! I hope you find the answers you seek, and I hope you respond to the invitation of the Holy Spirit to learn about the Church.


#7

Thank you all for the responses and the warm welcome! I am anxious to start my journey and learn as much as I can. Coming from an evangelical Christian background (birth to age 18) where our church wasn’t very welcoming of outsiders, I am a little nervous about being accepted and the learning process. I went to Catholic college and it was through that experience that I was first introduced to the Catholic faith, but not in a high pressure way. I would say through observation and seeing the examples of the sisters I was really moved and inspired. I attended Mass at a nearby church as part of one of the classes I was taking that encouraged us to attended services outside our original faith. After my first service, something just clicked that this may be the place for me.

I am sure I will be back with more questions!


#8

I am a Pastoral Associate and among my responsibilities are Adult Formation and Education which includes RCIA, Baptism prep, organizing retreats and days of prayer, Bible study, lectures courses, etc. I also am parish liturgy coordinator. I also am administrator of our safe environment program making sure all our volunteers have Virtus training and background checks. I do a lot of other administrative work and often speak to parishioners who call or come in with questions or concerns that don’t necessarily need to be answered by a priest.


#9

Thank you so much for the detailed response! I have so many more questions and am looking forward to getting started.


#10

I am always leery of lay people assuming the word "pastoral" in some work title because it obscures the true nature of priests as true pastors. We need to be careful about using words so loosely because it undermines both the true nature of the lay vocation and the ministerial priesthood vocation.

Lay people are primarily called to bring the gospel to the world, not to hang around the church and be "professional Catholics."

Why not just call the person an assistant?


#11

The parochial vicars are often called Pastoral Assistant or Assistant Pastor. Yes, lay people are called to bring the gospel to the world but that does not exclude being in professional pastoral work. WIth less priests who is going to do all the work? Pastoral Associates as well educated. Many have MA or MDiv degrees. I have a doctorate, and two theology MAs, which is three more degrees than my pastor has. We just don’t hang around the church. We have very important work to do in the parish. My most recent assignment is to work at establishing a Family Ministry in hopes to attract more young families to the parish. The priests don’t have time and they figure I know more about family life than they do. If that is not bringing the gospel to the world then I don’t know what is.


#12

Our pastoral associate is responsible for dozens of duties around the parish, but 'hanging around being a professional Catholic' certainly isn't one of them. That was not a very charitable comment you made.

Our pastoral associate not only prepares & teaches RCIA, he also prepares people for the sacraments, teaches Bible study, gives talks around the diocese about the Gospels, teaches seminars around the diocese about other faiths, coordinates the food pantry ministry, and just recently he did some research for me to find a bible study series that would fit my personal needs. Right now he is in the process of developing a year-long in-depth training program for people inquiring into liturgical ministry.

He was also a major contributor to The Catholic Bible, Personal Study Edition published by Oxford University Press, and wrote The Catechists' Guide - How to Teach Scripture.

With all those responsibilities I don't know where he would find time to have a 'real' job.


#13

I don’t mean to imply that these people hang around the parish and do nothing. That does not catch the focus of my comment.

What I am concerned about is the same thing that the late Pope John Paul II was concerned about, and he even wrote about it in his letter, Christifidelis Laici:

In the same Synod Assembly, however, a critical judgment was voiced along with these positive elements, about a too-indiscriminate use of the word “ministry”, the confusion and the equating of the common priesthood and the ministerial priesthood, the lack of observance of ecclesiastical laws and norms, the arbitrary interpretation of the concept of “supply”, the tendency towards a “clericalization” of the lay faithful and the risk of creating, in reality, an ecclesial structure of parallel service to that founded on the Sacrament of Orders.

Precisely to overcome these dangers the Synod Fathers have insisted on the necessity to express with greater clarity, and with a more precise terminology(75), both the unity of the Church’s mission in which all the baptized participate, and the substantial diversity of the ministry of Pastors which is rooted in the Sacrament of Orders, all the while respecting the other ministries, offices and roles in the Church, which are rooted in the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation.

In the first place, then, it is necessary that in acknowledging and in conferring various ministries, offices and roles on the lay faithful, the Pastors exercise the maximum care to institute them on the basis of Baptism in which these tasks are rooted. It is also necessary that Pastors guard against a facile yet abusive recourse to a presumed “situation of emergency” or to “supply by necessity”, where objectively this does not exist or where alternative possibilities could exist through better pastoral planning.

I just get concerned when lay people start assuming labels that have historically been reserved for the ordained. I think my concerns are very justified in this day and age. It has nothing to do with degrees, it has to do with the nature of the Sacrament of Orders.


#14

I am part of my parish's RCIA team and we love inquirers! I am a convert (joined the church in 2011), and have been nothing but welcomed by the members of the parish. For the people who I've gotten to know through an informal bible study, I think I serve as a different perspective on the faith, as they are all cradle Catholics. Some of them grew up right after Vatican II and don't seem to be well-catechized. Sometimes, I know more than they do. :)

I do feel like I don't have that "cultural" background knowledge, since I'm the only Catholic in my family as well as a convert, but it doesn't bother me too much.


#15

[quote="Irishgal49, post:3, topic:289496"]
Third, are converts looked down on in Catholicism? I know that if you convert to Judeism, for example, it is never the same as being born into that religion/faith and sometimes you are looked down on as sort of second class. I want to feel I am 100% Catholic once I go through the process, despite my Protestant roots.

I actually hope not because if this happens then its Sad. I am not Roman Catholic but Anglican but I do feel that if any Roman Catholic or any member of the 26 denominations under Catholic looked down on anyone to converting to Catholic Faith then a) they do not know their Bible but more importantly it just would be very sad because people should be happy that you know God and chosen to worship God through the Catholic Church (bad english possibly but I know what I mean by that) People will hopefully be happy for you rather than look down on you. Like I say, if not then they clearly don't know their Bible or what the Church teaches them about being Catholic even.Hope you have a happy and Holy time
Actually my ex-husband is Jewish and this is not true. Once you have converted and become Jewish they are not even allowed to mention that you are a convert and as far as they are concerned, you are Jewish.

[/quote]


#16

That post is very hard to read and impossible to quote using the "Quote" button, because you crammed it all inside a quote attributed to the other poster.


#17

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