How the RCIA Evangelizes the Parish

Now that the Vigil is over, you may find your phone and email messages about how to become Catholic increase. Read this article by Forum Member, Terry Zobel about the power of the RCIA to evangelize the entire parish.  It will make you stop and consider the importance of doing RCIA well knowing that the effects of RCIA reach way beyond the candidates and catechumens.

by Terry Zobel

When I was a brand new Adult Education Coordinator in 1979, the restored Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, called for by the Second Vatican Council, was also brand new. I still have a copy of the Provisional Text from the USCC (as it was then called) dated 1974. We used to call this skinny little paperback volume “the brown book” because of its ugly brown cover. Approved by Pope Paul VI, who had authored the landmark exhortation “On Evangelization in the Modern World” (Evangelii Nuntiandi) in 1975, this “new” rite was to replace the rite of baptism of adults that was in the Roman Missal. The decree stated, “The Second Vatican Council prescribed the revision of the rite of baptism of adults and de-creed that the catechumenate for adults in several stages should be restored. This was to be done so that the period of the catechumenate, a period of appropriate formation, might be sanctified by liturgical rites celebrated at various times. In addition the council decreed that both the solemn and simple rites of adult baptism should be revised in the light of the restored catechumenate.”

I remember reading articles in magazines and seeing ads for books and materials concerning the “new” rite saying that the RCIA would transform the parish, and I remember thinking, “Really?! Isn’t that a bit of a stretch? After all, this “program” is for people coming into the church, not for those already there!” Now, some 30 years later, I have come to see the truth of those claims. Space will not allow me to list all the ways that I’ve seen the RCIA evangelize and renew the parish, but here are a few:

The RCIA is for adults, which speaks volumes to Catholics who think that faith formation is for children. Because the RCIA is a gradual process, it says that faith grows and growing in faith is never completed.

Because the RCIA focuses on conversion to Christ, not merely acceptance of beliefs, it invites Catholics to a deeper level of belonging and discipleship.

Because the rites and the weekly dismissal happen in the midst of the assembly, Catholic adults see other adults committing themselves to Christ (the Catechumens) or deepening their relationship with Christ (the Candi-dates) within their own Catholic community. They see adults making a commitment to study, to pray, to accept the cross (the Rite of Acceptance), to come to know their call to conversion and ongoing discipleship (The Rite of Election), to allow the Gospel to scrutinize their lives, to die with Christ in baptism, to be anointed for mission in Confirmation and to live in communion with him and his people through the Eucharist.

The RCIA asks the entire community to be a living witness to what discipleship looks like. The RCIA requires a welcoming community, a community that fully participates in liturgies celebrated with integrity, lectors who believe what they proclaim, homilies that put skin on the gospel and call the community to be a people of justice and peace committed to making the world a better place.

The RCIA demands that we be the church that we say we are.