Pastoral Challenges Implementing the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults

Judi Hornback, RCIA Director, St. Pius X Catholic Church, Conyers GA

Implementing the RCIA process is not for the faint of heart.  There is no “one size fits all” Catechumenate.  The RCIA can be messy because we encounter individuals with unique stories and personal and pastoral need.  In addition, because God calls people at different times and for various reasons, we can expect challenges. 

Inquirers come to us desiring being able to participate fully in the Catholic Community.  Our task is to welcome them and provide support so they can encounter Jesus and ultimately become disciples too. 

Those who go on to become catechumens and candidates will need both the RCIA ministers and the parish community to accompany, encourage and show by example how the Scriptures and a life of prayer and service are the basis for a faith-filled life.  

Here are some of the challenging life-situations you may encounter:

Timing/Schedule Issues:

  • Seeker/Inquirer was baptized in another Christian denomination and contacts you at the end of April.  You were not planning to start another group until September.
  • Seeker/Inquirer is not baptized and works every Sunday.
  • Seeker/Inquirer was baptized in another Christian denomination and is an “over the road” (OTR) truck driver and cannot attend the RCIA sessions with the group.
  • Seeker/Inquirer needs to have celebrated the sacraments by a certain date.

Marriage Issues

  • Seeker/Inquirer is not baptized, has been catechized, and was married civilly.
  • Seeker/Inquirer was baptized in the Catholic Church, is in a second marriage, but has not celebrated Confirmation or Eucharist.
  • Seeker/Inquirer is not baptized, is engaged and the fiancé/fiancée who is Catholic desires to be married in the Catholic Church.

Sacrament “Catch Up” Issues

  • A Catholic who is not confirmed

Family Issues

  • Seekers/Inquirers are a family of four.  The parents were married civilly, both children were baptized in the Catholic Church but have not celebrated Confirmation or Eucharist.
  • Seekers/Inquirers are a family of six.  The parents were not married in church.  One child is in high school and has not been confirmed; another is in middle school and has not been confirmed; and two of the children are in elementary school and are not baptized
  • Seeker/Inquirer has physical or mental disabilities.
  • Seeker/Inquirer has been encouraged by a family member to complete the sacraments of initiation.
  • Seeker/Inquirer has certain expectations based upon their culture.

How do we respond pastorally to the needs and challenges presented by seekers, inquirers, catechumens, and candidates? 

  1. For timing and scheduling issues, consider a flexible schedule or year-round RCIA.
  2. For family issues, consider having family sessions which allow for the parents and children to journey together.
  3. For persons with disabilities, contact Maggie Rousseau, Disabilities Ministry, Archdiocese of Atlanta who will assist you with a plan.
  •  Consider brainstorming possible solutions to the challenges you face with others either at the diocese, your parish team members or the RCIA leader from a neighboring parish. 
  • Attend “Open Forum” networking meetings, sponsored by the Archdiocesan Forum for the RCIA.  
  • Subscribe to the RCIA Atlanta blog.
  • Attend the RCIA Track at Atlanta Catechist Conference.
  • Consult the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.  Here are some key sections to read:
  • The National Statutes and Canon Laws that apply to Baptism and Confirmation  (found at the end of the book)
  •  Paragraph 75 in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is the focal point of the RCIA process
  •  Paragraphs 79 and 81 tell us that during the Catechumenate period celebrations of the Word of God are most important.  Participation in the Liturgy of the Word at Sunday Mass followed by dismissal in which the Catechumens are invited to reflect on the Word of God and connect it to daily life. 
  • Connect a catechumen/candidate to a well-trained sponsor who can accompany the candidate or catechumen navigate their unique circumstances.
  • Invite the parish pray for them personally.
  • Include a prayer for the Catechumens and Candidates every week in the Prayers of the Faithful.

            Pope Francis tell us, “In order to be more like Jesus, we must not be indifferent to others, but rather meet people where they are and show mercy to those in need.” Pope Francis is inviting us to be both flexible and creative as well as patient, open, and understanding. 


Archdiocese of Atlanta.  Ministries & Services, RCIA Webpage

We have to meet people where they are, Pope Francis says. Catholic News Agency.  (November 9, 2016). 

 Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.  International Commission on English in the Liturgy.  Chicago:  Liturgy Training Publications.


United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).