RCIA is a significant and in many ways highly complex form of adult formation. Its complexity flows from the need for the process to be truthful, with its catechesis far removed from the easy sound-bite answers and confusion of the secular culture.
It has to connect with individuals, hence pastoral flexibility and sacrificial effort are needed to call forth from people a deep conversion.
And it must be unitive, that is involving entry into a deeply countercultural liturgical way of life so as to realise union with the divine spouse - Jesus Christ.
In others words, to the degree that the RCIA process is complex it is because it must be fully human in order to be be fully open to the divine. The restoration of the ancient catechumenal process, as called for in five Vatican II documents, is a reflection of the Church's wisdom in recalling the value of the process developed in the first centuries of the Church's life in order to lovingly bring people into her fold.
In mid-June 2007, the Archdiocese of Sydney will be hosting an ambitious set of RCIA training events, open to anyone in Australia. These will include a Liturgy Practices Intensive on 12 June, a Clergy Information Day on 14 June, and a three-day RCIA Forming New Catholics conference from 15-17 June. These events, will make use of the experienced speaking talents and the newly-released and extraordinarily comprehensive publications of the Association for Catechumenal Ministry (ACM). ACM is an organisation of Catholic clergy and lay people committed to providing a communications, resource, and education network for diocesan and parish personnel involved in RCIA.
This American apostolate is sending five speakers to Australia. They are:
* Fr Richard Cash, who was ordained in 1989 in for the Diocese of Owensborough, Kentucky, and is currently pastor of two parishes in rural Kentucky. Along with working with RCIA for 17 years, Fr Cash has worked with Cursillo, Teens Encounter Christ (TEC), various youth retreats, and speaks at several conferences.
* Bill Keimig, who is currently the Director of Religious Education at St Mary's Parish in Clinton, Maryland, and also serves as a catechist trainer for the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, and a teacher in the Archdiocesan marriage preparation program. In addition to his in-diocese work, Bill serves as the Director of ACM, and is the managing editor of ACM's publications. He and his wife, Heather, have three children.
* Patty and Gary Norris, who have been involved in RCIA ministry since 1988, and currently serve as co- directors of RCIA at St Gertrude Parish in Madeira, Ohio.They also currently serve together to direct the RCIA track for an annual catechetical conference held in Ohio.Patty became Catholic in 1975, and since then she and Gary have been active in a variety of apostolates including marriage preparation, parish renewal, and ministry to alienated Catholics. Gary and Patty have six grown children, and three grandchildren so far.
* Scott Sollom, who is currently a professor for the Office of Catechetics at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio.He also directs the campus RCIA process, and runs an annual catechetical conference. He was most recently the Director of Family Faith Formation at two parishes in Stillwater, Minnesota. He and his wife, Mary Sarah, have three children.
These speakers will lead a dynamic set of training days during which the RCIA process will be examined from three distinct aspects: liturgical, catechetical, and pastoral.
The Liturgy Practices Intensive will focus on examining how the RCIA process is dynamically moved along by liturgical rites that serve as gateways into the major periods of the process. Liturgy propels the RCIA process and motivates conversion. For all involved in RCIA, it is crucial to understand the Catholic sacramental and liturgical sense of reality, and how it serves those seeking to come to know Jesus Christ more intimately.
The Clergy Information Day is designed to give priests a concise and clear summary and overview of the RCIA process, with concerns addressed and questions answered. Presentations will treat both the theoretical and practical aspects of how to make RCIA work in a parish setting, as well as the essential roles of the bishop, priest, deacon, and laity.
The three-day Forming New Catholics conference will focus on the needs of parish RCIA directors, catechists, sponsors, and other team members. The format is designed to provide a comprehensive and organic understanding of the full catechumenal process, as well as a realistic grasp of how to successfully implement it. The full application of liturgical, pastoral, and catechetical aspects of the RCIA process is explained in an engaging and practical style.
The RCIA process seeks to prepare people not only for assent to eternal truths, but more so to fall in love with an eternal Lover. The catechumenal process, properly balancing liturgical, catechetical, and pastoral aspects, can be a beautiful and powerful engine of conversion today, as it was centuries ago, fulfilling the intention of its restoration by the Second Vatican Council. This trio of upcoming RCIA training events aims to encourage and support those who work in this privileged ministry, and to train them more fully to share their faith with those approaching the Catholic Church.
For more information on these events, please contact Joanne Zwaans, who is the Sydney Archdiocesan Catechumenate Coordinator and events coordinator on (02) 9643 3677, or Catechumenate @ sydney.catholic.org.au