Catechetical leaders learn more about their ministry at workshop  on Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults

By Tom Maguire | Associate editor

The next step after conversion is discipleship, a form of action, says Bishop Douglas J. Lucia.

He says: “Discipleship is simply following the Lord. … Conversion is to listen to God’s word, and really, discipleship is acting on the word.” 

The bishop likes to quote an old country preacher: “He used to say there’s two parts of the Gospel. The first part is believing. The second part behaving.” 

“Discipleship of course is what we’re all about now in our diocese,” Bishop Lucia told more than 100 people who teach the faith Aug. 17 at Immaculate Conception Church in Fayetteville. People from the Diocese of Syracuse and also from Albany and Ogdensburg attended the workshop titled “Accompanying People on Their Journey of Faith: From Conversion Through Initiation.”

Adding an “and Beyond” to that title, to emphasize discipleship, was Father Christopher R. Seibt, the diocesan director of the Office of Liturgy & the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults). “The RCIA process can sometimes be a bit of a challenge,” he told the gathering. “But we know that we are in it together and … we are here with you helping you.”

Serving the seekers

Workshop leader Diana Macalintal, an author and speaker, said: “The principles that we’re talking about apply to any kind of seeker, anyone who is seeking anything from the Catholic Church — whether it’s baptism for their infant, whether it’s marriage, whether it’s consolation. Any kind of seeker who comes to us looking for Christ and healing from Christ — the principles of the catechumenate can help each of us heal those wounds.”

Macalintal, of San Jose, Calif., co-founded TeamRCIA.com, an independent ministry to help catechumenate ministers, with her husband, Nick Wagner. They “connect with thousands of parish and diocesan leaders all around the globe.”

She told the religious-education leaders in the room, “Share your joys and your struggles, because this is part of the day and part of our learning together.”

The room started buzzing when Macalintal asked the leaders to relate to each other how they tell seekers about Jesus.

“You guys are on the ball,” she said as the answers came in. Here are some she posted on a slide:

Share personal stories.

Share our own story of conversion.

Invite them to Mass.

Smile.

Pray with them.

Go where they are hurting.

Tell them about answered prayers.

Walk with them in nature (God’s creation).

Regarding the answers that came in, Macalintal said, “If we can do this, our churches will change.”

The burning principles

She also got the attendees thinking — and writing — when she asked for the “biggest principle burning in you in this ministry.”

They filled out little sheets that went up on the walls; some answers:

How to get people to stay with the gradual process.

Making someone comfortable to get started.

How do you approach a person who wants to be Catholic because he’s getting married to a Catholic?

If the rite “works,” why is it being altered to an “order”?

Getting buy-in from pastor & community.

How to involve the catechumen in parish life that is age & interest appropriate. Our parish is mostly older parishioners.

Being able to discern where the Holy Spirit is leading someone who is not inclined to share much personal information.

Helping the seeker to engage beyond initial hunger.

How can we tell there is an interior change in the person?

Whether or not I have given them what they need from this.

The RCIA’s name will be changed to the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults; Macalintal said work on a new translation of the rite began in 2016 and could be ready by 2023. A flyer explains:

“The name change applies both to the process by which one enters the Church and the book that contains the ritual text and prayers for those steps.

“As the bishops of the United States continue to update liturgical texts, the new OCIA will offer a more faithful translation [the book first appeared in 1973 in Latin], an updated categorization of those petitioning for full acceptance into the Church (catechumens, unbaptized infants, baptized non-Catholic Christians, and baptized Catholics in need of Confirmation), more accurate terminology for those in the initiation process (inquirer, catechumen, elect, etc.), and more!”

TeamRCIA.com is not an arm of the Church, Macalintal said, “but we do consult with the United States bishops on the new translation and so they are working with us to provide resources for the United States.”

The hospitable Sister

Attendee Sister Rose Casaleno, CSJ, director of the Newman House at Binghamton University, said she is excited about the new process for discipleship. “It’s a journey together to help them learn about Jesus, and you learn about yourself too in the process,” she said.

She works with students. “It’s baptized people who may not be Catholic but it’s also baptized people who may have missed their sacraments,” she said. “So it’s anybody who wants to deepen their Catholic faith who haven’t had all the sacraments. …

Father Christopher R. Seibt, the director of the diocesan Office of Liturgy & the RCIA, tells the gathering, “Never be afraid to reach out with any questions that you have.” (Sun photo | Tom Maguire)

“So we do social events, we do worship events, from … prayer practices to educational pieces of sharing our faith with each other …,  Bible study.”

“Hospitality” is the No. 1 word at Newman House, and it pays off.

“Since I’ve been there in 2015,” Sister Rose said, “I’ve had eight people come into the Church. Some of them, they needed their confirmation. And … I’ve had three or four that were baptized completely and journeyed along into the faith.”

Sister Rose remembers one student who made her confirmation in her third year of college. “She keeps in touch with me,” she said, “she still goes to church. I have a student … who just graduated. He was baptized but never received any of his sacraments. And so he went through the program a few years ago, and he’s still very active, he’s going to help me this year with the RCIA program, because he’s coming back for graduate study.”

Attendee Laura Mack, the pastoral associate and director of catechesis at St. Peter’s Church in Rome, Oneida County, has been involved in ministry, in catechesis, for over 20 years; the workshop was her first experience with RCIA.

“I feel to do justice to this process,” she said, “I need to be as well informed as I can be. And so I’m here to learn what I can learn from the presenter but also from the folks around me and how other parishes are doing RCIA.”

And what is the biggest principle burning in her in this ministry? 

“The biggest principle burning in me would be that I want other people to know the joy and the love that I have felt in my Catholic faith,” she said. “The opportunities that I have had to be served and to be of service. But really it’s the joy and the love that I have found in my Catholic faith and I want other people to be able to experience that. It makes life whole.”

Further instruction is scheduled 1-3 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22, at St. Agatha Church in Canastota. Father Seibt’s workshop will be titled “Back to Basics: The RCIA Process.” Invited are all RCIA coordinators, RCIA teams, catechetical leaders, priests and deacons. Sponsored by Father Seibt’s office and the diocesan Committee for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, the workshop will be, he said, a “great opportunity for those just getting started and for those who’ve been doing this for a while, as well as a forum for questions.” 


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