Here, we’ll highlight 5 reasons new Catholics stop practicing the Faith soon after they’re received into the Church through the RCIA process. It’s a sad reality, but it happens more often than we would like to think it does. But have no fear! There are solutions to these 5 reasons and these fixes are given under each reason.
1. People are not brought from their initial motivation to firm conviction.
This pastoral problem is often the result of a rushed catechumenal process wherein participants are moved quickly – without the necessary and proper pastoral discernment – through the rites. A 9-month RCIA process wherein participants are expected to complete their initiation according to the school year can be a source of this haste. (See 5 Ways to Handle RCIA Inquiries at Any Time of the Year)
Whatever initial motivation one has for going through the RCIA is a good one because God has used that as a reason to draw this person to himself. During the process, individuals need to be shepherded in such a way that they come to firmly believe the Faith with firm conviction. As the profession of faith in RCIA #491 says: “I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.” Let’s make sure that this is an absolutely truthful statement when the time comes for it to be said.
2. A lack of pastoral care during the Neophyte Year and beyond.
Often, as unfortunate as it is true, it can be hard to find a Catholic parish that is warm, welcoming, and inviting. When the newly received and the newly initiated are dumped into the jetstream when RCIA is “over,” they may find themselves miserable.
Ask yourself right now how your RCIA team is caring for those who were received at the past Easter Vigil. Are you continuing to care for them in a warm, hospitable fashion, helping them as they integrate into parish life? Is there a “Neophyte Team” that provides something like a weekly Bible study to care for folks for at least one year after they become Catholic?
3. The RCIA team does not adequately represent the makeup of the parish.
The RCIA team should be comprised of parishioners of different ages and states of life, and the parish priest should be seen frequently – not just by means of an infrequent visit. The team should be a microcosm of the parish: the parish in miniature. This will allow for the participants to form relationships with different types of parishioners across the board and feel cared for and loved by their priest. This time of relationship building is crucial to the pastoral aspect of the RCIA.
Sit down with your parish priest and schedule out frequent visits to the RCIA sessions so that he can administer the minor rites of the catechumenate: blessings, exorcisms, and anointings. Discover ways of fostering a relationship between the RCIA participants and the priest such as having a meet the priest dinner. Continually brainstorm of new parishioners who have the gift of hospitality. At least some of the individuals on the team should be on the team solely to provide welcome, warmth, and fellowship.
4. They do not become liturgical people.
When someone becomes Catholic, they should be able to say to themselves, “I could not imagine living without the Mass and the Eucharist.” A crucial element within the RCIA process is developing a profound love for the liturgy and its power to transform our lives. This requires a healthy catechesis that conveys how the Mass is truly heaven on earth!
Introduce the participants gradually to more and more liturgical prayer as they progress through the catechumenate, especially by instructing them in how to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. Get them “hooked” on the beauty of liturgical prayer.
5. They don’t get the Deposit of Faith delivered to them.
A systematic and organic catechesis is crucial to giving candidates and catechumens a Catholic worldview. Their catechetical formation should not consist in a pile of many topics. Rather, it should allow them to see the whole of the faith and how each piece fits together. In this way, as catechumens progress from session to session, their eyes will be opened, many “aha!” moments will occur, and they will see the “big picture” of the Faith.
They should be taught the faith in all of its “rigor and vigor” to use the words of Pope John Paul II in “On Catechesis in Our Time” (#30). The reality of sin, the glory of heaven, the uniqueness of the Catholic Church, the necessity of the sacraments, the power of confession, the heavenly motherhood of Mary… our catechumens and candidates have a right to the whole of the Faith in all its integrity.