Just as the Christian initiation process is intended to cause and facilitate a profound interior change in participants, the RCIA leader may have to undergo an “attitude adjustment” to be successful in managing the process. Here, we’ve listed some pointers to assist the leader.
1. Expect the Christian initiation process to be difficult.
The leader is doing one of the most important jobs on earth, and Satan will actively oppose it.
2. Avoid an “I’m running a program” mentality.
Administration is a secondary aspect to the leader’s calling, necessary only to serve the process of conversion as the participants experience it.
3. Delegate everything that can be delegated.
Satan can derail the Christian initiation process by ensuring that a good leader is frantically busy.
4. Make relationships strategically.
This includes listening to all those who are also engaged in the parish’s Christian initiation process, because people listen to those who listen to them.
5. Think collaboratively and deferentially.
Whether the parish RCIA leader is a pastor, another member of the clergy, or a paid or volunteer layperson, that leader cannot be “territorial.” Lay leaders must always, at all times, in every way, respect the office of Holy Orders; clergy, for their part, must respect the collaborative nature of the Christian initiation process envisioned in the ritual book (see, for example, RCIA 43, 75.1). Whether cleric or lay, the RCIA leader must seek to be the best servant in the entire catechumenal process.
6. See RCIA staff and team issues with an eye towards redemptive suffering.
Every leader spends a proportion of his or her time addressing the weaknesses of individuals and the friction caused by working in groups. Expecting perfection on an RCIA team is expecting the impossible, for perfection is the domain of the soul, not a workplace or collaborative effort.
7. See sin issues with an eye towards counseling, not just referral.
A leader who chooses not to assist participants with moral problems and sinful lives abdicates one of the great tasks with which he or she is charged. If the leader is what he or she should be, people will bring their problems and needs to him or her. For the most difficult problems – for example, an addiction or a psychiatric illness – the leader should, of course, refer a person to an appropriately-trained professional.
Even there, care must be exercised to ensure that such a professional understands and uses Catholic principles in his or her work. For example, a professional counselor whose bent is towards radical feminism, or who completely avoids dealing with human frailty in terms of sin (not just a “dysfunctional” lifestyle), will only make the problem of the participant worse.
8. Be creative about increasing the resources available to the Christian initiation process.
Parish budgets are always strained. However, God has plenty of money but too few fund-raisers. One of the leader’s tasks might be to creatively seek funds, or to find more fund-raisers.
9. Inculcate neither the prideful sense of self-worth which opposes humility, nor believe those who offer the worse criticism.
The lives of the saints are immensely helpful in maintaining perspective, staying humble, and being hopeful.
10. Do not accept mediocrity in any way at all, even a little bit.
The ancient Christian initiation process brought all of the Roman Empire to the Catholic faith in less than two hundred years after it was legalized in 313 A.D. The leader must guard and grow diligently what has been entrusted in him or her by almighty God, striving in Divine grace to return to the Master more talents than given.
11. See God as a good Father, not as a good employer.
The leader, as are all Christians, is a child of God. God’s family cannot be defined as a contractual relationship with him, and the leader should strive as a child to please “Abba, Father” (see Gal 4:6).
12. Be a person on pilgrimage.
The RCIA leader has been called to be a person for others, as are all Christians, but God delights in each person for his or her own sake, not because of the “importance” of the task he or she undertakes. The leader is also a person on the path to sanctity, journeying towards the destination of destinations, divinization within the Blessed Trinity (see 2 Pt 1:4).
13. Use Christmas creatively.
The leader binds all members of the RCIA team to himself or herself by acknowledging their importance individually. Christmas (or the Feast of the Epiphany) is an opportunity to give powerful gifts without having to make any excuses. Gift ideas might be The Imitation of Christ (Thomas á Kempis), A Map of Life (Frank Sheed), Introduction to the Devout Life (St. Francis de Sales), Story of a Soul (St. Thérèse of Lisieux), My Other Self (Clarence J. Enzler), or The Screwtape Letters (C.S. Lewis).
14. Finally, pray.
The leader cannot persuade others – members of the team, godparents, sponsors, and participants – to live in Christ (see Col 2:6) if he or she does not already have a living, ongoing relationship with him. God is interested in everything, and the leader should lay everything at his feet.
The above suggestions can be found on pages 145 and 146 of the RCIA Leader’s Manual published by the Association for Catechumenal Ministry and distributed by Liturgy Training Publications.