Pastoral Formation

The entire parish community is part of the pastoral formation of RCIA catechumens and candidates.

The RCIA process is a growth in intimacy as much as in knowledge. Alongside the powerful liturgical movements of the process and the faithful catechetical endeavor, there is also an intense pastoral activity, which must be initiated from the first time an inquirer expresses interest in the Church. This activity operates with the knowledge that each participant will vary in his or her background, lifestyle, motivation, and state in life. Those doing RCIA ministry should steep themselves in the lives of the participants, with gentleness, prudence and a genuine desire to open their hearts wide (cf. 2 Cor 6:11).

The pastoral components are the people who participate, some intimately and others from a distance, in Jesus’ work of conversion and discipleship. The pastoral work of the catechumenal process is accomplished through the love and labor of many people, including the following: clergy, catechists, hospitality folks, sponsors, small group leaders, prayer intercessors, and parish members. This pastoral work is a people-to-person endeavor – all the people impacting this one person for the Lord. Pastoring involves both information and formation.

Christian Initiation during the catechumenate is not the concern of catechists or clergy alone, but of the whole community of believers and especially the godparents, so that from the outset, the catechumens will have a sense of being a part of the people of God.

By instruction and by example, the catechumens and candidates learn who God is, what he wants, and how to follow him as a member of the Christian community. Through the pastoral attention of others, participants are informed about him, and formed in him.

The people of God, as represented by the local Church, should understand and show by their concern that the initiation of adults is the responsibility of all the baptized. Therefore the community must always be fully prepared in the pursuit of its apostolic vocation to give help to those who are searching for Christ. (RCIA, Introduction 9)

As with liturgy and catechesis, the pastoral aspect also changes as participants move through the periods of the process. The precatechumenate serves as a time of inviting people to come and see, of determining motivation and moving them from the initial stages of faith – an encounter with Jesus, turning away from sin, and finding a home in the Church. During the next period, the catechumenate, the pastoral aim is to move the participants from initial motivation to firm conviction, with strong elements of fellowship and spiritual direction. The periods of purification and mystagogy serve as a time of strong support and encouragement for participants to deepend their spiritual life and increase in works of charity.

For the remainder of the neophyte year, the pastoral focus is to provide continued support and encouragement in living out a strong Catholic life in a parochial setting wherein they feel comfortably at home. The process aims not just at making non-ignorant Christians – it seeks to transform them into outwardly focused Christians, sure in the conviction that the fullness of the truth has been revealed and is to be shared with joy.

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