Preparing the Setting for Catechetical Sessions

A warm and welcoming setting prepared for an RCIA session.

The Christian initiation process is such a fundamental activity of the parish that the pastor and RCIA leader should ensure that everything possible is done, within the available resources of the parish, to ensure that the setting for catechetical sessions is appropriate for adult learners and that they have the resources to learn. Elements that are helpful in RCIA catechesis include:

The most appropriate day of the week and time of the day.

The experience of each parish will determine the specific times that most potential inquirers are available. It is possible that, if there is a sufficient number of participants, more than one time period can be made available, especially if Sunday afternoons can be offered as well as one, perhaps two, evenings a week. The demand for meeting space in most parishes is high, and the needs of other organizations must also be taken into account by the pastor and RCIA leader.

A comfortable room temperature.

A too-warm room encourages drowsing.

Tables around which groups of participants and RCIA team members can sit.

This makes eye-to-eye interaction and conversation possible during breaks, which classroom-style seating cannot. Even if there are no tables, chairs should be arranged in several groups, rather than having everyone seated facing one direction. If the chairs are somewhat uncomfortable, inexpensive chair cushions might be a good investment.

Bibles and binders for all inquirers.

If the parish can afford it, giving to all inquirers inexpensive Bibles (preferably the translation used at Mass), Bible tabs, and empty three-ring binders (to keep handouts) upon their first arrival at a precatechumenate session is not only helpful to catechesis but also is an appreciated form of welcoming each person. Here is a link to the New Catholic Answer Bible. Eventually, participants might also be given copies of the Catechism of the Catholic Church or the recently published Compendium to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, again to the extent that the parish resources permit.

An RCIA library.

If the parish can afford it, a selection of books, CDs, DVDs, audiotapes, and videotapes – the choice of media will depend on what kinds of media players, if any, participants own or can use – allows participants to enrich what they have learned or to get questions answered on topics that cannot be covered in depth in the weekly catechetical sessions. The library can be stored in one or more boxes between sessions, preferably on a cart so that it is not necessary to lift and carry the boxes. Participants can be permitted to check out items for a specific period, depending on the likely need for given items by more than one participant. A checkout sheet allows the leader to know where items are at all times (and to ensure their return at the conclusion of the neophyte year!). If there is a sufficient number of books, RCIA team members might be permitted to check out items as well, perhaps requiring a shorter return time or allowing items to be checked out only during periods when the regular catechetical sessions are not held, such as during the Christmas season.

Tables for display and hospitality.

Tables should be available, ideally outside the room, for setting up the RCIA library, if one exists; for placing handouts; and for serving drinks and snacks. In climates where part of the catechumenal period is cold, a way to provide warm drinks should be developed; conversely, in hot weather, if possible chilled drinks should be made available.

Setting up a sacred space.

The meeting room should have a place for a sacred space, the place of honor where a Bible is enthroned, together with a crucifix or appropriate icon, statue, or painting, and resting on a cloth of the color liturgically appropriate for the day of the catechetical session.

Using religious art.

If the room is used for other purposes, religious art (mounted prints, for example) might be placed around the room to change its tone during special events such as day-long catechetical sessions. Large votive candles on tables can also contribute to a more prayerful atmosphere.

Placement of a wall clock.

If the room has a clock, the catechist should face it when teaching. This not only allows the catechist to keep to the schedule of the evening, but also minimizes clock-watching by participants.

All the above elements may be difficult for some parishes with limited resources to provide. Over the long history of the Church, catechesis has taken place, and the faith has been implanted and matured, in every setting imaginable. Less-than-ideal settings are merely less than ideal; they do not make transmission of the faith impossible nor should the parish RCIA process be curtailed because everything is not “perfect.”

The above can be found on pages 78-80 of the RCIA Leader’s Manual published by the Association for Catechumenal Ministry and distributed by Liturgy Training Publications.

Related Content

Are you trying to put together an RCIA team and don't know where to begin?

Join our email list and get free resources that outline the RCIA process. 

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.