BY JESSICA GAPASIN DENNIS
[NOTE FROM JESSICA 4/16/18:] For those of you who are following along with #The100DayProject, here’s an example of a post that has been sitting in my Drafts folder. Since 2015 😳. I have no idea why it’s been sitting there for so long, it was basically done. So. For those of you who have been on the edge of their seats waiting for someone to write the most riveting blog post about Children’s RCIA, this post is for you 🙂
One of the ministries that I spent most of my time developing and fine-tuning during my time in parish ministry was the Children’s RCIA process. Not only was I fortunate enough to have a predecessor who knew the Rite backwards and forwards, but I was also fortunate to have been around when the North American Forum on the Catechumenate was still active (my liturgy professor was constantly encouraging those of us going into parish ministry to use them as a resource), and so I got a chance to attend their Focus on Initiation institutes, Concerning the Baptized and Children & Christian Initiation.
Below, you’ll find some practical tips for overseeing a year-round Catechumenate for children (which, in most cases, can also apply to your adult RCIA process), as well as some resources that I constantly found myself going back to. Links throughout are from my go-to RCIA resource, TeamRCIA.com.
When I began coordinating the RCIA process for children, the following was already in place:
- Inquiry Sessions, which were an hour in length, were held for children/teens ages 8-18 every other week, year-round, walk-ins welcome.
- Parents who contacted the faith formation office regarding sacrament preparation and whose child(ren) fell within the criteria for Children’s RCIA (see below) were invited, along with their child(ren), to meet with the RCIA Coordinator for an initial interview. The purpose of the initial interview was to get a sense of where on their faith journey the child was, as well as to give an overview of what is involved in the RCIA process.
- Criteria for Children’s RCIA: Children/teens ages 8-18 who are:
- 1) unbaptized and seeking full initiation into the Catholic Church;
- 2) baptized Christian (non-Catholic) seeking to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church;
- 3) baptized Catholic as an infant with no further faith formation/religious education and seeking to complete their initiation into the Catholic Church OR4) baptized Catholic as an infant and celebrated first Eucharist with no further faith formation/religious education and seeking to complete their initiation into the Catholic Church).
- Those who were in the Period of the Catechumenate were asked to participate in weekly Catechetical Sessions. Catechetical Sessions lasted 1 hour, 15 minutes and took place before the Mass where Dismissal took place. Both catechumens and candidates in the Period of the Catechumenate were asked to be present and sit together at the same Mass; only the unbaptized catechumens (and in some instances, uncatechized baptized candidates) were asked to participate in the Dismissal Session. To read more about who and who is not dismissed from Mass, click here. (Note: While the Catechetical Session is technically supposed to take place after the Dismissal Session, this accommodation was made so that participants weren’t out until 8:00pm on a Sunday night.)
- Celebrations of the Rite of Welcome and Rite of Acceptance were scheduled during Masses at various times throughout the year so that participants had the opportunity to publicly celebrate their move into the Period of the Catechumenate when they were ready.
Tips, Forms & Recommended Resources
#1) Get organized with an RCIA Planning Timeline.
- MARCH: Work with Director of Liturgy and Adult Faith Formation Coordinator to schedule all Rites of Welcome/Rites of Acceptance for the upcoming liturgical year.
- MAY: Create At-a-Glance Calendars for each period, to be distributed to families of inquirers and catechumens/candidates. For an example of a calendar for the Period of the Catechumenate, click here: Calendar_KidsRCIA
- JUNE: Create Topic Schedules for Catechetical Sessions, to be distributed to RCIA catechists and families.
#2) Get everyone on the same page by keeping them informed at each critical step. Some ways to do this are:
- Provide informational packets at the initial interview with a general overview of what the RCIA process is and who it’s for. Here’s what I included:
- A welcome/cover letter
- “How Do I Become Catholic?,” a brochure from LTP.
Parent Informational Meeting
- Scheduled at multiple times throughout the year, after the Mass where dismissals normally take place. Ideal time is Easter season, late summer (when parents are beginning to think of enrolling their child in religious education)
- Provide an overview of the RCIA process (I compare the RCIA process to getting married, and compare Inquiry to dating someone and the Catechumenate to engagement).
- Materials given for review: Handout: The Period of Inquiry
- Parent is asked to schedule time for child’s initial interview.
Initial Interview with Pastoral Staff Member
- Assessment of child’s status. Maybe this could be deferred to another time with a staff member who is assigned to the child.
For DRE/RCIA Team
- A Child’s Journey: The Christian Initiation of Children by Rita Burns Senseman (1998) – I used the Interview Form at the back of this book for the initial interview.
- http://teamrcia.com/rcia-with-children/ Team RCIA has a wealth of information on RCIA as a whole. Highly recommend!
- Year-Round Catechumenate – Mary Birmingham
- Children and Christian Initiation by Kathy Coffey: Parent/Sponsor Book (2002)
- When Your Child Becomes Catholic: What Parents and Sponsors Need to Know by Rita Burns Senseman (2000) – I’m sure there’s a more updated version of this out, but this is what we gave to parents and sponsors. There was a list of bible stories in this book that I would refer to during interviews as well, as a gauge of how much parents talked about their faith in the home.
For Dismissal/Catechetical Sessions: