With a new director of RCIA in our parish for next year (the previous one moved away) we have the opportunity to reflect on the ideals and the practicalities of planning for the coming year. The most obvious issue for planning is the length of the process. In this parish for many years the model used has been based on starting in mid September and finishing around the beginning of June. This model has some positive aspects. The planning is fairly simple and the demands on staff and volunteers, although extensive, are not excessive.
There are, of course, some drawbacks to this model for RCIA. The length of the program is an obvious problem. If the catechumens and candidates are to have a "full" catechesis as called for by the rite there is simply not enough time provided by this model. Secondly, as Thomas Morris points out in THE RCIA TRANSFORMING THE CHURCH, this model imposes itself over the individual needs of the prospective members of the Church. If someone inquires about joining the Church in December should you require them to wait almost a year to begin RCIA? So the ideal seems to be to have a program that is longer than the one we have and, again ideally, to have a way for inquirers to join at any time.
Despite the obvious desirability of trying a different model for RCIA for the coming year I think that I am in favor of maintaining our current model. One reason is simply because in addition to a new director of RCIA we will also likely have a new pastor. Secondly, a more expansive model requires significantly more involvement from volunteers in order to succeed. In the past few years we have had problems recruiting sponsors (despite significant efforts) and our RCIA team remains relatively small. The danger is that expanding the demands on these people, however desireable that is, might simply lead to volunteer burnout. What needs to be done in the coming year is to do some things to educate the parish about the role that RCIA could play in the faith life of the community. If we could simply reinforce the basic understanding that adult initiation is the work of the entire community we might have the sponsors and the volunteers that we need to make more basic changes in the future.