Introduction to Catechetical Leaders
The wonderful thing about being a catechetical minister is that the Holy Spirit is using you to help bring enlightenment, reconciliation, and grace into the lives of other people. The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA)1 has a broad outline of a process; each inquirer comes into that process in a unique way. The broad outline-Inquiry, Catechumenate, Purification and Enlightenment, and Mystagogy-means something different in the life of each person who approaches the Catholic Church seeking initiation or the completion of her or his initiation.
The whole process has one purpose (as do all the ministries of the Word of God): to form disciples who are able to help others seek and discover faith. This journey, accomplished by the Holy Spirit, unfolds in different ways according to the gifts, experiences, and desires of the catechumens and candidates (and, actually, all adults being formed in faith). Because the process has discipleship for its end, serving in this ministry means helping people ask, search, share, and discover. The catechumenal process (and adult faith formation) can never be primarily about providing information; rather, it is primarily about providing a setting in which people integrate their discovery of God's love more deeply into their lives through listening, reflecting, sharing, and praying.
PATHWAYS IN FAITH is a resource for you to use flexibly with people who are being initiated into the Church or, in some cases, people seeking full communion with the Church whose past experience leaves significant gaps in their formation for discipleship. The materials can also be used for broader adult faith formation. PATHWAYS IN FAITH is basically a format for opening up essential Catholic themes through a process that allows participants to grow in awareness of themselves and of God's presence in their lives.
PATHWAYS IN FAITH is meant to be an interactive experience. While each of the sessions contains a set format, each module comes with its own video introduction-one for each of the twelve modules-and each participant will have an opportunity to take part in a webinar on the topic of the module. These webinars will be scheduled monthly.
Each session is self-contained so that ministers can employ them as she or he sees them helping the most. They are organized around certain thematics-Welcome, Inquiry-Precatechumenate, Catechumenate-Encounter, Accompany, and Send-that deliberately employ the vision of Catholic leaders of evangelization and form a basis for missionary discipleship. Catechetical leaders need to remember that the processes called "Welcome" and "Inquiry" do not have a fixed timeline or specific content. In fact, people may need a lot of time for Inquiry as they seek to discover their own personal call from God.
In the "Welcome" section, the emphasis is on the personal situation of the inquirer and some initial reflections that the inquirer might have about what she or he is searching for. The emphasis must be on the person and her or his personal search. Some orientation to the place of prayer and the Scriptures is included as well.
In the "Inquiry/Precatechumenate" section, participants have an opportunity to look at the unfolding of the basic Good News that Catholics proclaim so that they can explore the fundamental commitments of Catholic faith. This section presents more about the Scriptures and prayer as well as the fundamentals of the Paschal Mystery. This period is technically a "precatechumenate," which leads to a sense of conversion sufficient enough to admit someone to the Catechumenate. Obviously, the RCIA calls for a clear distinction between those already baptized and those who, being unbaptized, are catechumens in the strict sense. This ministry insists that we not treat baptized people as if they are somehow the same as unbaptized people.
In the "Catechumenate-Encounter" section, the material builds upon what was affirmed during Inquiry, deepening the questions about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit and affirming the doctrine of the Trinity. These culminate with sessions on the Sacraments of Initiation, including the Eucharist. In addition, this section covers approaches to moral life, sin, and grace. Throughout this section, inquirers can deepen their sense of encountering the God of Jesus.
In the "Enlightenment-Accompany" section-really an extension of the Catechumenate but with a view toward "Election" and "Purification and Enlightenment"-the material treats the ways in which we accompany each other on pathways of faith as a Church as well as those Sacraments by which Catholics are empowered to accompany each other as married people or people in Holy Orders. This section also leads to expectations of the Kingdom and the fullness of life and love that underlies all Christian hope.
In the final section, "Mystagogy-Send," which arises from the ways that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops articulates evangelization, notions of being a missionary disciple and having a story to tell others receive emphasis. These sections might also be suitable for the Mystagogy period after the Sacraments of Initiation have been received.
PATHWAYS IN FAITH is not an "RCIA program" and makes no claims to be a complete introduction to Catholic life. Rather, PATHWAYS IN FAITH provides resources to supplement a broader catechetical process crafted under a trained catechist. The catechumenal process is in no way solely the communication of information and teaching; rather this communication happens as one aspect of the journey of each participant. The journey-focused on relationship, belonging, searching, finding, and prayer-is the uppermost priority of catechumenal ministry.
PATHWAYS IN FAITH presumes that catechetical ministers will supplement these sessions with formal ways of presenting Church teaching. Because it does not purport to be an exhaustive presentation of Catholic teaching, an "imprimatur" was deemed unnecessary. But it presents references to established articulations of the faith.
Each session, for example, contains references to catechetical resources for further exploration on the part of the participants. These resources include: Catechism of the Catholic Church (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Vatican City, 1994), referred to as CCC; United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, revised edition (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC, 2019), referred to as USCCA; and various other Church documents. We also suggest that catechetical leaders use Invitation: The Search for God, Self and Church by Rev. Alfred McBride, O. Praem. (Paulist Evangelization Ministries, Washington, DC, 2015) for a concise approach to various themes.
Look through these PATHWAYS IN FAITH and see the ways it can help you in your ministry of bringing others to the fullness of a life of faith.
1 The upcoming new translation of the Church's rites for initiation will be called "Order of Christian Initiation of Adults." In view of this change, the acronym RCIA will be replaced by OCIA.
2 "Living as Missionary Disciples: A Resource for Evangelization" (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops,
Washington, DC, 2017)