By Simon Yeak – Sacramental Life & RCIA Coordinator. Life Marriage and Family – Archdiocese of Sydney
This year the Life Marriage and Family team of the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney had its first ever RCIA Certification Course. Having gone through the course that was run a few years ago by my predecessor before this most recent team was formed, I found it necessary to provide fresh formation and training modules to reach RCIA coordinators and volunteers.
The online delivery was inspired by the circumstances of the last three years. Since 2020, it goes without saying that we have had to become pseudo-experts in online conferencing, attending online Mass, and having meetings non-stop over Zoom. Having come from teaching theology in classrooms, I knew that this shift was necessary for the true Spirit of Vatican II to materialise in meeting modern men and women where they are at.
The fruit of this endeavour, from the 10 May to the 19 July, was beyond what I expected. Over 65 people across the entire Archdiocese, even some from visiting dioceses, participated in the six-session course held over twelve weeks. Of that 65 people, 35 have attended all six sessions and will be due to receive their certificate with the signature of His Grace Archbishop Anthony Fisher.
Despite the Church attendance significantly being down from before the lockdowns to after, this fervent desire to learn the RCIA process – which is the inspiration for ALL evangelisation in the Church – shows a renewal taking place within the parishes. If anything, the vision of Vatican II was being showcased. The participants felt the urgency of being aware of the gift of faith they received and held most of their lives, to being renewed in its vital importance against the backdrop of attacks on faith in recent times, to then Go Make Disciples in their dialogue with others (Cf. St Paul VI, Ecclesiam suam, sec. 9-12, 1964).
The participants ranged from clergy, religious, existing and new RCIA coordinators, and parish volunteers. In the early stages, I encountered comments such as, ‘I didn’t think this would be so complicated’ or questions like ‘why are there so many things to know when it comes to evangelising others?’ The simple answer was, ‘God is simple, yet we are complicated!’ As human beings, each of us has a story and background, which varies in complexity. Hence, why we need a framework inspired by Christ Himself in Sacred Scripture (Luke 24:13-34) and the early Church Fathers to meet modern men and women.
However, participants continued to participate and ask questions, realising that, yes, RCIA has many moving parts, but they all represent the stages of a relationship in coming to know Christ. The natural analogy I used was coming to know someone in courtship to marriage.
It seems like no coincidence that people in the ‘Period of the Precatechumenate’ are called enquirers, as they are enquiring about this Person, Jesus Christ. Thereafter, they make a choice of entering into a committed relationship with this Person in the ‘Period of the Catechumenate’, where they are now in a formal relationship with Him through the Church. Having lived an apprenticeship in the Christian life, they now make the decision to be engaged to Him, but ‘Purification and Enlightenment’ is needed before presenting oneself as a sincere gift to the other. Finally, they are united as One Body during Easter Vigil.
This analogy of relationship was taught to me by my Professor, Dr Lucas Pollice, and the participants were able to absorb the entire RCIA process through this mode of learning. The experience I had in delivering it this way was that the process was not watered down to purely head knowledge of learning about four periods, three major rites, and three formation aspects. It elevated the process to be a reflection of how Christ encounters us, to which we then encounter others. For information on the next RCIA Certification Course, please contact me at: email@example.com.