There is a LOT of material out there on the catechumenate, much of it focusing on the RCIA (= RC catechumenate rites and commentary). It can be and often is overwhelming to the “inquirer” into the process, the person or persons in a congregation who want to begin.
There are two critical questions to answer before a team “takes the plunge.”
- What is the catechumenate process?
- How do WE practice this ministry?
The what can be answered by reading some basic books (see biblio at end).
The how, by actually beginning. You learn by doing. You are a channel of God’s “work,”of God’s grace. Some person(s) may leave the process. That happened to Jesus too (reflect on Judas and/or the young man who went away saddened when he couldn’t “take” Jesus’ response to his questions). Recognition that the inquiry and the catechumenate phases/periods of the process are open ended, i.e. there is no set time until “graduation,” will free you from taking responsibility for other persons’ decisions to step back from or out of the process.
We “suffer conversion.” It ain’t easy. “Repentance” means changing your life. It is continual (the Church is chuck full of sinners). But it begins somewhere and that is with hearing the Divine call, whether a whisper or a pull. But the inquirer or the catechumen may shrink back, and sometimes repeatedly, before making that commitment that we celebrate with the Rite of Election/Enrollment. An open ended process allows God to work in the convert.
Dan Benedict reminds us that the catechumenal process only needs three central ministers (I’ll add the reference later): the catechumenate/candidate, the sponsor and the catechist. The “officiant” who leads the congregation in the prayers of the various rites, the congregation itself, the preacher, etc. are all important (see The Catechumenate Needs Everybody; LTP, Chicago; ). But “in the beginning” you need three.
And here’s the cool thing: if you don’t have a catechumen/candidate, your catechist(s) can start by practicing lectio divina on the Gospels, alone or with others. And your team of however many or few can take more time to study, reflect, discuss. But you will be ready when an inquirer knocks on your door because you will be steeping yourself in the catechumenal journey that Jesus guided his disciples on.
For me all this assumes a commitment to a year-round catechumenal process. That way you can truly be ready to receive and minister when someone knocks on your door rather than saying, “come back in September” (or November, or January or whenever you decide to begin). It assumes a catechist who knows the Christian Tradition, including the Scriptures, who knows theology (to some extent or other), who knows church history, who knows the “ethos” or culture of the denomination (through hymns, liturgical practices and other ways of praying together). Is this a huge demand? Maybe. But again, primary is insight and appreciation of what Jesus did after the disciples responded positively to “Come, follow me!”
But I am beginning to make it too scary. Pray and plunge in! Start NOW!
v The Bible
v Book of Occasional Services. Church Publishing, 2003.
v Welcome to Christ: Lutheran Rites for the Catechumenate. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1997.
v Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1988.
v Come to the Waters: Baptism & Our Ministry of Welcoming Seekers & Making Disciples. Benedict, Daniel T., Jr. Discipleship Resources, 2002.
v Year-Round Catechumenate. Birmingham, Mary. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 2003.
v A Harvest for God: Christian Initiation in the Rural and Small-Town Parish. Clay, Michael. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 2003.
v Walking Together in Faith: A Workbook for Sponsors of Christian Initiation. Morris, Thomas H. New York: Paulist Press, 1992.
v The Catechumenal Process: Adult Initiation & Formation for Christian Life and Ministry. (the yellow book) New York: The Church Hymnal Corporation, 1990.
v The Prayer Book Guide to Christian Education. Pearson, Sharon Ely, and Robyn Szoke. 3rd edition. New York: Morehouse Publishing, 2009.
v A Catechumenate Needs Everybody: Study Guides for Parish Ministers. Wilde, James A. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1988.
v Prayer and Temperament: Different Prayer Forms for Different Personality Types. Chester Michael & Marie Norrisey. Charlottsville, VA. The Open Door, Inc, 1991
v “ArchBishop Collins on Lectio Divina”
You Tube: ocam.org/eu/content/lectio/what-lectio-divina
v “Come to the Water” (DVD) USCCB