Adult Initiation

The Australian Catechumenate Network is currently (11 – 14 October) holding its biennial national conference in Brisbane. “What is the Australian Catechumenate Network?” you may well ask.
 
The word “catechumenate” refers to the Christian formation offered to those who seek to become members of the Catholic Church. This ancient process, which can last from a few months to a few years, prepares adults for baptism and lives of discipleship.
 
The Roman Catholic Church revived the catechumenate following the second Vatican Council with the promulgation of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). The RCIA was the final, and most thorough, revision of the Church’s sacramental rites. It envisaged something quite different from the “instruction” program that was in place at the time.
 
The process of initiation in future was to be a gradual journey, with liturgical rites celebrated at various stages along the way. Catechesis needed to be “well-suited”, that is, tailored to the needs of the individual - no “one-size-fits-all” any longer.
 
The new approach to adult initiation linked the practice of initiation with the experience of the first Christian communities. It outlined a hopeful vision for the church in the contemporary world.  It placed responsibility for the welcome and initiation of new members on all the baptised.
 
The RCIA is seeker-centred, God-driven, and focused on conversion rather than knowledge.  The process is gradual, public, involves the whole community, includes both catechesis and ritual, and requires prayerful discernment at various stages.
 
The key tenets in summary are:
 
The RCIA is the norm for the initiation of adults, young people, children and infants.
The RCIA is clearly visible in each parish through the involvement of the community, public celebration of its liturgical rites and the involvement of parishioners in its ministries. It is this visibility that is key to attracting new inquirers.
The implementation of the RCIA in the parish is entrusted to a team consisting of the pastor, a coordinator and a team of parish people representing a variety of gifts.
The focus of the RCIA is conversion. It is essentially about inner transformation rather than accessing information.
The task of the RCIA is preparation for active discipleship, not just simply membership.
 
The Australian Catechumenate Network (ACN) is a communication and support network for Australians who share the vision of the catechumenate. The ACN is made up of Australian pastoral ministers, liturgists, catechists, theologians and all those interested in the Catechumenate. Their purpose is to share the vision and promote the practice of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults through sharing ideas and challenges. ACN Membership is open to all Australians who have a commitment to and work with RCIA in Australia.
 
The ACN website (http://www.ozcatechumenate.org) has further information about the catechumenate in Australia and offers a wealth of resources including interesting articles and tools to help teams with the RCIA process and papers from previous conferences. RCIA teams around the country have contributed descriptions and photos of events they have held. The “Our Stories” section collates stories from people who have experienced the process and want to share the excitement with others. The ACN website is well worth a visit!
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Elizabeth Harrington