Australian Catechumenate Network - 11th May 2014

The Australian Catechumenate Network will hold its biennial national conference in Queensland in August. “What is the Australian Catechumenate Network?” I hear you ask.

The word “catechumenate” refers to the Christian formation offered to those who seek to become members of the Catholic Church. This process, which can last from a few months to a few years, prepares adults for baptism and lives of discipleship. Through this process, many new members were initiated into the Church at the recent Easter ceremonies.

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 envisaged something quite different from the “instruction” program that was in place at the time.

The revised process of initiation was a gradual journey, with liturgical rites celebrated at various stages along the way. Catechesis was to be “well-suited”, that is, tailored to the needs of the individual. The new approach to adult initiation 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.

Most dioceses have an agency or a dedicated person to support and guide parishioners who work with adults seeking initiation into the Church and to provide resources for parish RCIA teams and/or coordinators. In the Archdiocese of Brisbane, that body is the Archdiocesan Catechumenate Committee.

There is a national body which promotes the practice of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, the Australian Catechumenate Network (ACN). The ACN is made up of Australian pastoral ministers, liturgists, catechists, theologians – anybody interested in the catechumenate.

The ACN is holding its biennial national conference in Townsville from 7th to 10th August this year. The theme for the conference is Celebrating Initiation: RCIA into the 21st Century. Presentations and workshops will focus on the key themes of Liturgy, Ministry and Mission.

Keynote speaker for the conference is well known writer and liturgist Fr Paul Turner, pastor of St Anthony Parish in Kansas City, Missouri whose publications include Celebrating Initiation: A Guide for Priests and At the Supper of the Lamb.

What a boost it would be to the catechumenate in this State if parishes across Queensland took advantage of this wonderful opportunity for those involved in RCIA ministry to learn, network, grow and be inspired!

There is just less than three weeks left to catch the early bird conference fee. Don’t miss out! Full details, including a registration form, can be found on the Australian Catechumenate Network website www.ozcatechumenate.org.

The ACN website is worth a visit for other reasons too. It has information about the catechumenate in Australia and offers a wealth of resources including interesting articles, 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.

Elizabeth Harrington