Liturgy Matters: October 19 - What a wonderful day! Fanning the Flame of RCIA Workshop Day

Well here we are on the other side of Saturday October 19, our RCIA workshop day with Nick Wagner and Diana Macalintal. About 75 people participated from across the diocese and from a range of ministries concerned with Initiation. What a wonderful day we had. It feels like a watershed moment that has indeed contributed to fanning the flame of RCIA in our Church of Maitland-Newcastle. What follows are some beginning reflections.

‘Where did you see God this week?’ Such a simple question to be central to RCIA. I wonder how our Church might change if we all asked ourselves this question at the end of every day, at the beginning of every meeting … what sharing and deepened relationships might flow from that. 

Nick and Diana were wonderful leaders of our workshop day. They not only opened our eyes and hearts to the vision of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, they also presented clear pastoral strategies that enable communities to embed the vision in their life, worship and mission. This made the day both confronting and exciting.

We met five ‘characters’ who Nick and Diana used to help us imagine how we ensure the seekers who come to our communities are placed on a path that meets their needs and is focused on relationship with Jesus and conversion. There was Mike, Alex, Fred, Jane and someone else whose name escapes me. I warmed to Fred the Lutheran! This was a great strategy to help us get our heads around what can be very complex questions. We engaged in activities that challenged us to put ourselves in the shoes of those who come seeking. We were challenged to feel their need and desire. Gemma, Meryl and Kris demonstrated the power of listening and empathy in the ministry of accompaniment that seeks to initiate seekers into our Catholic way of life, a life focused on WORD, COMMUNITY, WORSHIP and WITNESS.

Nick and Diana also opened our eyes to the wisdom the Rite for Christian Initiation of Adults offers the ministry of initiation in all its forms and the essential ministry of evangelisation including in our schools. This is an exciting field to ponder and explore.

In deepening our understanding of the vision and practice of RCIA, Nick and Diana invited us into our own journey of conversion. There was no imperative to ‘go home and change everything!’ Rather there was an invitation to reimagine what we are doing and to identify steps that might begin a journey that over a number of years will align our pastoral practice with the vision of the Rite.

And as we all go ‘home’ to reflect on Saturday and consider how we might start this journey, the best thing is we know we are not alone. We have 75 companions. Each of us will remember different things, have different insights and ask different questions. And that will strengthen how we work together from here to continue to fan the flame of RCIA in our Church.   

The newly formed Diocesan Liturgy Forum: Christian Initiation is gathering tomorrow afternoon to begin its reflection on Saturday.  Members of the Forum are:

  • Amber Carter
  • Mary-Anne de Luca
  • Fiona Duque
  • Rose McAllister
  • Lucy Sneesby-Tooth
  • Gemma Spradbrow-Hunt

You will recall that some months ago we invited expressions of interest from anyone who felt a call to this ministry. By a process of discernment, the Diocesan Liturgy Council then appointed people to the Forum. The reason there is no male member is because no males expressed interest. We will seek to address this over time. For the time being I am convening the Forum and Fr. Andrew is assisting with Formation. 

I have been excited about Saturday for months and I was not disappointed in the least. RCIA is focused on the essence of who we are, how we live and what we do. From that perspective it can hardly be considered optional. It addresses our core business – evangelisation and Initiation. ‘Go therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptise them … and teach them … I am with you always.  (Mt 28: 19) 

The feedback from the day is all positive. There are a lot of conversations happening all around the place. Thank you to those who completed evaluations on the day. If you still have your evaluation and would like to submit it please fill it in, scan it and email it to Sharon

We would love to use your reflections on the day for promoting further formation and RCIA itself. If you are interested in writing a short paragraph we would be grateful.  The following questions offer a guide only:

  • What did you find enjoyable and helpful about the day? 
  • What was one important thing you learnt or came to realise?
  • What question are you left ponding? 
  • What action do you feel called to?

Please send your reflections to Sharon.

Interestingly, nearly everyone who spoke with me identified the same core challenge: the conversion of the existing worshipping community to a deeper appreciation of its identity and ministry as evangelisers and initiators. These ministries are not the ministries of the RCIA team. We are all responsible by virtue of our baptism. There is a lot to ponder there.   

Finally, Nick and Diana were not just great facilitators and teachers, they have become our friends. And guess what? They are back in Australia next year around August. I am exploring possibilities to have them back in our diocese. They would like to work with us again. 

Saturday was a threshold moment. It stands on the shoulders of the good ministry and wonderful people who have lived and breathed RCIA for countless years.  And it looks to the future, shaped by an ever deepening understanding of the Rite, inviting us to embrace our responsibility to fan the flame of RCIA in our Church. We accompany each other and we know Christ is with us. Did you notice how relevant the readings were on Sunday? How amazing was that!  

Jess took some great photos.  You can view those here:

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Louise Gannon rsj Image
Louise Gannon rsj

Louise Gannon rsj is the Diocesan Manager of Worship and Prayer.