31 May 2012
This year is the 40th anniversary of the introduction of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) which will be celebrated with a gathering in Auckland next month.
If you have not witnessed an adult receiving the sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil Mass recently it is perhaps easy to forget that not all Christians are baptised as babies. Yet from the beginning of the Church many adults chose to follow Christ. In fact Mary the ‘First Disciple’, Ss Peter, Paul, Mary Magdalene and the rest all became disciples as adults – not to mention such later saints as Augustine and Perpetua. Today in Africa, for example, Christianity is expanding dramatically.
In 1910 Christians made up 9 percent of the continent’s population. Today it is around half. Catholics comprise more than 135 million of these. Many are adult converts.
It was partly in recognition of this trend that the Second Vatican Council recommended the restoration of the catechumenate, the ancient process for bringing new members into the Church. This was done in 1972 with the introduction of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).
Even in our so-called secular society there are still many people searching for meaning in their lives. As Catholics we believe that meaning is best found in the person and gospel of Jesus Christ and this is why the Catholic Church exists – to spread the Good News.
Every parish or pastoral area should have a functioning RCIA process to meet the needs of adults seeking baptism, confirmation and Eucharist, just as they have programmes for first Reconciliation and first Communion for children baptised as babies.
To mark the RCIA anniversary and the forthcoming Year of Faith, the National RCIA Network has organised a national gathering in July. At this gathering Archbishop John Dew, on behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, will launch a new policy document.
This will provide norms for the implementation of the RCIA in Aotearoa New Zealand. There will also be keynote addresses and workshops designed to ‘share the successes, face the challenges and name the issues’.
Publicity about the national RCIA gathering and registration forms will be in parishes about now. Whether you wish to develop an existing RCIA process or to start one afresh, this is a great opportunity to learn more and to share expertise.
The gathering is at the St Columba Centre in Ponsonby, Auckland July 21-23. See www.rcia.org.nz for more information.