May 9, 2014

Evangelization Supplement

RCIA: ‘A strong connection to the work of evangelization’

By Natalie Hoefer

When it comes to the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), it would seem there is no need for evangelization.

After all, the people there have already decided they want to learn about the Catholic faith.

On the contrary, said Father Patrick Beidelman, executive director of the archdiocesan Secretariat for Spiritual Life and Worship.

“RCIA has a particularly strong connection to the work of evangelization,” he said. “It’s a process through which people discern if they want to choose Catholicism as a lifelong commitment.

“It helps us carry out Jesus’ command to ‘baptize all nations’ from Matthew 28.”

When looking at the RCIA process, Father Beidelman sees more than those discerning as being evangelized.

“As Catholics, when we accompany them well through RCIA, we ourselves can become more intentional, more active, more committed to our personal call to be disciples of Christ,” he said.

“It’s a beautiful way for us to grow in our own commitment to God and our faith family through witnessing others’ journey to the Church.”

Marian Knueven, director of faith formation at St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg, agrees with the concept of those working with RCIA growing through evangelization.

To illustrate the connection, she recalled something she heard a speaker say a few years ago that helped define evangelization.

“If you’re in conversation with someone for 15 minutes and get beyond the weather, chances are that that person has mentioned someone they’re in relationship with,” Knueven remembered the speaker saying.

“If we are in relationship with Christ, why would we not share that, too? What is our relationship with Christ, and are we willing to share that with others?

“Every parishioner is involved in RCIA whether they know it or not,” she continued. “Most of the time, it’s in what we’ve done, not said.

“But anyone who has a relationship with Christ is called by God to share the word of God. Those people [discerning the faith] are called by name by God, but also by neighbor, friend, co-worker.”

To reinforce the importance of evangelization in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults process, the archdiocesan Initiation Committee, headed by Father Beidelman, will provide an evangelization-focused day of reflection for parish RCIA leaders and team members.

The Initiation Committee is a group that oversees RCIA in central and southern Indiana. It is composed of archdiocesan catechetical leaders from various deaneries and others involved in bringing people into the Church, including Knueven.

According to Father Beidelman, the committee’s goal is “to support the work of RCIA in the archdiocese.”

“This year, we hope to give them a day of ongoing formation about discipleship, about the unique relationship between evangelization and RCIA,” he said.

To do that, the day will feature a speaker from the St. Catherine of Siena Institute, the co-founder of which is Sherry Weddell, author of Forming Intentional Disciples.

Father Beidelman said two components led to the decision to focus on evangelization for the day of reflection.

“One is the popularity of the book, Forming Intentional Disciples,” he said. “That book has just been a remarkable expression of how to transmit the living Catholic faith to future generations.

“Second is the focus on evangelization in the pope’s new apostolic exhortation [“Evangelii Gaudium” or “The Joy of the Gospel”]. It’s timely for us to consider the call of new evangelization in light of the work we do with RCIA in the archdiocese.”

The day of reflection for those involved in coordinating or assisting with their parish’s RCIA team will be held on June 14 at SS. Francis and Clare Parish in Greenwood.

“We envision that the morning would be something explicitly on evangelization in general, so anyone in the archdiocese would be invited,” said Father Beidelman.

The vision for the afternoon will be to focus on topics regarding Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, he added.

“[RCIA] is ongoing faith formation in relationship with Jesus Christ,” Knueven summarized. “The connection with evangelization just makes sense.”
 

(For more information on hearing the St. Catherine of Siena Institute speaker during the RCIA-related day of reflection, contact Christina Tuley at 317-236-1483 or 800-382-9836, ext. 1483, or by e-mail at ctuley@archindy.org.)

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