Around 50 diocesan and parish representatives gathered from across England and Wales recently to explore how best to support and accompany people who are seeking meaning and purpose in their lives, and making enquiry as a first step in the process of becoming a Catholic.
Organised by the National Executive of the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) Network, the focus of the conference, on 4 – 6 July at the High Leigh Conference centre in Hertfordshire, was ‘Opening the doors of faith: Equipping the Team for the Period of Inquiry’. During the three-day event attendees were invited to reflect on the Bible story of the Road to Emmaus (Luke’s Gospel, 24: 13 - 36) and to identify what they could learn from Christ and the disciples, in relation to their own ministry to faith enquirers.
Caroline Dollard, Convenor of the National RCIA Network, said: “As a prelude to the Year of the Faith, the Network wanted to affirm the Church’s vision of the Rite, and in particular, the first stage, as an integral framework for parish evangelisation – offering a warm, hospitable, generous accompaniment of enquirers, encouraging those first stirrings of faith, as together we meet and engage with the person of Jesus Christ and what he is offering. The conference organising team have been greatly encouraged by the enthusiastic response from everyone who came and took part. The spirit of joy was tangible.”
Six workshops were offered at the conference, which aimed to offer practical insights in relation to working with faith enquirers at parish level: ‘Sharing experiences with First Holy Communion parents and faith enquiry’; ‘A presentation of the Archdiocese of Liverpool’s new resource for Baptism based on the RCIA journey’; ‘How to work an effective RCIA in a group of parishes’; ‘Wisdom on prayer in the Period of Enquiry’; ‘Exploring how the Year of Faith can benefit parish mission’.
Attendee, Canon Tom McHugh, from St Joseph’s Parish in Kent, said: “This was a truly refreshing experience for me. I have been part of the RCIA Network since the early 1980s. Now a new generation is animating people, who are ministering at grassroots in parishes, to draw on the wisdom of the RITE and to allow it to inform pastoral practice at every level of initiation, children as well as adults. Now more than ever we value the encouragement and support of our Bishops, particularly as we prepare to enter the Year of Faith, and it is good to see the ways in which Network is developing relationships with Bishops’ Conference Departments at national, diocesan and parish level.”
Meanwhile fellow attendee, Frances Massey, from Our Lady of Lourdes and St Peter Chanel Parish in Hull, said: “The conference was a wonderful opportunity to share experiences and learn from others who are involved in the RCIA.”
Fr Michael Keogh from St Patrick’s in Thornaby said: “It’s put new heart into the vision of RCIA and given all of us great encouragement for the future.”
More information about the RCIA Network is available from: http://www.rcia.org.uk/