There is no substitute for parishes. Clergy and religious don’t initiate on their own. Neither do specialized groups, associations, or extra-parish communities. Their members might inspire seekers. But parishes celebrate the full range of sacraments and possess the community to get the task done. This is even true of small communities without resident pastors.
The Aparecida bishops speak well of RCIA here:
293. The parish must be the place where Christian initiation is assured. Its unavoidable tasks include:
- initiating insufficiently evangelized baptized adults into Christian life;
- educating baptized children in the faith in a process that leads them to complete their Christian initiation;
- and initiating the non-baptized who upon hearing the kerygma, desire to embrace the faith.
In this task, studying and assimilating the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is a necessary focal point and secure support.
It may be that individuals and parishes have a flawed view of what RCIA is and what it can accomplish. You may notice that lassoing baptized Christians into Catholicism isn’t part of the above list. This is not an omission. Remember, this document is about evangelization, not chasing after low-hanging fruit. Or outdoing the Lutherans, Episcopalians, or others. Baptized Christians already have relationships with Jesus Christ.
In an ideal outlook, RCIA changes everything:
294. Taking on Christian initiation demands not only a renewal of the parish’s mode of catechesis. We propose that the formative catechetical process adopted by the Church for Christian initiation be assumed throughout the continent as the ordinary and absolutely necessary way of introduction into Christian life, and as basic and fundamental catechesis. It will be followed by ongoing catechesis which continues the process of maturing in the faith, which should encompass vocational discernment and offering enlightenment for the direction of one’s personal life.
294 is a deceptively important section that summarizes our discussion on Christian initiation. This proposal counteracts the tradition of catechesis that prevails in much of the Catholic world: that catechesis succeeds infant initiation and that a graduation event–either sacramental (First Communion, Confirmation) or age-level (Catholic grade school high school or college) concludes the process. We largely leave vocational discernment to an accident of what charismatic mentor one might meet. We rarely make the connection to daily life, where the primary drivers are the various models of business, sport, famous persons, self-help programs, or other secular concerns.
For deeper examination, an English translation of the 2007 document from the Aparecida Conference.