RCIA conference focuses on celebrating the rites
By Kiply Lukan Yaworski
SASKATOON — Celebrating all the rites of the Christian initiation
process in a way that engages and evangelizes both those who are being
initiatied and the parish community as a whole was the challenge placed
before parish representatives and ministry co-ordinators from across
Western Canada May 25-26 in Saskatoon.
The 22nd annual Western Conference for the Catechumenate was held at Holy Spirit Parish, organized by WCC founder Msgr. Michael Koch, who died just two weeks before the conference began (see related article).
Using story and example, Galipeau challenged his listeners to thoughtully
and creatively prepare for and celebrate all the rites, taking into account
the spiritual journey of each catechumen, the given liturgical space
and the character of the parish community.
For instance, in the Rite of Acceptance Into the Order
of Catechumens, it is important to think about how to create the liturgical
outside to inside,” he said. The rubrics call for the inquirers
to be “outside” — whether that is standing outdoors,
in the vestibule or in a gathering area — at the beginning of the
celebration and then during the rite, have them brought into the worship
“If members of the assembly can move outside the church to greet
and welcome the candidates, that would be ideal,” Galipeau said.
He invited his listeners to envision the effect of the assembly being
told that newcomers are waiting to come in and being asked to go forth
and warmly welcome them, drawing them into the building.
Galipeau encouraged preparing those being welcomed into
the catechumenate — not
with any kind of rehearsal (which should only involve sponsors and liturgical
leaders), but by talking about the meaning of the liturgical action and
discussing in detail the questions that will be asked.
“Let them know they will be asked the questions and ask them to
prepare simple responses from the heart,” he advised, noting the
impact of this personal testimony for both the new catechumens and the
Galipeau called for the use of “full robust symbols” — for
instance, signing the senses (forehead, ears, eyes, lips, heart, shoulders)
with broad gestures, not the thumb.
“Consider placing the candidates in the aisles, among the assembly,” he
said, stressing that it is the community that is doing the initiation.
In a similar way he went through each of the rites, making
suggestions about preparation, spiritual readiness and discernment and
full and active celebration — from the diocesan Rite of Election with its calling
of the names, affirmation by the godparents and assembly, and the enrolment
of names; to the parish-based presentations of the Creed and Lord’s
Prayer, the lenten scrutinies, and finally, the celebration of the Triduum,
including the Easter Vigil and the reception of sacraments.
He also examined how to celebrate the rites for baptized
candidates — which
are different than those for unbaptized catechumens. The candidates are
already members of the Christian church by virute of their baptism, and
so the initiation process is different.
Galipeau is author of Apprenticed to Christ: Activities for practising the Catholic Way of Life and editor of the book, The Impact of RCIA: Stories, Reflections, Challenges. He is associate publisher at World Library Publications in Franklin Park, Ill., and before that he served for 15 years as director of liturgy and music at parishes in Florida and Illinois. He is also a past chair of the board of directors of the North American Forum on the Catechumenate.