Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

August Initiation Ministry workshop will focus on RCIA process

by Mitch Finley, Inland Register staff

(From the July 30, 2009 edition of the Inland Register)

On Friday and Saturday, Aug. 28 and 29, a team member from the North American Forum on the Catechumenate will lead a workshop on initiation ministry at Spokane’s Immaculate Heart Retreat Center.

Carmelite Father Ron Oakham (left) will present “Up From the Waters: Formation for Initiation Ministry,” designed to aid all parish catechists, but especially those who work with their parish RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) programs.

Father Oakham is pastor of St. Cyril of Alexandria Parish in Tucson, Ariz. In addition to extensive parish ministry experience, he is the author of a book, One at the Table: The Reception of Baptized Christians, plus various articles published in the periodical Catechumenate: A Journal of Christian Initiation.

Father Oakham previously was Associate Director of Institutes for the North American Forum on the Catechumenate, and Archdiocesan Director of the Catechumenate for the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J.

“All catechesis should be inspired by the formation process” of RCIA, he said, so although the Spokane workshop will focus on the church’s process of initiation of adults, “persons involved with catechetical programs for children, teens, and/or adults could benefit from this experience.”

The workshop, Father Oakham said, “will include various formats of adult learning: input by the presenter, periods of personal reflection, small group sharing, and ritual prayer.”

Today, the Church intends catechesis for adults to be an apprenticeship, Father Okham said, “a learning about the Catholic Christian life while living it.” Child-centered catechesis, on the other hand, “is focused on preparing children to live as Catholic Christians.” For adults, catechesis is “more about formation in faith than instruction as they prepare to celebrate the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist). At the same time, it is not to ignore instruction, but to be sure that the instruction is associated with what they are experiencing in their faith journey.”

Father Oakham described today’s adult catechesis as “Lectionary-based.” Its starting point is “the Sunday Liturgy of the Word and the selections of Scripture found in the Lectionary.” From there, “we pass on the teachings, doctrines, precepts and traditions of the church which flow from our church’s understanding of these passages and which will enhance the participants’ understanding of the Catholic Christian life as they live it today.”

Many middle-aged and older Catholics remember when, for adults, becoming Catholic meant “taking instructions,” typically from a priest, in a series of one-on-one meetings.

RCIA functions differently. The concept is not new. “It flourished in the early centuries of the Christian community’s life when being Christian was not supported by the civic society.,” he said. “During the centuries when Christianity and society were very much in union, an extended process was not needed. (Then) in the 1940s and 1950s, missionaries in Africa recognized the need for a more holistic process of initiation than that which was being used in ‘Christianized’ countries. They appealed to the Vatican to be permitted to use a renewed form of the ancient church’s catechumenal process. Implementing this format for initiation brought great success in building up the Body of Christ, the Church, Africa.”

The Second Vatican Council, in the mid-1960s, saw the success of this restoration in Africa, as well as the beginnings of secularization in the so-called “developed” countries, where support structures for a Christian way of life were no longer prominent. So the Council, Father Oakham said, “called for the restoration of the catechumenate for the whole church. This catechetical-liturgical process seeks to form the whole person for living as a Christian in a secular society.”

(For more information, or to register for Father Oakham’s workshop, call Immaculate Heart Retreat Center, (509) 448-1224. The cost is $100 for a commuter with meals; $150 for overnight with meals; or $200 for two nights with meals and an extra breakfast. Information is also available on IHRC’s web site:

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