More than 170 RCIA directors, catechists come together for Diocesan Formation Day

by Michele Baker

North Texas Catholic

February 8, 2017

Catechists and RCIA directors listen to a talk during Diocesan Formation Day on Jan. 28. (NTC photo/Juan Guajardo)

 

FORT WORTH — Fans of the movie The Princess Bride will recall the character Vizzini’s constant interjections of “Inconceivable!” Eventually his accomplice Inigo Montoya replies, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

On Jan. 28, approximately 170 RCIA directors, coordinators, and catechists from around the Diocese of Fort Worth were invited to take a fresh look at the meaning and mission behind the RCIA programs in their parishes at the Diocesan Formation Day.

The annual event, hosted by St. Patrick Cathedral in Fort Worth this year, saw its largest turnout ever, which pleased Jason Whitehead, assistant director for Evangelization and Catechesis for the diocese.

“We’ve never had this many people come out,” said Whitehead, who is also RCIA director for St. Patrick Cathedral.  “And a lot of the catechists who came are brand new.”

Bill Keimig speaks to catechists and RCIA directors during Diocesan Formation Day. He is the assistant director of the Catechetical Institute at Franciscan University of Steubenville. (NTC photo/Juan Guajardo)

The purpose of the day, Whitehead told the NTC, is to provide continuing education for those who work with catechumens (those adults preparing to be baptized in the Church) and candidates going through RCIA and RCIA adapted for children.

“We’re trying to keep everyone informed and on the same page,” he said.  “We want to remind even the veteran catechists that the RCIA process takes place in stages, and to focus on evangelization and conversion over mere instruction.”

Marlon De La Torre, diocesan director of catechesis, emphasized that point in his opening remarks.

“Once a catechumen comes home to the Church their journey begins,” he said.  “It’s a lifelong process of conversion.”

Guest speaker Bill Keimig, who serves as the assistant director of the Catechetical Institute at Franciscan University of Steubenville, delved more deeply into that idea as he unpacked St. Pope John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation, Catechesi Tradendae (“On Catechesis in Our Time”), in his keynote titled, “The Necessity of Systematic and Organic Catechesis in the RCIA Journey.”

“Here ‘organic’ refers to the relationship between doctrines while ‘systematic’ catechesis is a gradual, incremental, and orderly presentation of the teachings of the Church,” Keimig said. “But doctrine is not an end in itself. Its purpose is to build a trust so that the catechumen may move forward to a life secure in the Father’s arms.”

Such an approach, Keimig noted, places particular emphasis on the catechist’s role as witness and facilitator to those inquiring into the faith. It further requires that those entrusted with the care of souls in this capacity remain focused on the teachings of the Church, rather than personal preferences or opinions about those teachings.

Maggie Gutierrez, evangelization consultant for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., delivers a talk on catechesis to Spanish-speaking RCIA directors on Jan. 28. (NTC Photo/Juan Guajardo)

“The only things that make it into the Catechism are those things that are essential and true,” he said. “They’ve come to Mother Church to learn what Mother Church teaches: certitudes.”

To that end, Keimig said, catechists have a responsibility to aggressively answer questions and help catechumens discern their readiness to participate in the rites of the Church.

Katharine O’Connor, RCIA Coordinator St. Michael Parish in Bedford and a catechist for more than 30 years, appreciated the course that Keimig charted that day.

She said, “I liked his balance of the relationship between catechesis and conversion; knowing each catechumen, honoring them, and laying before them the grace of faith.”

For Whitehead, such is the true meaning and mission of the RCIA.

“RCIA is a journey of faith for those who are on the journey and we are to be witnesses and mentors,” he said.

FORT WORTH — Fans of the movie The Princess Bride will recall the character Vizzini’s constant interjections of “Inconceivable!” Eventually his accomplice Inigo Montoya replies, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

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