Possibly the Most Important Paragraph in a Church Document: RCIA #75

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Several years ago, a campaign began to invite former Catholics to return to the Church: Catholics Come Home. But did you ever ask, “What are folks coming home to? And why? What am I doing to help welcome them to my parish faith community?” People stop coming to church for a variety of reasons. The question is, are we inviting them back to the very same experience that caused them to leave in the first place?

The New Evangelization charges us with inviting people to a community that has a living, vibrant faith. In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey identified one of the seven habits as “begin with the end in mind.” In his own words, Covey said, “To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.”

So what is our “destination” in faith formation? Growing in discipleship!

One of the problems we have in faith formation is that we do not always have a clear understanding of that destination. Are we clear about what we are initiating/apprenticing people into? For help in developing a clearer sense of our destination, we need look no further than Paragraph 75 of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults—what could possibly be the most important “paragraph” ever written in a Church document. “Paragraph” 75 (actually five paragraphs) tells us that the formation that takes place in the RCIA is aimed at training catechumens in the Christian way of life, emphasizing four key areas:

  1. Participation in suitable catechesis accommodated to the liturgical year—Such formation is focused not simply on doctrine and dogmas but is to be an immersion into the “mystery of salvation.”
  2. Introduction into the Christian “way of life”—This apprenticeship is designed to introduce people to a life of prayer, bearing witness to the faith, centering their hopes on Christ, seeking “supernatural inspiration” in their deeds (i.e. “finding God in all things”), and practicing love of neighbor.
  3. Immersion into meaningful Catholic worship—This formation focuses on leading people into the Paschal Mystery of Christ.
  4. Participation in the Church’s mission—This formation focuses on the outward thrust of Catholic faith.

Before you dismiss the above as directed only at the RCIA, keep in mind that the General Directory for Catechesis tells us that the catechumenate (RCIA) is to be “the model for all catechesis” and that formation in the RCIA “should inspire the other forms of catechesis in both their objectives and in their dynamism.” With that in mind, in order for all of our parish faith formation and evangelization efforts to be effective, parishes must look to RCIA #75 and pause to ask: How are folks in our parish…

  • experiencing opportunities to grow in their understanding and experience of the mystery of faith?
  • participating in a life of prayer and good works? (practicing a Christian lifestyle, a Catholic “way of proceeding?”)
  • experiencing quality liturgy and worship opportunities?
  • bringing the Good News of Jesus to others in word and deed?

With a clear focus on what discipleship is supposed to look like, we can more effectively apprentice and initiate others into a living, vibrant faith that is supported by a living, vibrant faith community.

With Confirmed in the Spirit, catechists are equipped to personally make an impact on young people as living witnesses of discipleship in Jesus Christ and are assisted in engaging young people in authentic interaction and mature faith sharing.

About Joe Paprocki 2742 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.


  1. Yes — thank you for reminding us of this great paragraph! A greater focus on these four points would go a long way towards helping us escape the “classroom” model of faith formation and form the whole person (not just the intellect) for discipleship.

  2. YES! Joe, as usual, you get right to the meat of the matter. This is one of the most concise and inspiring prescriptions for what ails us as human beings and as a church. This is our strategic plan in a nutshell. If we can make a point of experiencing these things regularly ourselves and providing them excellently and widely for others we could become in our daily lives who we actually are when we gather as the Body of Christ.

  3. Terrific article Joe. Whenever I cite that line about providing a “suitable catechesis” (75.1), people always want to know what the church means by “suitable.” I used to answer that our catechesis is suitable if it enables the seekers “suit up” and live the kind of life described in the rest of paragraph 75. But at the 2013 World Youth Day, Pope Francis gave a better answer. (I don’t think he had his copy of the RCIA open when he said this, but it still applies.)

    “It is important to devise and ensure a *suitable formation,* one which will provide persons able to step into the night without being overcome by the darkness and losing their bearings; able to listen to people’s dreams without being seduced and to share their disappointments without losing hope and becoming bitter; able to sympathize with the brokenness of others without losing their own strength and identity.”

    If we take up the pope’s challenge of accompaniment, we will provide a catechesis that suitably teaches seekers how to “step into the night without being overcome by the darkness.”

  4. I appreciate receiving your email. The information is always important and very interesting. I am physically confined and unable to do anything other than be with the people that I live with, in an assisted living situation, (a building attached to my convent. I am a Sister of St. Joseph, TOSF.

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