LITURGY MATTERS: Christian Initiation Update

Where are we heading as a Christian community whose reason for existence is to proclaim the love of God and make disciples?    

It seems like quite some time ago that Nick Wagner and Diana Macalintal, from Team RCIA, joined us here in our Church of Maitland-Newcastle. They brought with them years of experience and left us with ideas on how we could move forward regarding the ministry of Christian Initiation in the diocese, and how it could be reimagined if we view all of it through the lens of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).

Much has happened in this space, albeit with a couple of mountains to climb, over the last several years. The Christian Initiation Forum has been busy. After two years of formation in the Rite and Mystagogical Reflection, it is exciting to hear that Mystagogical Reflection is becoming more known, used and loved. It has become the basis of our diocesan Lent and Advent programs thanks to Rose McAllister and her Formation and Education team.  

The purpose of the Christian Initiation Forum is to support all the faithful across our parishes, and the various parish Initiation teams, be they RCIA or Sacraments of Initiation of Children. Across the diocese hundreds of people minister in this space, serving selflessly, often without a break from one year to the next. We are growing the support we offer in response to need.   

Over recent years parish ministers of Christian Initiation have expressed a need for something that refreshes them and for formation on specific topics or questions. In response the Forum is establishing two annual days.

  • ‘Come Rest a While’ is a reflection day. It ran for the first time at Morpeth on Saturday 10 September 2023 and those who participated were grateful for the experience. The day provided participants with an opportunity to rest in God’s love, to get to know other ministers in the diocese and to share their experience of and questions about ministry. Last year’s flyer gives more information. ‘Come rest a While’ will run again this year on Saturday 9 September.
  • ‘Fireside Chat’ is shaping up as our annual formation day, so named because it will take place in winter. We are planning for Saturday 17 June in a nice warm venue. We have a list of formation topics people have nominated and we are yet to make the final choice for this year. This date claimer flyer gives you more information.  

Reimaging the Ministry of Christian Initiation

Since our time with Nick and Diana in October 2019 we have been immersing ourselves in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. When Vatican Council II called for the restoration of the adult journey of Christian Initiation, it imagined that this rite would sit at the heart of parish life, as the hinge around which everything would turn. We have all continued to struggle in this space, not only here but across our nation and indeed the world.

For years now we have heard the cry from parishes indicating that Christian Initiation – be it with children and their families or adults – is not working. Parishes are frustrated and to a large degree feel paralysed.

One of the great wisdoms of our day comes from Henry Ford who is reported to have said, ‘If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you got.’

The Christian Initiation Forum is desiring to accompany and support parishes who are ready to stop doing what they’ve always done, and want to reimagine the ministry of Christian Initiation through the lens of the RCIA.

A first step for those willing to take this journey is to immerse themselves in the wisdom of the RCIA.

To assist interested parishes and members of the faithful to immerse themselves anew in the RCIA, Fr Andrew Doohan and Louise have developed a formation process called Go Make Disciples. It has run several times and any parish or region in the diocese who would like to engage with this formation can contact Louise to arrange it. The flyer for the late 2022 formation that ran at Hamilton has more information. The experience of this group was very rich because it included members of a parish looking to start RCIA, and people from a variety of existing parish teams. The mix of new and experienced people made for a wonderful formation environment.

The next step has been reached by four parishes who have expressed a desire to  actively reimagine the ministry of Christian Initiation. In the latter part of 2022, a large group met twice to engage in exploratory conversation and review a range of resources from around the country. Since then, the Christian Initiation Forum has developed a resource called Come and See to support and guide those parishes who are ready, in preparing for and engaging in this journey within their unique local context. Come and See is invitational. It grounds communities in the vision and processes of the RCIA, articulates guiding principles, identifies possible steps and outlines a range of different ideas, all using a process of Mystagogical Reflection. It will be up to individual parishes to plan their particular reimaging journey. They will support each other by sharing ideas, learnings and questions. Each parish will be supported by a member of the Christian Initiation Forum.   

Come and See will be a ‘live’ document, always under revision in light of the experience of the four reimagining parishes. We are aiming for our next conversation together on Saturday 6 May. We imagine this to be a journey that will take years. After our next conversation Come and See and other resources will be available to everyone via the diocesan website.

In making this journey the four reimagining parishes are hoping to help the whole Church of Maitland-Newcastle reimagine the ministry of Christian Initiation so that, together, we will keep growing our capacity to make life long missionary disciples. We will keep everyone updated in this space. It is an exciting time as we live and learn together.

Henry Ford was right at a deeper level than he could have imagined. It is not in the DNA of the faithful to ‘always do what we always did’! Conversion, becoming, renewal and change is at the centre of our individual and ecclesial life. To be unsettled is our mode of existence.

It is good to be thinking about all this as Holy Week begins and so many of our parishes will be baptising new members of the community at the Easter Vigil.

Wishing you and your families and communities every blessing as we journey through this week, embedding the dying and rising pattern of God’s love into our own hearts and muscle memory.       


Image: © 2022  Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. All rights reserved.

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Louise Gannon rsj Image
Louise Gannon rsj

Louise Gannon rsj is the Diocesan Manager of Worship and Prayer.

Fiona Duque Image
Fiona Duque

Fiona is the Pastoral Ministries Officer - Worship and Prayer.

Formerly, she was the Ministry Coordinator and Religious Studies Coordinator at St Bede's Catholic College, Chisholm.