Each Dominican is called to preach. Part of our journey as lay members of the Dominican Family is to search out the ways in which the Lord calls us to preach. Jenny N., one of our perpetually professed members, has answered that call in a very dedicated way. Last year, Jenny completed her Master’s degree in Catechetical Ministry at the University of Dallas. She is now a Youth Ministry Coordinator at a parish in her diocese. Occasionally, we are called to preach to the choir. Last year, Jenny presented her Master’s capstone “Adapting for Adolescents: A case Study on Adapting the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults to Meet the Needs of Adolescents.” We are the choir. We know our faith and much of its beauty. However, we can always learn more and be open to understanding more. Anyone with an interest in the new evangelization will benefit from reading this, especially those who work with youth. Below is an excerpt of Jenny’s preaching. If you would like to read more, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your request will be forwarded to Jenny.
Adapting for Adolescents: A case Study on Adapting the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults to Meet the Needs of Adolescents – Introduction and Chapter 1
The purpose of this paper is to examine the reasons why the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults should be adapted for individuals of adolescent age as well as the implications these considerations have upon all catechetical ministries for such individuals. From these implications, conclusions will be drawn regarding the impact that such adaptations and considerations could have on the general engagement of this age group in the Catholic church. The introduction will provide a literature review of documents, ministerial writings, and historical practices within the Church depicting the primacy of the catechumenal model of catechesis, as practiced in preparation for the Rites of Christian Initiation of Adults. Research will be presented regarding the use of RCIA as the basis for all catechesis as well as the principles inherent in this process. The paper will then explore the inclusion of adolescents in this process, and the merits of adapting the process to meet the individual needs of these individuals based upon the psychological stage of adolescents as discussed in Stages of Faith by James Fowler. After reviewing this foundational research, analysis will be completed on what principles or practices should be put into a process for adolescent participants in the RCIA process. The conclusions from this study not only inform practices to be used for uncatechized adolescents seeking full initiation into the Church, but also, by extension, the foundational nature of the catechumenate, informative to all adolescent ministry within the Church. Finally, the implications of incorporating such applications to adolescent ministry will be applied to current trends in the statistics of the participation of this demographic in the Catholic Church in America.
Chapter 1: Introduction
Primacy of the Catechumenate
The National Directory of Catechesis explains that “[t]he baptismal catechumenate [is] the source of inspiration for all catechesis.”1 The catechumenal process, along with the rites contained in the RCIA, create an atmosphere that encourages a true conversion of heart, guiding new members of the Christian community in a lifelong development in their relationship with Jesus Christ. As stated by St. Pope John Paul II, “the definitive aim of catechesis is to put people not only in touch but in communion, in intimacy, with Jesus Christ”2 By understanding this relationship as the main aim and goal for catechesis, those ministries concerned with catechesis depart from a simply educational task by involving multiple aspects of human need in the methods involved in the programming developed for a catechetical ministry. This is expressly stated in the Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church which originated from the Second Vatican Council. “The catechumenate is not a mere expounding of doctrines and precepts, but a training period in the whole Christian life, and an apprenticeship duty drawn out, during which disciples are joined to Christ their Teacher.”3
In order to promote this relationship, the structure of the RCIA process does not mandate a strict and uniform series of classes, but rather it “is suited to a spiritual journey of adults that varies according to the many forms of God’s grace, the free cooperation of the individuals, the action of the Church, and the circumstances of time and place.”4 This enforces focus on personal development of relationship over the conveyance of information. The attention to the individual journey of adults directs a somewhat fluid and responsive model which can be adapted and molded to meet the needs of individuals participating in the process. This is seen in the varying circumstances addressed in Part II of the ritual text.5 It is also integrated into the entire process of catechesis, calling for recognition and incorporation of the individual’s life experience and station.
The process for catechesis of individuals participating in the RCIA process, therefore, is understood more “as a period of suitable instruction, may be sanctified by sacred rites to be celebrated at successive intervals of time,”6 rather than an educational program or class. The process for this instruction relies heavily on liturgical catechesis; that is, catechesis through the participation in and reflection upon the liturgy of the Church. Use and importance of liturgical catechesis in the RCIA process will be discussed at greater length as one of the principles of the catechumenate in the second chapter of this paper.
Inclusion of Adolescents (ages 13-18) in the RCIA Process
Part two of the RCIA text expresses the need for including children of catechetical age in the RCIA process. This applies to “children, not baptized as infants, who have attained the use of reason and are of catechetical age.”7 Generally, the age of reason is regarded to be seven years old.8 These children, seeking initiation, either of their own desire or as guided by their parents or guardians have reached an age where they are capable of developing and forming the personal relationship with Christ that indicates the conversion of heart that the RCIA process is designed to promote. For this reason, it is appropriate for adolescents, similarly seeking initiation into the Church, to be included in the RCIA process prior to receiving the Sacraments of Initiation.
Part two of the RCIA text continues to explain the need to adapt both the method of catechesis as well as some rites within the process to meet the developmental and formational needs of children of catechetical age. Such adaptations include an awareness and sensitivity to the reliance these children have on parental figures as well as their social environment and peers.9 In order to understand ways of adapting the RCIA process to meet the needs of adolescents, it is appropriate first to understand the process itself, how it was developed, and by what principles it functions as the means by which individuals are fully initiated into the Church and subsequently serves as the basis for all catechetical ministry. Once this is understood, in order to adequately understand adaptations appropriate for this age group, a review of the developmental needs will be conducted. As the ritual text offers adaptations of the rites that can be used, the primary focus of this study will remain on the catechetical formation of individuals engaged in the RCIA process.
1 Congregation for the Clergy. National Directory for Catechesis. (Washington, DC: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2005), no. 35.
2 John Paul II, Catechesi Tradendae (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1979), no. 5.
3 Vatican II council, “Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church: Ad Gentes,” in Vatican II Documents (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011), no. 14.
4 Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (Chicago, IL: Liturgy Training Publications, 1988), no. 5.
5 RCIA., nos. 252-504.
6 Vatican II council, “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium,” in Vatican II Documents (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2011), no. 64.
7 RCIA, no.252.
8 NDC, p 119, no. 36.A.
9 RCIA, nos. 252-259.