An RCIA class for inquirers. Walk-ins are welcomed at any time.An RCIA class for inquirers. Walk-ins are welcomed at any time.

Our Lady Star of the Sea’s programme allows inquirers to learn about the faith at their own pace

To enable those interested in Catholicism to join the RCIA programme at any time of the year and to better form them in the faith, one parish introduced its “ongoing” RCIA journey in 2011.

Walk-ins are welcomed at any time and are directed to the inquirers’ group.

According to Fr John Joseph Fenelon, parish priest of Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea, inquirers face many struggles and commitments in their lives. The parish’s flexible RCIA programme allows inquirers “to journey at their own pace” instead of making them move from one stage of the process to another when they are not quite ready.

“Moreover, without a closing date, no inquirer is turned away as the inquirers’ sessions are conducted weekly from January to December,” he added.

Fr Fenelon explained that under current RCIA practices, the inquirers’ period is normally three to four months after which the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens is celebrated.

The rite is celebrated for “those who are ready” as well as those who are “not ready as there was nowhere else to place the latter”, he said.

He noted that there was the problem of what to do with those who are not ready “other than to ask them to come back for the next RCIA”.

Under the parish’s new system, those interested in the faith need not wait several months for the next RCIA journey, said Mr Clement Leong, a parish RCIA core team member.

However, this also means “there is no foreseeable date on which an inquirer will be initiated as it depends on the development of his relationship with God”.

Two classes are being run concurrently on Tuesday nights – one for inquirers and one for catechumens. A third separate tract for the Elect is conducted during Lent.

The inquirer sessions focus on how to witness for God through topics such as wealth and responsibility. After an inquirer indicates his or her acceptance of Christ as saviour, and following the discernment of RCIA team members and the spiritual director, the inquirer is invited to participate in the celebration of the Rite of Acceptance.

He or she then moves on to the catechumenate phase.

Here, the catechesis is based on the Sunday Mass readings. For example, if the reading is about the Baptism of the Lord, the RCIA session would be about the Sacrament of Baptism.

This allows the catechumens to “appreciate the readings at a deeper level”, said Mr Leong.

Sponsors also invite the catechumens to join Neighbourhood Christian Communities’ (NCCs) activities to get to know the wider Catholic community better.

The core team has “established clear criteria” for inquirers and catechumens to move on to the next stage, such as having a prayer life, a sense of community and social justice, and acceptance of the Church’s teachings, said Mr Leong.

The core team, together with Fr Fenelon, sponsors, catechists and those who help with the RCIA, meet once a month to pray and discern the readiness of each inquirer and catechumen, said Mr Leong.

Fr Fenelon would also interview them to determine their “readiness”.

The parish currently has about 15 inquirers and 16 catechumens.

Mr John Low, a catechumen, said that the parish’s RCIA system has helped him gain a better understanding of the Catholic faith.

Ms Grace Liew, who joined the inquiry journey in December, said she does not feel pressured, thanks to the pace of the programme. She added that she finds the sharings relevant and easy to understand.

Mr Malvin Poh, another RCIA core team member, said though the process might be “tiring” for the team, it is nevertheless fulfilling as those baptised are more committed and better formed in the faith.

By Darren Boon
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