Another way to improve your children’s RCIA is to improve the way you discern the children’s readiness for the Rite of Acceptance and the Rite of Election. The RCIA mentions the bishop, priests, deacons, catechists, sponsors, godparents, and the entire community as those responsible for determining readiness for the rites (nos. 43, 121).

In the case of young catechumens, certainly parents ought to be intimately involved in discerning whether or not their children are experiencing conversion.

There are several ways you can engage parents in the discernment process.

  • You can give the parents some reflection questions
  • You could schedule individual appointments to talk with parents about their child’s readiness.
  • You can design a group process whereby parents can give testimony about their child’s readiness for the rites.

Reflection questions

Several weeks in advance of the Rite of Acceptance, give the parents some questions to reflect upon. These questions should help them to discern the signs of conversion their child is experiencing. Some of the questions might be designed to stimulate discussion between the parent and child.

Here some examples of questions you might provide:

  • Why do you (your child) want to be baptized, confirmed, and receive the Eucharist? What do the sacraments mean to you?
  • Can you tell me about your favorite Bible stories?
  • How do you try to be a follower of Jesus in your everyday life. Give an example.
  • Tell me about how you pray.
  • How has God made a difference in your life? What has God done these past few months?

Appointments

When scheduling time to speak with the parents, be very careful to avoid any sense of a “parent-teacher conference.” This isn’t school, and the children are not passing or failing. You are meeting the children’s “chief catechists” to get their sense of their child’s readiness to take this next step.

You may need to help the parents understand that their discernment is not about if God accepts and loves their children. That’s a given. The discernment is focused on the children’s readiness to take up Jesus’ cross and participate in the mission of the church.

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Group process

Once you have met with the parents individually, you may want to meet with them as a group. You might also want to include the children in this meeting. At your group meeting, help the parents say why they believe their child is ready to follow the cross of Jesus.

You might use the criteria given in the RCIA itself to help them structure their testimony. If you look at paragraph 42 of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, you will find these criteria:

  • The children are showing the beginnings of a spiritual life
  • The children are becoming interested in some of key teachings of the church
  • The children are showing signs of having faith in Jesus
  • The children are beginning to pray regularly
  • The children have begun to have a relationship with the pastor and with other parishioners

About Rita

Rita Burns Senseman is the pastoral associate and director of religious education at St. Benedict Parish in Terre Haute, Indiana. She has written numerous articles and books on various aspects of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, including A Child's Journey: The Christian Initiation of Children.

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