THE RCIA AS A MODEL for Catholic High School Catechesis

Article excerpt

Catholic high schools should serve not only as institutions that provide academic instruction, but also as vehicles for continuing the conversion process of those who have been initiated in the faith

Speaking of his conversion, Tertullian, the secondcentury writer stated: "Christians are not born, they are made." In current catechetical thought, it is believed that one chooses to come into the faith after a gradual period of instruction and preparation, which culminates with the sacraments.

The normal way in which adults become full and active participants in the Catholic Church is through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. (RCIA). Its rubrics declare: "The [RCIA] is designed for adults who, after hearing the mystery of Christ proclaimed, consciously and freely seek the living God and enter the way of faith and conversion as the Holy Spirit opens their hearts" (RCIA, 1988, p. 3).

In this same spirit, Catholic high schools should serve not only as institutions that provide academic instruction, but also as vehicles for continuing the conversion process of those who have been initiated in the faith. The Catholic high school could implement a structure where service, instruction and campus ministry serve as a model in the process of conversion.

Intentional Process of Ongoing Conversion

Although Catholic high schools offer similar patterns to the RCIA, I envision a Catholic high school curriculum where religious studies and activities are more intentionally used in the process of ongoing conversion.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) asserts: "Catholic schools prepare young people to become full and active members of the Catholic Church" (USCCB, 1997, p.9). Because the Catholic high school curriculum usually begins with an exploration of the faith, this follows the period of evangelization and pre-catechumenate. One can also correlate the curriculum to a catechumenate period, a period of purification and enlightenment of the RCIA and even a period of mystagogy. During freshman year, students take a course on the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which could be seen as a period of evangelization and acceptance. The freshmen retreat is equivalent to the rite of presentation.

For a proper way that leads to conversion, discernment and discovery of God's involvement in the life of the young, a starting point would be a welldevised theology program. Juniors who take courses on the Sacraments and Life in Christ usually participate in a conversion retreat. These courses and retreats provide opportunities for the deepening of the faith, as well as a forum for a continued study of the Word of God. The National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry (1993) states: "[The] proclamation of the Good Newscalls young people into a relationship with Jesus Christ, [and] calls for a change of heart and invites them into the community of believers"(p.l2).

The Second Vatican Council highlights the centrality of the eucharistie liturgy in the ongoing conversation with the modern world. This process can be epitomized in the mission of the school when it is understood as an ecclesial entity gathered at prayer, specifically through the celebration of the liturgy.

Catholic High Schools Mirror RCIA's Call for Conversion

The reinstitution of the catechumenate brought with it an opportunity for the RCIA to serve as the means of bringing new Christians into the faith. It also became instrumental in the postconciliar church as a model for ongoing conversion. I argue that an ecclesiology that emanates from liturgical praxis cannot exist without a rite that offers signposts in the process of conversion. Catholic high schools already mirror the RCIA's call for conversion:

"[It must be] a gradual process that takes place within the community of the faithful. By reflecting on the value of the paschal mystery and by renewing their own conversion, the faithful provide an example that will help the [students] to obey the Holy Spirit more generously" (RCIA, p. …