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Five parishes combine their RCIA programs

The Catholic Voice

The first draft of the archdiocesan strategic plan has yet to be written. And it won't be reviewed by the Strategic Planning Commission until Sept. 30.

But several parishes in one archdiocesan deanery already are taking to heart the strategic planning concepts of sharing resources and combining programs. And they're not waiting for the completion of the archdiocesan plan.

Five parishes "“ Holy Cross, St. Thomas More, Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Adalbert and St. Stanislaus "“  in the Urban South Central Deanery Sept. 7 will begin offering a combined RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) program, this year at St. Thomas More. The location will rotate among the parishes on an annual basis.

The program grew out of discussions at the deanery planning meetings, said Father Ross Burkhalter, pastor at St. Thomas More. But because it doesn't go beyond deanery boundaries and involves parishes on a voluntary basis, the parishes agreed it doesn't need to be part of the strategic plan.

'It's not new," Father Burkhalter said. 'It's been done before and seems right at this time."

Other possibilities for joint programs considered by the parishes include youth groups and parish religious education, but those would require more study and time, he said.

John Gencarelli, religious education coordinator at Holy Cross, said small numbers of RCIA participants at the parishes "“ often just two or three candidates or catechumens "“ made the combined program an obvious choice.

'I think you're going to see better service to the people," Gencarelli said. 'It just brings a better dynamic with a larger group."

Although the classes for all five parishes will be at St. Thomas More, all rites associated with the RCIA process will be at the individual parishes.

'We feel it's really important that the candidates and catechumens are involved in their own parish, both at Sunday Masses and then within the rites of the church," Gencarelli said. It's those rites that 'bring those people into the community, so that really needs to be done at the parish level," he said.

The combined class is being organized and taught by individuals from each of the parishes. Parish priests also will be involved in teaching.

'They are a group of really wonderful people and they are all really excited," Gencarelli said of the combined RCIA team. 'That's been the greatest part of this whole thing. Sometimes parishes can tend to be a little territorial and we have just not seen that here.

'People have really pulled together and everyone thinks this is going to be a great idea and this is really going to work well," he added. 'Having the cooperation of all the parishes on this has been great."

The Catholic Voice

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