Choosing a program, part 2: Logistical factors

Be careful not to dismiss logistical concerns while selecting a program. Although mitigating circumstances can shorten or lengthen the timeline, you should expect to participate in an RCIA program for about six months prior to confirmation. Sessions average between 1.5 to 2.5 hours long. This is a significant commitment that must fit into your life schedule.

Where are the classes held?

  • Are they close to your home or work?
  • How much time must you spend commuting?

When are classes held, and how long are they?

  • Is it feasible to arrive on time from wherever you have to be beforehand?
  • Does it end early enough to allow you enough sleep for work the next day, or if you work shifts, to allow you to arrive on time after class?
  • Do class times interfere with, or require special arrangements for, child or pet care?

What schedule does the program follow?

  • The traditional single-cycle schedule typically begins in September and culminates at Easter with baptism or confirmation of those who choose to convert.
  • The year-round program conducts classes all year and inducts new members at Advent as well as Easter.

If you have commitments, such as work travel during the spring or summer months, that will require your absence from a large number of classes, the traditional program, which typically starts in the fall, may be better for you. If such commitments occur in the fall, you may need a year-round program.

Other factors may also affect your preference for one schedule or another. For example, the traditional program focuses mostly on formal instruction in the Catholic faith. The year-round program provides that instruction specifically within the context of bible study.

The effectiveness of either program type is, of course, dependent upon the knowledge and skill of the instructors. The year-round program poses special challenges, in addition to the obvious one of higher volunteer commitment. The first is ensuring that all participants receive the same instruction even though they join at different times. The second is ensuring that the formal instruction in matters of Catholic faith and practice is accomplished adequately within the specific context of bible study.

RCIA consumes energy simply because it involves a major decision. It is crucial to account for and accommodate the added time you invest in it. Your decision about Catholicism should reflect your beliefs rather than your exhaustion with the process.