Choosing a program, part 3: Social and cultural factors

As in any other human organization, RCIA teams can be composed of all kinds of people. There can be those who are serious in shouldering the responsibility to help you understand Catholicism and its appropriateness for you. Some will be good teachers while others' methods seem abrasive to you. There can be people who enjoy the power their position on the team affords them. Some people are very rule-bound and inflexible, while others adapt readily.

You need to be sure the RCIA team members' attitudes and behavior will be conducive to helping you make your decision. Here are some factors to consider that may give you clues to the nature of an individual program.

Does the program use texts or reference materials?

If so, what materials? Do they rely solely on the weekly Bible readings, or do they also use materials specifically related to understanding the Catholic faith? If the program uses only the Biblical texts, how and to what depth are the specifics of the faith presented and explained? For example, do leaders simply walk you through praying the rosary, or do they explain to you its history, meaning, and significance?

How are questions handled?

Are they welcomed? Are they treated with respect? Are attempts made to answer them? If not, how are they dismissed? Do the leaders seem too uninformed to be able to answer the question? Do they seem offended by questions? Do they insist that you simply "trust" them instead of trying to answer?

How do the leaders treat your own spiritual status?

Is the spiritual journey that brought you to RCIA treated with respect or disdain? Do they make assumptions about your needs or level of knowledge or growth, or do they try to learn where you are and what you need? Do leaders seem to expect you to prove yourself to them, or are they more interested in welcoming and accepting you as you present yourself?

Do leaders, by behavior as well as words, seem genuinely interested in you and helping you along your journey?

Do leaders attempt to interact with you, or do they spend all their time talking among themselves? Do they attempt to identify common ground and foster positive interaction among class members, or do they leave you all stranded to fend for yourselves among strangers? Do leaders simply demand you share personal information openly, or do they attempt to create an atmosphere where you feel comfortable discussing faith issues with the others in the class?

In short, look for signs of a positive, caring, supportive community. If you find it, regardless of whether you decide to convert, RCIA can be a very positive experience.