Getting started with the catechumenate

By Charles Mantey

Participants at the Asheville Catechumenate Training event participate in the Affirmation of Vocation during worship.

I went to my first catechumenate training event twelve years ago while I was at my previous congregation. I have to admit that the word “daunting” came to mind for me and the folks from that parish who attended the event. It was daunting to us because the catechumenate is a process that is adapted to each setting rather than a program that one copies. For this reason, that first planning group met for over a year before we felt ready to begin.  We met so long just to get our heads around what all the catechumenate involved and to answer the many questions we had. Fortunately we knew of other churches and individuals who could answer those questions. Even then, beginning the catechumenate felt like jumping into deep waters.

Having had five years of experience in my first parish, beginning the catechumenate in my second parish was much easier, though my job was mainly reassuring the new team that this was indeed doable. From my perspective, what you need to begin the catechumenate is at least one willing pastor and one willing lay person (preferably more) both willing to go to a training (preferably more than one). If you can find someone who has had experience in the parish leading the catechumenate to act as a coach, all the better. (Check with Journey to Baptismal Living if you are looking for a coach.)

Did we make mistakes in the first years? Many. But we learned from our mistakes, what worked in this setting and what didn’t work. In my experience over the years, the catechumenal process changes from year to year. We have different catechumens to be sure but we also have a desire to find new ways to nurture faith or at least identify those things which hinder that nurture.

If you are just getting started, know that the very reason that the catechumenate may seem so daunting is the very reason it will offer such treasure for you and your congregation.

What did it take to get the catechumenate started in your ministry setting? Share your responses in the comments section on our website.

Visit our catechumenate training page for coming events.

Charles Mantey is pastor or St. Mark Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Salem, OR and a member of the JBL:NAAC Board of Directors.

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