The Second Vatican Council (1962 – 65) marked the beginning of an intense period of renewal within the Roman Catholic Church. An important instrument of such renewal was The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults which facilitated the restoration of the adult catechumenate, called for in numerous Council documents. Translated into English in 1974 it was felt by many to be one of the most significant documents to emerge from the Council. The 1970’s and 80’s saw excited experimentation as attempts to implement it occurred across America and throughout Europe. Leading this experimentation were people such as Jim Dunning and Christiane Brusselmans.
However, it was 1987 before the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales declared the RCIA to be the mandatory process for initiating adults into the church.
The RCIA National Network for England and Wales had its roots in a small group of early RCIA practitioners who had experienced the Christiane Brusselmans’s workshops of the early 1980’s and were continuing to implement and develop the Rite nationally. They gathered annually to share and reflect upon their experience and in November 1989 were able to make a clear statement of their purpose. Their aims were fourfold and became the blueprint for all future work:
- to critically analyse their experience of the RCIA at diocesan and parish level;
- to identify and confront the key issues in the RCIA;
- to look afresh at the relationship of the RCIA to the ongoing change in the Church and in the wider context of society in England and Wales;
- to focus on methods and approaches for the development of the RCIA.
Between November 1989 and October 1998, six ‘National Consultations’ were held resulting in the publication of official report/records together with resource sheets. These aimed to enable Network members further to ground the issues and ideas from the consultation in local RCIA experience and practice. In addition two smaller gatherings of network members were held. In May 1995 a formal set of Guidelines by which the RCIA National Network would operate was agreed. In September 1996 members met to discern future development in the light of experience gained so far.
Since 1999, the Network has continued to enable members to gather once a year and to focus on key issues related to the implementation of the RCIA. A good balance in membership between lay people and clergy has always been a strength of the Network.