I just love the moment of awed surprise when some well meaning Catholic calls my office for a "friend" and asks when RCIA classes begin in the fall. You see my response is always "RCIA begins the moment your friend contacts me."
To my way of thinking, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults; the process by which an adult who wishes to become a fully practicing Catholic does so; more commonly known as RCIA, is not a program that begins on some set date in the fall and ends on some set date a few weeks after Easter. RCIA is a process which begins sometimes months before someone even gets the nerve to contact me or anyone who works for the Church. RCIA is a process that is controlled not by my schedule, or by the Church's calendar, but by the Holy Spirit.
So, my job, here at the parish is to assist anyone who comes to me seeking to enter the church to become a fully conscious and active member of this parish community.
I do that by helping them to understand what it is we as Catholics believe and profess, and helping them to understand how we live out our beliefs in the sacrament lifestyle of our Liturgical year. We do that here at our parish in many ways. We have some special programs, and we have some programs that are open to everyone in the parish. We involve specially trained sponsors, who agree to journey with the people who are seeking to learn more about the faith. We get to know the people as quickly as we can, so that we can help them to see how their gifts can be used to build up the kingdom of God both within the parish and outside in the greater community.
The last thing I ever want to have to say to someone when they call me and say they are interested in becoming a Catholic is, "Well, our next round of classes start in about five months, I'll put you on the list and call you then." How welcoming is that? I am blessed that I get to say, "I will set you up with a Sponsor who will contact you within the month." or "Would you like to attend a Catholic Women in Faith Meeting next Thursday evening?"
In my way of thinking, the most important part of RCIA is to be welcoming, and to give good truthful information. The Holy Spirit does all of the really hard work.