ASK FATHER: Is there a good, conservative RCIA program?

From a reader…


I attend a Maronite church and our priest has decided he wants to offer an RCIA type program (Maronite Rite doesn’t technically have one). He’s a generally conservative priest and I was hoping you might suggest a good conservative program.

I do not know, sorry.

However, perhaps some of our readers here, especially the priests, can help out.


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  1. Fr. Andrew says:

    Not traditional but conservative- Symbolon by the Augustine Institute. Available to stream via

  2. AJS says:

    Father should consider using the resources available to him from the Syro-Maronite tradition. There was a book published by Fr. Tony Salim called ‘Captivated by Your Teachings’ that is an English language resource for adults. There are numerous Syriac patristic commentaries on the liturgy, on various theological matters, and on morality that are available in English. There is no need to use Latin catechetical resources to educate Syriac catechumens. This is why our Maronite faithful are consistently ignorant of their spiritual and theological patrimony. We cannot just appropriate the theological resources of another tradition and substitute them for our own. Let the Romans be Latins and let the Maronites be Syriacs.

  3. Bthompson says:

    Whatever you do, it would need to be modified for Maronite Spirituality and Liturgy, as that is the core around which RCIA is supposedly built (although different programs and resources might take a different tack). I wonder if he’d not be better off just starting from scratch, as the adaptation of an existing course sufficient to do the Maronite tradition justice might approach the work level of freshly composing a course.

    -Fr Thompson

  4. rtjl says:

    I can’t suggest a good conservative program. I can only offer you an opinion.

    R.C.I.A. has the potential for being a very effective instrument of conversion and initiation IF implement properly and completely. In my experience it almost never is. It is a process that provides and allows for the kind of personal connection that often leads people to want to become Catholic, for effective catechesis (intellectual formation), for liturgical formation and for spiritual direction and formation. Most program I know of fall short by focusing excessively on only the catechetical formation, by celebrating the rites of the R.C.I.A. poorly and by offering truly bad catechesis.

    The best advice I can offer is to become familiar with R.C.I.A. itself. Read what the experts say as well but take them with a grain of salt and be prepared to sift out the bad. Remember though that the R.C.I.A. is a rite – it is not just a program of intellectual formation or series of classes. It includes intellectual formation but it should also include liturgical formation, the proper celebration of various rites and the spiritual formation of candidates. If you are going to go down the R.C.I.A. path, you should be committed to executing all aspects of R.C.I.A. well.

    I know of one parish that does it well, almost perfect. But even that parish falls down on the pre-catechemunate stage (they have really bad outreach) but, more importantly, they also fail by offering catechesis that is less than orthodox.

  5. I would look into the programs put out by the Augustine Institute on

    They’re certainly not “traditional,” in that sense of the word, but they are very orthodox in content, and definitely some of the most aesthetically pleasing of Catholic formation programs.

  6. PapaGregorio says:

    Generally, in the Eastern Churches, the number of those looking to enter the Church is so few that the pastor himself creates and administers the instruction needed for the catechumenate. To my knowledge there is no formal program. The Eastern Churches do offer ongoing Christian formation in the form of Eastern Christian Formation (ECF) programs. These are aimed at parishioners, but might be applicable to those looking to enter the Church.

    Generally, we use the God With Us Series – These are generally good materials (written from a Byzantine perspective) which can be dated at times, but it’s what we have. I’m unaware of the publications of the Maronite Church, but check with your Eparchy, perhaps something already exists to help your pastor. If your pastor creates something from scratch, make sure he shares it! It is wonderful to see a pastor taking the lead in the religious instruction of his parish, we need more of it!

  7. hwriggles4 says:

    Basically, the majority of RCIA programs vary from parish to parish, and from diocese to diocese. While there are really good ones, others are watered down. Sometimes, it depends on who are the volunteers, who are the sponsors, and who is the leadership.

    To the person who proposed this question my answer is:

    “Ask around among Catholic friends to see which parishes in your diocese (or even a neighboring diocese) have a solid program. Visit a few to check them out.”

    If your looking for a book (seriously), I would recommend Fr. Trigilio’s Catholicism for Dummies. I have actually used portions of this text along with the Baltimore Catechism when I helped with junior high CCD. Catholicism for Dummies does have a Nihil Obstat, which means it has been reviewed.

    Hope this helps a little.

  8. Dan G. says:

    The materials from ACM (the Association for Catechumenal Ministry) are very faithful. I have personally known a lot of the people who put them together. See

  9. PapaGregorio says:

    There might be some worthwhile resources here:

    Looks like some good works in spirituality and some high school level texts. Again, good luck and God bless!

  10. anilwang says:

    You might try looking into the Marian Catechist Program ( ). He might also contact the local Anglican Ordinariate and ask what they use for RCIA since Anglican converts tend to be conservative.

    Keep in mind that Eastern Catholics are a different Rite so the devotions and way theology and daily life are approached is different. So whatever Western Catholic material is used needs to be adapted to the Eastern Catholic mindset. I know that some Maronite parishes use the book “Captivated by your Teachings” but I can’t say how good it is. I also know the Ukrainian Catholic Church has published an eastern version of the Universal Catechism called Christ Our Pascha ( ). I haven’t looked at it myself, but it might be possible to simply walk through it and add commentary along the way.

  11. un-ionized says:

    I have not come across any RCIA programs that are pre-made. There are individual resources, which sometimes are recommended by the chancery. But all of the RCIA programs I have seen have been home-made, starting with the catechism. I think that is because RCIA is a process that must be tailored to where the inquirers are. The National Statutes for the Catechumenate are routinely ignored and this results in people going through RCIA who could be brought into the Church in a few weeks of catechesis by a priest so each RCIA class has a mixture of people who are at different levels of faith and understanding of that faith.

  12. acbprop says:

    I would suggest Symbolon from the Augustine Institute. It is available on their online platform Formed, which is a great resource for all kinds of good, traditional Catholic books, movies and other media and available through more and more parishes (and in some cases entire dioceses). Formed is kind of like Netflix for solid Catholics.

  13. James in Perth says:

    The Byzantine Seminary Press publishes a three-book catechesis for Eastern rite Catholics called “Light for Life.” While it is not designed for your particular purpose, from my memory it would be quite useful and could be used to set up a good instructional program for entrance into the church.

  14. James in Perth says:

    Regarding the 3-book “Light for Life” series, I believe that they have been approved by the bishops of all the Eastern rite churches in the United States. (Unfortunately I don’t have my copies at hand.) I hope that helps!

  15. Clinton R. says:

    RCIA is a topic near and dear to me, as I returned to the Church and received Confirmation and First Holy Communion after instruction in the RCIA process. I currently am involved in Catechesis for our RCIA program at my parish. Each session, we go over the readings for Mass on the upcoming Sunday. We give an explanation on the meaning of the readings, using the exegeses of the Church Fathers, as well as St. Thomas Aquinas to instruct the catechumens. From Lent onward, we prepare them for reception into the Church on Easter Sunday by introducing them to the Stations of the Cross and inculcating the importance of abstinence and fasting, of making a good Confession and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

    Each session also features discussion on the saints, the Rosary, the Sacraments, sacramentals, the teaching and doctrine and history of the Church, and we answer questions the inquirers have, as many have fallen from the Faith, or are converting from the various Protestant denominations. We are blessed to have a good priest who guides each RCIA session and gives sound spiritual advice and encouragement.

    I know for every good RCIA program, there are many who are swept up in the ‘spirit’ of Vatican II and offer nothing except sugary candy for those who seek the truth and need to be nourished by solid meat. However the structure of a RCIA program, it must be rooted in the Catholic Faith as taught by Our Lord to the Apostles and handed down and defended by the saints and martyrs.

  16. knute says:

    I’m an RCIA coordinator at a small parish in Florida. Before I came on we used “Journey of Faith” by Ligori Publishing and it was garbage. Since we already ordered big Catechisms for the adults, I started teaching straight from that, and it’s worked well for me. Another book that would work well would be the Compendium of the Catechism, which is the minor catechism based on the big Catechism.

    But regarding “store bought” programs, the only one worth anything is Symbolon. If your pastor is willing to pay for it, that’s the one to go with.

    Keep in this only concerns the educational portion of the program, and not the rites, which are as banal as they come, but you can make them nice depending on how much effort the pastor is willing to put into it.

    Feel free to contact me directly with any further questions. My email is

  17. JabbaPapa says:

    A good RCIA programme is one where those running it give you the literature, tell you to read it, then spend the next year or two never again referring to it and explaining the fundamentals of Catholicism instead.

  18. PA mom says:

    Our parish uses the Chosen program by Ascension Press, connected to Bishop Barron’s Word on Fire. The religious Ed program 7& 8th grade and RCIA program all use it.

    Beautiful imagery, solid doctrine, interesting and thoughtful.

  19. roma247 says:

    The synchronicity of this post is shiver-inducing. I cannot count how many times I’ve been asked this same question over the past year (not necessarily with regard to RCIA but to catechesis in general, at all levels)…and yet I still have not spoken with anyone who has a satisfactory answer to it. I know I certainly don’t have an answer.

    I dare say this question is at least as important–if not more important–than even ad orientem worship. Of course they go hand in hand, but how can the man in the pew understand why ad orientem worship matters, when they scarcely even understand their faith due to the woeful neglect of catechesis over the past few decades?

    If none of the readership can point to a good resource–or any organization that is actively working toward providing one–then I would urge any who have the means and influence to do so, to come together and find a way of meeting this urgent need.

  20. Precentrix says:

    Not specifically for RCIA, but for adult faith formation:
    For primary evangelisation and an introduction to Christianity, the Sycamore programme is fantastic.
    Evangelium is probably a next step. It’s not geared at primary evangelisation, although the authors also did the “Why?” programme for initial enquiry. Evangelium is mainly Thomistic in outlook (so may not be ideal for the original poster?) and based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, with cross-references. Comes as a DVD with participant booklets and a leader’s booklet that is so thorough theoretically anyone can lead sessions. The leader’s book includes responses to common questions and more references to the CCC. This is possibly too detailed for an RCIA type programme but would be suitable for candidates for reception coming from an existing Christian background, or for those recently returned to or received into the Church.
    Symbolon comes in two parts, knowing the faith and living the faith. It’s available on its own, I think, and also through . Again, this comes with participant guides and leader’s guide. This is probably partway between Sycamore and Evangelium in terms of content.

  21. Nan says:

    Regarding Eastern Catholics, there are several different rites used among the churches. Maronites use a west Syrian rite. While I’ve been to their liturgy and understand that they’re the only Church without an orthodox counterpart, I don’t know if they use the same liturgy as the other West Syrian rites, not having been to another.

  22. Lynn Diane says:

    Our parish uses the Catechism of the Catholic Church, second edition, as our RCIA text. Readings are parceled out weekly over 8 or 9 months so by the time the catechumens are finished, they will have read the entire catechism. Classes are devoted to answering the students’ questions about what they have read and discussing it. Sometimes the pastor adds a tour of the sanctuary and sacristy to further understanding of the Mass.

  23. Michael says:

    Fr. Sebastian Carnazzo is a Melkite Catholic priest (Eastern Catholic Tradition) who lives in the bay area of California. Here is a useful website with many of his catechetical tools:

  24. THREEHEARTS says:

    the Marian Catechism by Fr John Hardon

  25. ReginaMarie says:

    I would also highly recommend anything by Fr. Hezekias Carnazzo, brother of Fr. Sebastian Carnazzo.

  26. PhilipNeri says:

    I use the Craft of Catechesis and The Pedagogy of God with my seminarians. Neither of these is a RCIA program as such, but they offer an overall framework for how one might approach a RCIA program that’s consistent with the magisterium.

    Fr. Philip Neri, OP

  27. Abe says:

    My husband and I use Symbolon for their video content which is available to purchase through Augustine Institute or on their page. Then we combine it with the lesson plans from this website………we can choose our topics according to the needs of the group as the RCIA class is usually very small at our parish.

  28. bbmoe says:

    RCIA is my passion. I came into the Church through RCIA and found the catechesis so poor that I ended up (on the second go-round) enrolling in graduate school in Biblical Theology to get me through while I was attending the RCIA at my parish.

    I have since become the lead instructor for RCIA. The main problems with RCIA programs is that the lay instructors remember how they were catechized as children and think that this is the way you teach the faith to adults who are coming from a different background. I could make a very long list of the failures of the process I went through, but it boils down to this: don’t water the faith down. People are desperate for confession, they are desperate for a deep theology of marriage, they are desperate for real prayer, they are desperate for a liturgical life and a liturgical worship (<–the same thing! they need to know that!), they are desperate for hope. Treating topics like marriage and confession and Mary like "hot button" topics that turn Protestants off is a huge mistake. It's like having a rope to toss to the drowning man but you say, "Oh, you won't like this fiber, or that, or the other, so I'll cut them and toss you the "easy" rope that is now really weak…" It make no sense from the point of view of a person's conversion and salvation.

    I would love to have a forum for RCIA folks. I've used the ACM resources and looked at the Symbolon lessons and the Marian Catechist and I think they are OK as starting points. Here are some difficulties, however: Symbolon is a lot of videos and I think videos are overused and tend to make zombies out of participants. They are high quality and orthodox. ACM is a comprehensive program, but it ends up being overwhelming. Marian Catechists I'm least familiar with–I looked at it and it didn't suit the needs of my parish.

    I have to second the folks who said look east: the Roman programs won't work well for people who have a different tradition. In any case, IMO, emphasis on prayer, Scripture, liturgy is an absolute requirement for any program.

  29. bbmoe says:

    By the way, one of the things that drives me crazy is that 95% of RCIA programs run on a school year basis, and after Easter, hobble along to Pentecost. Ours is year-round
    except the month of August (this year, we’ll take 6 weeks off.) Jesus didn’t say, “Come back in September” to disciples who wanted to follow him in January. When I got into the position to say we would go year-round, I decided that the “off time” (late spring/summer) would be a series of 2 Bible studies, one on Genesis and one on a Gospel so that participants would get experience learning how read the Bible from the heart of the Church.

  30. hwriggles4 says:

    Like many other posters, I can vouch for Symbolon. Our Novus Order parish used it at our weekly men’s group, and a neighboring parish used it for Adult Faith Formation. It was very helpful in giving not only new Catholics, and those interested in learning more about the Faith, but it helped educate those Catholics who were poorly catechized.

    I say this because I don’t know how many Catholics who attended Catholic school in the 70s and 80s (while I am Catholic from that generation, my brothers and I attended public school as kids, and I am glad my parents saved their money) tell me they learned very little about the Faith, and only about a third attended Sunday Mass.

  31. Liempt says:

    This might help. It’s a full adult catechism made by FSSP priests:

  32. Neil Addison says:

    The Catholic Truth Society (CTS) in Britain publishes the excellent and very Orthodox Evangelium Course which uses both books and Computer presentations. See for the book for participants there are others for presenters

  33. Philmont237 says:

    When I was an RCIA instructor I used Symbolon by the Augustine Institute. It was mentioned earlier by another reader. It is pure gold.

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