Brief Book Review: Field Hospital Catechesis

Field Hospital Catechesis: The Core Content for RCIA Formation by Nick Wagner

Who’s it for?  Parish RCIA leaders/teams

What’s the main point?  Inspired by Pope Francis’ image of the Church as a “field hospital,” Nick Wagner suggests that the first task of RCIA catechists and ministers of formation is to proclaim that Jesus Christ loves and saves us. It is this first proclamation that can heal wounds, invite people to encounter God’s mercy, and lead seekers to a deep and powerful conversion.

Why is this book useful and practical?  As Wagner points out, it is not unusual for RCIA catechists to approach the content of faith formation as though it were a “Catholic 101” course. This book invites catechists to rethink such an approach and shift to one that takes seriously the task of evangelization, proclaiming and teaching the Good News of Jesus Christ.

What will you like the most?  The book is a practical guide for learning and sharing with seekers the story of Jesus, which Wagner approaches in three major pieces – The beginning: Know who God is; the climax: Jesus makes a difference; and the end: Walking the talk. You will also be challenged to go out into the peripheries to invite people to come to know Jesus’ love for them, rather than passively waiting at the church doors for people to show up.

Suggestions.  The book seems primarily concerned with the content for faith formation for catechumens, those who are not baptized and who usually do not yet know Jesus Christ. Many parish RCIA processes include a mix of the unbaptized and baptized Christians seeking to live the Christian life in the Catholic tradition. The question becomes how to do effective faith formation with people who are just coming to know Christ and with those who are already formed as Christians, recognizing that the extent of formation can vary widely among the baptized candidates. While I think Wagner’s book is useful even in this more catechetically complex scenario, catechists and faith formation ministers need to think creatively about how to tell the story of Jesus to both groups. For example, the already baptized candidates for full communion with the Catholic Church should have an active role in proclaiming Jesus Christ to those who are just coming to know the Gospel.

Nick WagnerField Hospital Catechesis: The Core Content for RCIA FormationLiturgical Press 2018.  115 pgs.

REVIEWER: Anne Koester

Anne Koester, J.D., M.A. (Theology) works at Georgetown University, Washington, DC, where she is also an adjunct instructor with the Theology Department. In addition, she oversees the RCIA process at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in D.C. A former trial lawyer, Anne studied theology at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. She has worked at the Notre Dame Center for Pastoral Liturgy and the Georgetown Center for Liturgy. Anne is the author of Sunday Mass: Our Role and Why It Matters (Liturgical Press, 2007), editor of Liturgy and Justice: To Worship God in Spirit and in Truth (Liturgical Press, 2002), and co-editor of Vision: The Scholarly Contributions of Mark Searle to Liturgical Renewal (Liturgical Press, 2004) and Called to Participate: Theological, Ritual and Social Perspectives by Mark Searle (Liturgical Press, 2006). She is a member of the Editorial Advisory Council of The Liturgical Press and the North American Academy of Liturgy.

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