Brief Book Review: A Vision for Conversion

A Vision for Conversion: Eight Steps to Radically Change Your RCIA Process by Leisa Anslinger

Who should read this? All who are involved in RCIA ministry and in shaping parish life, especially those in positions of pastoral leadership. 

What’s the main point? Change is a necessary and desirable element of the spiritual journey of Christian conversion. Understanding, leading and accompanying the process of change requires skills that can be learned.

Why is this book important? This author makes a valuable contribution to RCIA literature by adapting the work of Dr. John Kotter, author of Leading Change, and a recognized authority on the dynamics of corporate change. 

Why is this book practical? This book emerges from the authentic experiences of the author who includes many pastoral examples as well as methods which can be adopted by RCIA teams and parish staffs.

What will get you thinking? Interspersed throughout the book are pertinent questions which will stimulate discernment and discussion, both personal and collaborative. 

Where would I push back? While conversion does not happen without change, change does not guarantee spiritual transformation!

Strengths This book is enriched by numerous references gleaned from scripture and ecclesial documents, as well as from CARA (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate). The author has assimilated many resources from which readers will benefit. This is not merely a “how-to” manual but an examination of the theological, spiritual and pastoral implications of RCIA within a parish.

Assumptions Most readers are aware of the many “Models of Church” or ecclesiologies which exist side by side within any parish. This book assumes the model of parish as “community of disciples.” It also assumes the central role of parish in the formation of Christian disciples. It goes without saying that the honest exploration of these and other, often unspoken, theological assumptions is an ingredient in the revitalization of RCIA programs. 

Recommendations Even though this book can and should be read by interested individuals, I believe it will best be read by groups who can together unpack, discuss and attempt to implement the ideas and suggestions it presents. The author shares an integral vision of Church, of parish, of discipleship, of ministry and yes, of RCIA. This vision implies a long-range conversion process which is communal as well as personal. Such a process of change will encounter many challenges to the status quo and require nothing less than willing collaboration on every level of parish life. Even well-intentioned and enlightened individuals cannot hope to accomplish this on their own!

Suggested Improvements There are three areas that would improve the quality of the book as well as the experience of the reader. One wonders if these difficulties are the result of editorial decisions or choices made by the author.

  1. Why not list abbreviations of key ecclesial documents on a front page? This would facilitate citations of sources throughout the book instead of the awkward way it was done.
  2. Greater clarity would be achieved if the multiple steps referred to by the author in various places were presented in a consistent manner. Sometimes these steps are numbered; sometimes they are listed with bullet points; sometimes they are included in a box. Which are primary? Which are secondary? It is not always clear.
  3. Questions for reflection are an important element of this book. However, the questions are not organized well. Personal questions and questions more appropriate for RCIA teams and/or other parish groups are often grouped together in an unhelpful manner. “Questions to ask yourself” at the end of each chapter are of uneven quality, at times introspective and at times about process. 

Anslinger, Leisa. A Vision for Conversion: Eight Steps to Radically Change Your RCIA Process. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2019. 112 pages.

REVIEWER: Mary Frances Fleischaker, OP, DMin

Sister Mary Frances Fleischaker serves as adjunct professor of theology at Barry University and teaches in the Lay Ministry program of the Archdiocese of Miami.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *