I have approximately ten children of various ages that have either been baptized only or have not been baptized. What is your recommendation on the process for initiating them and receiving them into full communion? Right now I put them in the appropriate grade and then work with them. How often should we meet and for how long?
The children who are not baptized and are older than age seven would definitely be fully initiated according to the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (see nos. 252, 253, 304, 305, National Statute 18). Their formation should also following the general pattern of the catechumenate, which means they should participate in the RCIA as adapted for children.
The children who have been baptized may or may not participate in the RCIA, depending upon their previous religious formation. Take time to discern whether or not these children really need a complete catechumenal process. If they “did not receive further catechetical formation” after baptism, then according to no. 400 of the RCIA, they should participate in the RCIA. If however, they were baptized (especially if they were baptized Catholic), but just missed religious education along the way, they may do well to be put in your religious education program. Then, you can just work with them to prepare them for the sacraments they need.
However, if all or most of these ten children need some form of catechumenal formation, I suggest you follow no. 255 of the RCIA and “form a group of children who are in the same situation.” A children’s catechumenate group such as this must distinguish that some of the children are baptized. In addition to forming a children’s catechumenate group, you may find that some of the children want or need to be with their peers in the regular religious education program.
One more point to consider is the diversity in ages of the children. It sounds like you may have a wide variety of ages in your catechumenate group. A family-centered approach to children’s catechumenate is a great approach to initiation ministry and it helps to diminish the difference in ages among the catechumens. Also, the RCIA tell us that the children’s initiation “depends” on their parents (nos. 252, 254). Thus, when you do family-centered catechumenal ministry, you are following the guidelines of the RCIA and addressing the issue of age diversity among the candidates.
Although you will need to discern what is best for the children in each particular circumstance, here is a brief summary of what I’d recommend:
- Discern what type of formation each child needs.
- Form a children’s catechumenate group for those who need full initiation and a full catechumenal process. These children and their families would participate in the various periods of the RCIA: precatechumenate, catechumenate (including dismissal from Sunday liturgy), purification and enlightenment, and mystagogy.
- Do family-centered initiation ministry.
- The children may or may not attend your regular religious education program, depending upon their catechetical needs.
- The unbaptized children would be fully initiated at the Easter Vigil, though it may not be the Easter Vigil this year! It may take a longer period of time. The baptized children would probably receive the sacraments at a time other than the Easter Vigil, although that depends on the pastoral situation and their family circumstances.
For more guidance on this topic, read Chapter 1 in Part II of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.
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