Let’s suppose you want to honor the baptized by celebrating their reception into the Catholic Church at the first Sunday Eucharist after they are ready. How do you deal with the pastoral issue that they will feel like they are missing something in comparison with the Elect who will be baptized at the Great Easter Vigil? The key is, from the beginning of their relationship with the parish, to identify them much more closely with the Order of the Faithful than with the Order of the Catechumens. Here are several strategies.
- Remember the Rite of Welcome is optional. As presented in the RCIA, there are a great many similarities to the Rite of Acceptance. It would help the baptized candidates for reception identify more closely with the faithful if you skipped the Rite of Welcome altogether. Instead, use an adaptation of the very simple Order for the Welcoming of New Parishioners from the Book of Blessings.
- Separate the candidates for reception and the candidates for baptism into different catechetical groups. Every parish is supposed to have ongoing formation for its members. The baptized candidates can be integrated into that formation process while the catechumens remain in the catechumante. If your parish does not yet have ongoing adult faith formation, use the arrival of the candidates for reception as a spur to start.
- Set up separate sponsor training. The needs of the baptized will be different than the needs of the unbaptized, and the sponsors for each group will require different skills. The ideal sponsors for the candidates for reception will be Catholics who were baptized as infants and cannot imagine any greater joy than to have been Christian all their lives. Their very being should communicate what a great gift the candidates for reception have had all these many years.
- Do not delay their reception. Baptized candidates may be, and should be, received at any Sunday liturgy. Some will require relatively little catechesis and others significantly more. However, whenever the community discerns a candidate is in fact ready, he or she may be received. If some of the other candidates are not yet ready, their reception would take place after more formation has better prepared them.
- Be sure to receive all those who are ready before Ash Wednesday so the candidates for reception can participate fully in the initiation of the Elect. They should understand their mission as disciples is to “go and baptize,” and not to wish they could get themselves re-baptized.
- Give these brand new Catholics a major role at the Easter Vigil. They should be right up at the font, helping the Elect into the water, handing them towels as they emerge, escorting them to their changing rooms, assisting the presider with holding the oils or books during the chrismation, serving as communion ministers, and so on. Yes, there has to also be room for the regular ministers of the parish to serve in these roles, but they could do so as mentors and guides to the new Catholics.
- Ask the newly received Catholics to help serve as hosts and planners for the reception for the Elect. With the help of their sponsors, the newly received Catholics should project an attitude that says to the neophytes: “We’re overjoyed that you are now one of us.”
See also these related articles:
- Honoring the Baptized
- How to lead a 30-minute dismissal session
- Is my pastor right about dismissal?
- Eucharist and communion—what’s the difference?
- Five things your RCIA team may not know about the dismissal
- Time to recover the prophetic power of the RCIA dismissal
- A powerful conversion process for baptized candidates in the RCIA
- What happens during dismissal?
- Four ways the RCIA dismissal teaches faith