Is my pastor right about dismissal?

QWe have two people in the catechumenate process this year. One person is unbaptized. The other was baptized as a Catholic but has had no religious formation whatsoever. We have been dismissing both of them each week to break open the word. However, my pastor is telling me the second person should not dismissed because he is already baptized. I disagree with him. Who is right?

AThere is no uniform practice on this. Many parishes dismiss both the catechumens and the baptized candidates, just as you are. However, my preference is to only dismiss the unbaptized. I agree with your pastor that baptized people should remain in the assembly for the entire liturgy.

The reason I believe this is because there is more to Eucharist than communion. Even though the baptized candidates cannot receive communion, they can, and should, participate in the offering the sacrifice through their participation in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. This is as catechetical as breaking open the word would be.

The reason we dismiss catechumens is not simply to give them more time for breaking open the word or for catechesis. It is because they are not yet members of the Order of the Faithful and therefore cannot yet offer the sacrifice of the Mass through their prayer.

In addition, by dismissing the unbaptized and keeping the baptized in the liturgy, we are also catechizing the rest of the assembly about the importance and dignity of baptism.

The actual texts of the RCIA would seem to support this. If you look at the combined rites that include both catechumens and baptized candidates, only the catechumens are dismissed. See, for example, paragraphs 527-529, 544-546, and 559-561.

RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) image posted by TeamRCIACheck out this webinar recording: “What every RCIA team needs to know about the dismissal.” Click here for more information.


See also these related articles:

  1. Honoring the Baptized
  2. How to lead a 30-minute dismissal session
  3. Is my pastor right about dismissal?
  4. Eucharist and communion—what’s the difference?
  5. Five things your RCIA team may not know about the dismissal
  6. Time to recover the prophetic power of the RCIA dismissal
  7. A powerful conversion process for baptized candidates in the RCIA
  8. What happens during dismissal?
  9. Four ways the RCIA dismissal teaches faith

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  1. Disagree. Just because a person is unbaptized doesn’t mean they cannot pray. They have made a choice to become part of the Catholic Church, are attending Mass at a different time, and are learning prayers. All get dismissed or all stay.

  2. I’ve been in two parishes, one which doesn’t dismiss the baptized, and the other one does. I would think it would depend upon whether the candidate was catechized or not. If there is needed foundation in scripture, then dismissal may be a good thing. There’s times where the baptized weren’t dismissed, and stated later they would like to be dismissed because of the growth experienced through the dismissal.

  3. I disagree that the baptized should not be dismissed. There are three cases that you have in RCIA:
    1. Unbaptized & uncatechized (non-Christian or never had any religion whatsoever)
    2. Baptized & uncatechized (Protestant)
    3. Baptized & catechized (Catholic who left the church after they had first communion but were never confirmed)
    The only case in which I can see them not being dismissed is the 3rd case. And even then, I would leave it up to the candidate if they wanted to or not. There is an important thing that takes place in dismissals for an RCIA group each year – dismissals is (or can and should be) a real bonding moment for that group as they take their journey into the Catholic Church. This is there time to discuss, ponder, pray, ask questions as a unit together the most. To be there for each other. This is the moment when they are not being catechized, talked at, etc. So the 3rd case might find it a useful and important part of their journey back to the church. To see and experience the fresh faith of others coming to it new. I just think that the group should be kept together as much as possible. They are all in different places – yes. However, that bonding during the RCIA process, if done right, I have found to be a forever thing as I have taught RCIA and it can actually be quite important to keeping them active once mystogogia is over with. So I think the only case that they don’t have to leave is the 3rd case and even then, I think they should be encouraged to attend dismissal.

  4. Hi Suzanne. Thanks for your post. I’m a little fuzzy, however, on why the candidates would need to be dismissed before the end of the liturgy to accomplish the goals you list.

    We dismiss the baptized candidates with the rest of the assembly after the final blessing. They then gather in a meeting space to participate in breaking open the word. All of the bonding, pondering, and praying happens, just as you point out. But it happens after Mass.

  5. Nick,

    I am a little fuzzy on what you are saying. Are you saying that you do your dismissals essentially after mass is over with? Because that is what it sounds like.

    Most of the time what I have seen is that the catechumens and candidates leave fairly soon after mass is over with so what you are suggesting doesn’t work for a lot of folks on Sunday. People have busy lives and need to go on to what is next. They aren’t hanging around for long after mass is over with. So what you are suggesting I would never see working. And bonding spiritually and finding YOUR OWN CATHOLIC VOICE in practice is exactly what dismissals should be all about. It is a prep for learning how to get something out of mass and what God is saying to you as an individual amongst individuals. And dismissals encourage us to learn to evangelize each other and share our spirit. So I think they are important in promoting being an active practicing Catholic for all Catholics. It gives them practice in doing that.

  6. Hi Suzanne. Thanks for your response. I hear you that your folks don’t hang around after Mass. Breaking open the word doesn’t need to be done right after Mass. It can be done whenever you meet.

    I do think bonding spiritually is important, but that is not the goal of dismissal. The dismissal is to distinguish the unbaptized from those who are to offer the sacrifice of the Mass–that is, all those who are baptized.

  7. I apologize if this is bad form to leave a comment on a five year old blog post. But I wanted to chime in since I have some experience here.

    I was received into the Church at the Easter vigil in 2012. I went though my parish’s RCIA program even though I was a baptized and fairly well catechized Protestant, from the Presbyterian denomination. The RCIA class was small, two baptized and four unbaptized. We attended mass every week together, with our sponsors and the other RCIA team members. We were all dismissed before reciting the Nicene creed, and I really did not like this. I understood why the unbaptized were dismissed, but I had already learned the creed and so felt quite strongly that it was not appropriate for me to be dismissed. I even voiced this to one of the RCIA team leaders, but was told that “this is just how we do it.”

    I really love all of the people on the RCIA team at my parish, but since I was already pretty well catechized it was a pretty grueling eight month process… It really felt like “hoop jumping,” as you described on another post. Baptized Protestants who are well catechized need a shorter, more customized process. They don’t need what the unbaptized need.

    I’m praying about getting involved in RCIA, specifically with baptized Protestants, and I found your site via a Google search. You have some fantastic ideas to improve RCIA. I hope your efforts are helping others. Take cafe and God bless!

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