Five Things to Know About Dismissals

1: Catechumens have a job to do

RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) image posted by TeamRCIAThe reason catechumens are dismissed for the Mass after the homily is not because they cannot yet share in Communion. It is because they have a specific role in the worshipping assembly. As soon as a person enters the order of catechumens, they have two important liturgical responsibilities.

First, they participate in the liturgy of the word to hear the Word and be fed by Christ present in that Word and assembly. Second, they “share their joy and spiritual experiences” (RCIA 67A) that they received from Christ in that Word. Their dismissal after the homily is similar, then, to the dismissal the baptized receive at the end of Mass: “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.”

In a sense, the catechumens are being commissioned, sent out to do the second part of their job. Once they enter into the order of the faithful, their liturgical responsibilities will change as well. (see #4 below)

Five keys to involving the assembly in the work of Christian initiation

2: Catechumens do this job for the entire period of the catechumenate

From the day they become catechumens until the day they are baptized, catechumens are dismissed after the homily whenever they are present at a Eucharist.

3: The time after the dismissal from Mass is not catechesis; it’s a continuation of the liturgy

Dismissal is not a time for catechesis. It is a time for reflection, prayer, and faith-sharing that flow from God’s Word. The leader is not a catechist. He or she only needs to be someone who loves the Word and the catechumens and can facilitate a prayerful reflection with them.

This could be a youth minister, a first Communion catechist, a choir member, a lector, someone from the parish council, a Bible study participant, or a member of the Women’s Guild. It could even be a catechumen who is almost ready to be baptized and has some experience with the dismissal gathering.

4: The baptized candidates are never dismissed with the catechumens

The baptized, by virtue of their baptism, have a different job to do than the catechumens because of their order. They are members of the order of the faithful. That means they have the right and duty to pray the prayers of the faithful. These prayers are: the Creed, the Universal Prayers (general intercessions), and the Eucharistic Prayer.

Even though they cannot yet share in Communion, they exercise their priestly role by praying these prayers. Also, even if they are barely or poorly catechized, the baptized candidates are not dismissed to be catechized. The dismissal of catechumens is not for catechesis but for faith-sharing. The baptized candidates, as with the catechumens, are learning their faith primarily by their participation in the Mass according to their order.

5. Sometimes, dismissals aren’t possible

At times, for serious reasons, a catechumen cannot be dismissed because of a practical or pastoral reason. One example might be a catechumen who is a single mother with baptized children, and she does not want to leave her children alone. Or you have only one catechumen, which may make faith-sharing challenging.

Or you have no one from the community available to do faith-sharing with the catechumen. In this last situation, you could still choose to dismiss the catechumen from Mass and ask the catechumen to reflect on their experience on their own at home or wait to meet with someone after Mass is over to do some faith-sharing.

For the other situations, there is still value in recognizing the catechumen during the Mass. For them, use the brief exhortation at RCIA 67C. In that option, the catechumen is invited to stay, and the presider briefly states our prayerful hope for them.

Your turn

How have you helped your catechumens understand this part of the RCIA? What questions do you have about the dismissal? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Five keys to involving the assembly in the work of Christian initiation

  1. Reflection Questions for RCIA Seekers: Year B – The 27th to 31st Sundays in Ordinary Time
  2. Six ways to convince others that the RCIA dismissal is a good idea
  3. Frequently asked questions about the RCIA dismissal of catechumens
  4. Why is the dismissal of the RCIA catechumens important?
  5. Reflection Questions for RCIA Seekers: Year B – The 22nd to 26th Sundays in Ordinary Time

Photo by Zan Ilic on Unsplash

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  1. Keith says

    More about question than a comment.

    How do you have a dismissal if your catchmens don’t all attend the same mass?
    Do we insist that they all attend the same mass and sit together as a group?

    We have not had dismissal before trying to figure out how to make it work.

    Hoping to begin after the rite of Acceptance!

    • Susan Finley says

      The solution at our parish is to offer dismissal at one of the Saturday Masses and one of the Sunday Masses. We ask that they choose one of those times to attend and we tell them why- so they can reflect and share on the Word.

      In most cases it is not an issue- our catechumen seem very willing to make adjustments to their routine. Once regular Mass attendance is cemented, they and their families will normally gravitate to either a Sat or Sun Mass.

      We also have a larger team, so scheduling someone to Break Open the Word is not a big deal.
      The catechumen do not sit together, they sit with their families. And they meet up again after Mass at Coffee& Donuts. –

  2. Cecilia Sepulveda St. Joseph Barstow says

    It really makes a difference when we share with the catechumens the reason and responsibilities, when we do dismissal thank you Nick and Diana

  3. Mark Hoggard says

    I’ve only been at my current parish for a little over a year. Previously, dismissal of the catechumens was not a practice here (I’m not sure why). I will say that, in the past month, I have had four (unbaptized) inquirers contact me, and they all attend the Mass where we do dismissal. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. The rituals of rhe RCIA have an impact on the community who witness them, as well as on the subjects of the rite.

  4. Faustino says

    We have catechumens and candidates(baptized) together at dismissals because we have our classes on Sundays after the dismissals. We do share the Word of God with all of them together. Then we have catechizes in the second hour. It is most convenient for us to do it like this. Is it wrong for us to not do it according to the Rite.

  5. DON E SIEGAL says

    I’m going to disagree with you about the dismissal of the candidates. I’m well aware that the rite itself does not call for the dismissal of candidates in the Rite of Welcoming stand alone rite. However, all my formation priests Fr. Steve Coffee dioceses of Monterrey and Fr Ron Oakem of the former North American Forum. Have all said something like this: Yes, by their baptism they are entitled to participate in the Eucharist; however, our Catholic Church won’t let them receive. So, until the rules in the Catholic Church change on validly baptized non-Catholic persons being allowed to receive the Eucharist, it would be very insulting to require them to stay for the liturgy of the Eucharist.

    I would also say the breaking open of the Word of God especially the Gospel using the method of Echoing God’s Word or any other format does constitute catechesis. Also because of our rural community we connect the extended related Church teaching to the same gathering. Sponsors and spouses join us after the second dismissal and we segway into the chosen teaching. None of this catechesis is in lecture format; an interactive apprentice form is always used.

    Thank you for listening to my rebuttal.

  6. Damian A FitzRoy says

    Dismissal has been one of the great successes of our RCIA Program for several years now. I fully understand, and agree, that it is not the time or place for catechesis, but catechesis inevitably occurs. When a catechumen advocates a point that is not consistent with Church teaching a correction, gently and inoffensively, must be made. When the written text is vague, complex or seemingly inconsistent with the person Jesus is and questions are asked to clarify or explain, one must respond. One question I was asked is why doesn’t Jesus like rich people since they cannot go through the eye of a needle, isn’t he saying they will never go to heaven? The “catechesis” done in these situations improves the understanding of the catechumen and helps them, if not immediately, in future sessions with their faith sharing.

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