Q. We have both child and adult catechumens who are asking if they can just be baptized and then continue on with their formation to celebrate confirmation and eucharist when they are ready. Is that possible?
A. For both unbaptized adults and children who have reached the age of reason, when they are ready to be baptized they must also be confirmed and given the Eucharist at that same celebration. The three sacraments cannot be separated.
Here’s an excerpt from one of our articles. The excerpt focuses on children, but the church’s directives are the same for adults preparing for baptism (A Bishop’s RCIA “Cheat Sheet” – TeamRCIA):
Children receive all three sacraments of initiation within the same celebration. Once children have attained the use of reason, they are no longer candidates for the Rite of Baptism used with infants. They are candidates for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. As such, they celebrate all three sacraments of initiation, usually at the Easter Vigil. Their confirmation cannot be delayed, except for grave reason, and even in that case may only be delayed until near the end of the Easter season. (See RCIA 24; USCCB National Statutes for the Catechumenate, 14 and 18; also Canons 842:2 and 866.) Click here to read more: https://review.catechetics.com/confirmation-initiation-not-completion.
Here is another article that might help: Can we delay confirmation of child catechumens in the RCIA? – TeamRCIA
What is required?
The bottom line is that Canon Law requires the three sacraments be celebrated together for unbaptized adults and children of catechetical age. Individuals, pastors, or even bishops cannot deviate from that.
Your children and adults’ desire for ongoing formation is a good one, and you can focus on that. There is no reason they cannot continue in formation (as neophytes!) even after they have celebrated all three sacraments of initiation. In fact, that is what all of us should be doing! Celebrating all three sacraments does not mean we are finished with our formation. We are always called to deepen our relationship with Christ through the sacraments and through ongoing catechesis throughout our entire lives. Neophytes (those who are newly initiated) in particular are given special care and attention by the community to deepen their union with Christ and the church.
We are always called to deepen our relationship with Christ through the sacraments and through ongoing catechesis throughout our entire lives. Neophytes (those who are newly initiated) in particular are given special care and attention by the community to deepen their union with Christ and the church.
So help your children and adults understand that celebrating all three sacraments not only opens up for them a lifetime of formation but also gives them the special grace of Christ that is given to all who have celebrated all three sacraments. Because baptism gives us work to do! It gives us a mission, one that will be challenging and inspiring.
It will demand everything of us, perhaps even our very lives, but it also will give us a joy and peace like no other. It’s a mission that changes the world because it changes people’s hearts—from hearts filled with despair and darkness to hearts radiating enduring hope and joy.
Although each one of us who are baptized is responsible for this mission, we never do this mission alone. We do it as an entire household of disciples who have been given all the gifts we need to accomplish it. Those gifts are baptism, which makes us members of the body of Christ; confirmation that shapes us into the image of Christ; and the Eucharist, nourishing us with Christ’s own Body and Blood. Thus:
…the three sacraments of Christian initiation closely combine to bring us, the faithful of Christ, to his full stature and to enable us to carry out the mission of the entire people of God in the Church and in the world. (Christian Initiation, General Introduction, 2)