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RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) image posted by TeamRCIA  


RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) image posted by TeamRCIA  



Should catechumens and the elect be dismissed at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper?

There is no uniform practice on this. Some parishes think the entire community, catechumens included, should be present for the entire liturgy. Other parishes dismiss the unbaptized. Note that one reason some parishes do not dismiss is they don’t want one of the team members to have to miss half of the liturgy. There is no reason a team member needs to lead the catechumens out of the liturgy. By Holy Thursday, they should know how to conduct a dismissal session on their own.

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Our pastor told us the baptized candidates are not supposed to be dismissed. Is he right?

There is no uniform practice on this. Many parishes dismiss both the catechumens and the baptized candidates. 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.

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On what Sundays are the catechumens dismissed?

The catechumens are dismissed every Sunday of the year.

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When in the Mass are the catechumens dismissed?

The catechumens are dismissed immediately after the homily, before the Creed and the prayer of the faithful.

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Who is dismissed? Who actually goes out from the Mass?

Only the unbaptized catechumens and their prayer leader leave the liturgy. An exception might be made for baptized uncatechized candidates for full
communion, but all baptized people have a right to remain for the full liturgy.

Sponsors, other team members, and candidates who would not be considered “uncatechized” are not dismissed. Catholics who are only preparing for confirmation are not dismissed.

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How long does it take?

Are there any figures re: the number of people in the US who have entered the Roman Catholic Church since the introduction of the RCIA? Thanks.

I don’t have statistics for each year, but in 1998, there were 42,629 adult baptisms, and 81,775 baptized Christians who entered full communion with the church in the United States. Those numbers are typical, so you can do a rough average from when the RCIA was mandated in the U.S. ten years previously—1988.

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Most of our inquirers are already baptized and know the Bible cover to cover. Would we really keep them in the process for a full year?

Baptized people should not be treated as catechumens. Their preparation for reception into full communion should be discerned for each individual. Some may need extensive preparation, and some may only need a brief preparation.

Baptized candidates should be received into full communion at a Sunday Mass and preferably not at the Easter Vigil (see National Statutes 30-33.)

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How long does RCIA take for an unbaptized person?

There are four stages to the initiation process. The first stage is inquiry. That stage has no definite time frame. The amount of time is up to the inquirer.

The next stage is catechumenate. That takes at least one full liturgical year. It could take longer if the catechumen was not ready to move on the the third stage at the end of the year. The exact length cannot be determined ahead of time.

The third stage is enlightenment. This period coincides with Lent and lasts about 40 days.

The final stage is post-baptismal catechesis. That lasts for an intense 50-day period (Easter to Pentecost) and then a less intense period until the first anniversary of baptism.

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Is it appropriate to have the Rites of Welcome and Acceptance during the Easter Season? We have inquirers who have been faithful in attendance and definitely have the beginnings of faith who began their journey just before Lent. It is likely that our pastor will be away from the end of May. We wanted to do this at a Sunday liturgy.

It is certainly not inappropriate. If your pastor were not leaving, I’d suggest waiting until after Easter Season so as to keep more attention on the neophytes. But it is also important for your pastor to be a part of this major parish event. My recommendation would be to go ahead with the acceptance and welcome.

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Baptized candidates

What are the North American Forum guidelines for RCIA concerning the candidate who was previously confirmed in another religion, i.e. Lutheran, Presbyterian? We recognize their baptisms, but do we re-confirm or not?

Please see this post for an answer to your question.

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Is the Rite of Welcome appropriate for well-catechized folks? Is there some other alternative?

The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults includes a Rite of Welcoming the Candidates as an optional rite that welcomes baptized but previously uncatechized adults (411). However, there is no rite for welcoming baptized catechized adults. As a result, the catechized candidates are often folded into the welcoming rite for the uncatechized. See this post, which discusses an alternative way of welcoming catechized candidates.

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We have a candidate preparing to celebrate the Reception into the Full Communion of the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil. This person was baptized and confirmed as a Lutheran. Do we recognize Lutheran confirmations as valid sacraments? Or do we confirm him at the Easter Vigil?

According to canon lawyer, John Huels, “Protestant denominations are not recognized as having valid orders, so persons baptized in those ecclesial communities should be confirmed during the rite of reception into full communion.” For more information, see this post:

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What is the difference between completing the sacraments of initiation of Confirmation and Eucharist and reception into full communion?

For Catholics, full initiation consists of baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist. Catholics who have only been baptized need to complete their initiation by celebrating the other two sacraments. For many other Christians, baptism alone is considered to be full initiation. However, Roman Catholics believe that even though other Christians are initiated into Christ, they are not in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. So they are received into full communion when they decide to become Catholic. Their reception is celebrated with the sacraments of confirmation (usually) and Eucharist.

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Would it be better to dismiss child catechumens before the readings for a separate children’s liturgy of the word?

There are pros and cons for this. However, I lean toward keeping the children in the main worship space for the liturgy of the word and dismissing the unbaptized children after the homily. I don’t think it’s important that children understand every word of the readings. I do think it’s important that they master the ritual of what we do during the liturgy of the word. And I think it’s important that they be seen as true catechumens along with the adult catechumens. If the children are having difficulty understanding the readings, it might help to ask their parents to go over the readings with the children before Mass, perhaps using a children’s lectionary version. It might also help to ask the children to focus particularly on the gospel and not worry too much about the other readings. Ask them to remember one thing they hear in the gospel each week and be ready to talk about that. The parents can help here, too, reminding the children just as the Alleluia starts to pay attention.

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When baptized, non-Catholic children are received into full communion, are they confirmed at the same time?


In Paul Turner’s, When Other Christians Become Catholic, he cites Canon 885.2, which says:

“A presbyter who has this faculty [the faculty to receive non-Catholics into full communion and confirm them] must use it for those in whose favor the faculty was granted.”

Turner then goes on to say, “Consequently, if a priest is receiving a baptized child into the Catholic Church through the rite of reception, he must confirm the child as well. This should win ready approval from the parties involved because the child will benefit from the gifts of the Spirit at a very early age.” (Page 143)

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In the RCIA adapted for children, can peer companions of catechetical age be confirmed along with the catechumens?

That depends upon your diocese. Some dioceses have set an age for confirmation of Catholic children that is older than some of the peer companions. So in that case, they could not be confirmed until they had reached the age set by the diocese. Even in dioceses in which younger Catholic children may be confirmed, I’m not sure it is such a good idea. The initiation of the unbaptized would ordinarily take place at the Easter Vigil. The focus of the Vigil should be on the unbaptized, and not on Catholics who are being confirmed. It’s a little hard to give a definitive answer without being in your circumstances, but that would be my rule of thumb.

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Why do children need an RCIA inquiry process?

Even though many people would say that North America is a Christian society, many children have not heard the good news of God’s saving love. Thus, many children need a precatechumenate before we begin the more formal catechesis of the period of the catechumenate. For more information about this, see this post:

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Does the parish priest have the authority to confirm a child he baptizes at the Easter Vigil?

Not only does he have the authority, he required to do so. According to the National Statutes for the Catechumenate, “Since children who have reached the use of reason are considered, for purposes of Christian initiation, to be adults (Canon 852:1), their formation should follow the general pattern of the ordinary catechumenate as far as possible, with the appropriate adaptations permitted by the ritual. They should receive the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist at the Easter Vigil, together with the older catechumens” (18).

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Can a priest refuse to confirm children in the RCIA process?

An unbaptized child who has reached catechetical (the age of reason) is considered to be an adult for the purposes of the sacraments of initiation. Therefore, any child deemed old enough to celebrate first Communion is to be confirmed at his or her baptism, just as the adults are. This is church law, and no one is free to vary it. See RCIA 305 and National Statutes 18.

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How do we prepare the neophytes for first confession?

If you dealt with sin and grace when they were catechumens and helped them reflect deeply on the scrutinies, you shouldn’t have much preparation to do. The next time your parish is celebrating a parish-wide reconciliation service, have the godparents meet with their neophytes before the liturgy and explain how the liturgy is celebrated. Have the godparents explain how they go to confession. And then, make sure the priest knows the neophyte is there for the first time.

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Our four-parish Collaborative is looking at putting together a team that would serve all four parishes, collaboratively. Where should we start? Have you any tips for this specific situation? Thanks for your great resources!

You don’t say if your parishes are in a rural or urban area. However, in either case, I think the principles and practices in Michael Clay’s A Harvest for God: Christian Initiation in the Rural and Small-Town Parish would serve you well.

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| A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M |

| N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |

Is there a word missing?

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| A | return to top |

acclamation: a short sung statement

assembly: all who gather for a liturgy

| B | return to top |

Book of the Elect: a book that serves as both a record of those elected each year and a symbol of God’s chosen people

| C | return to top |

candidate: a baptized Christian who is preparing to become a Catholic; in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, the term “candidate” is also used to refer to the subjects of a rite, which includes catechumens and inquirers

cantor: one who leads the assembly in song

catechesis: Greek, meaning “sounding down” or “re-echoing down to another”; a way of communicating faith

catechumen: Greek, meaning “one in whom word echoes”; one who celebrated the Rite of Acceptance; an unbaptized person who is preparing for full initiation at the Easter Vigil

catechumenate: the period of time and the structure within which the catechumens prepare for initiation; “catechumenate” is also used as a synonym for the entire Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults

convert: another term for a catechumen; “convert” should never be used to refer to a baptized person who is preparing to become a Catholic;

| D | return to top |

dismissal: a sending; catechumens are sent after homily to reflect on God’s Word; the baptized are sent at Mass to “go, love and serve the Lord;” not meant to separate but to enable one’s mission

| E | return to top |

elect: name given to catechumens chosen by God and affirmed by the Church as ready to celebrate baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist at the next Easter Vigil; catechumens who have gone through the Rite of Election or Enrollment Rite on the first Sunday of Lent; the elect are those who are involved in immediate preparation for initiation at the upcoming Easter Vigil

election: the formal liturgical act of choosing those who have been called by God to celebrate the initiation sacraments; the election is proclaimed by the Bishop of a diocese

enrollment of names: another name for the Rite of Election; the formal liturgical act of gathering and recording the names of those ready to be initiated at the next Easter Vigil

evangelization: first stage of RCIA, of unfixed duration, also called inquiry or precatechumenate; proclaiming faith in Christ; mission of the baptized

exegesis: the scholarly, scientific interpretation of the Scriptures

| G | return to top |

Gathering Rite: the beginning of a liturgy that helps the assembly unite and focus on the liturgy

godparent: a person chosen by a catechumen to be a lifelong companion and mentor in the Christian faith; someone who makes a life-long commitment to be a spiritual mentor to a catechumen who decides to be baptized; can be the same person as the sponsor

| I | return to top |

inquirer: name given to the unbaptized who are drawn to the Christian way of life; a person seeking basic information about Catholicism or Christianity; this person may or may not eventually join the church; also called a “precatechumen”

| L | return to top |

lectionary: the official, liturgical book from which the reader (lector) proclaims the Scripture readings used in the Liturgy of the Word

liturgy: a set structure of prayers, readings, songs, and symbolic actions that is celebrated by a group of people together

Liturgy of the Eucharist: the prayers and songs around the altar, and the sharing of consecrated bread and wine during the Mass

Liturgy of the Word: the proclamation of Scripture and songs from the Bible followed by a reflection and prayers

| M | return to top |

Mass: one of the liturgies of the Church that consists of the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist

mystagogy: a process for reflecting on an encounter with God in order to discover the meaning for one’s life behind the encounter; means “study of the mysteries;” this reflection process can be used after any liturgical celebration; also the name of the period following baptism

| N | return to top |

neophyte: a newly baptized person; means “new plant”

| P | return to top |

psalm: a song from the book of Psalms found in the Bible

| R | return to top |

RCIA: stands for “Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults;” process for becoming Christian

RCIC and RCIY: fictional beasts; there is only one rite—the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults; adaptations of this one rite are made for children, youth, and previously baptized people; the only appropriate acronym is “RCIA;” in the parish, more user-friendly terms are encouraged

Rite of Acceptance: first public rite for those becoming Catholic; marks transition from inquiry period to catechumenate period

Rite of Election: a liturgical rite that takes place at the beginning of Lent which formally names those who will be baptized at the next Easter Vigil

| S | return to top |

scrutinies: the three scrutinies are rituals for the elect that “are meant to uncover, then heal, all that is weak, defective, or sinful in the hearts of the elect” (RCIA 141). They are normally celebrated on the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sundays of Lent. Click here to read posts on about the scrutinies.

signing of the senses: ritual act of tracing the sign of the cross on the catechumen’s forehead and other parts of the body during the Rite of Acceptance

sponsor: a companion that walks with a catechumen or candidate through the catechumenate process; ideally assigned to a catechumen by the parish, in discussion with the catechumen or candidate

suffrages: The National Statutes state that the catechumens should be encouraged to seek blessings and “other suffrages” from the church (8). Suffrages can be any prayer for the catechumens. Specifically, the RCIA offers the minor exorcisms as examples of suffrages that might be prayed for the catechumens.

| T | return to top |

Triduum: the “three-days” of Easter; day 1: Holy Thursday evening to Good Friday evening; day 2: Good Friday evening to Holy Saturday evening; day 3: Easter Vigil to Easter Evening Prayer; the normative time when unbaptized persons are baptized into the Church at the Easter Vigil; in addition to Sundays, the most important feast of the year

| W | return to top |

worship aid: a booklet given to the assembly that includes the music, prayers, and other information to help them participate in the liturgy

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