Candidates for Full Communion

Catechized...Uncatechized Candidates in the RCIA Process

The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, although written primarily for those adults and children of catechetical age who are not baptized, may be adapted to include uncatechized adults who were baptized in another Christian Tradition and are now seeking full communion with the Catholic Church.

The critical issue is who is considered catechized and who uncatechized and how does the catechumenal team help each on the conversion journey.

Catechized Christian Candidates
The discernment that needs to be done with all Christian candidates is always done on an individual basis. Catechized Christian candidates are not automatically placed in the catechumenal process. They are to receive doctrinal and spiritual preparation.

A catechized Christian candidate is one who has been living as an active part of the faith community of his/her baptism: This candidate:

  • identifies with the traditions and faith system of the community of his/her baptism
  • has the habit of Sunday worship
  • is familiar with the bible and may or may not read it regularly
  • is familiar with other members of his/her faith community
  • is a person who prays
  • understands and may or may not be involved in community outreach

Discernment of readiness of these candidates is based on the four pillars that ground the Initiation process; namely, Word, Worship, Community and Service. The critical question is whether or not the candidate is moving forward on the conversion journey.

We need to discern if and how the candidate is moving:

From   To
Literalist understanding WORD understanding its meaning
Only privatistic prayer WORSHIP public worship
Concern for one's own needs SERVICE clear openness to needs of others
Rugged individualism COMMUNITY communal interdependence

In addition it is important for the catechumenal team to understand the belief system in which this person was raised (Anglican, Lutheran, etc1.) and how invested the candidate was in that belief system.

Both the RCIA director and the candidate uncover the areas of formation that are needed before the candidate can be accepted into full communion. The catechetical formation for these candidates:

  • is done either with small groups that already exist in the parish {ex. the parish lectors or bible study group could help the candidate move from literalist understanding of the Word to understanding its meaning}
  • or with their sponsors {who would be able to introduce them to many members of the community particularly those who rely on the kindness and prayers of the church...sick, parents with special needs children, senior citizens, prayer groups, etc. and then discuss the effect that the faith of these people has on the candidate}
  • or at Adult Education that is being offered in the parish, vicariate, diocese {always including reflection and discussion as an essential part of these offerings}
  • or through reading/ study/ discussion
  • or with the catechumenal group only when the subject matter needed by the candidate matches what is being presented at the catechetical session

The most important thing to remember in the preparation of these candidates who are journeying to full communion is that they are not catechumens. "...by baptism they have already become members of the Church and children of God.2 They have rights and obligations in the Church. One of those obligations is to join the community in worship on Sundays.

In his recent instruction3 Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that the "goal of the whole process of initiation is the Eucharist". The question then needs to be asked: What is it that prevents these candidates from participation at the table of the Eucharist?

For catechumens it is lack of "baptism...becoming part of God's family" that prevents them from participation at the table of the Eucharist.

For candidates it is lack of "unity in the faith that we as Catholics profess" that prevents them from full participation at the table of the Eucharist. All of our catechetical efforts are designed to prepare the candidate for this unity.

These candidates are expected to receive the sacrament of reconciliation - sometimes called second baptism - at a time prior to and distinct from the rite of reception.4 The purpose of this sacrament is to help the candidate "admit aloud sorrow for one's sins and to hear the church's minister extend the mercy of Christ. It can be a moment of powerful healing for those who have made this spiritual journey deeply - not just as a shift from one faith community to another but as a recommitment to Jesus Christ and his church."5

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Uncatechized Candidates
An uncatechized Christian or Catholic candidate is one who has had little or no experience with the faith community of their baptism. This candidate is:

  • not very vested in the traditions of that community,
  • does not have the habit of Sunday worship,
  • may or may not have the habit of bible reading,
  • may or may not be familiar with other members of that community of origin,
  • may or may not be involved community outreach
  • may or may not be a person who prays

But this candidate is baptized and the catechumenate team must honor that baptism. All of the baptized have been incorporated into Christ and constitute the Christian faithful.6 This incorporation into Christ establishes a spiritual relationship between God and the person. Even if the person is not faithful to that relationship we know that God is always faithful.

The formation of these candidates centers on the effects of the baptism they have received. In the course of their formation the catechumenate team needs to help these candidates:

  • remember and come to an appreciation of their baptism and its effects especially God's faithfulness
  • uncover and come to appreciate the presence and action of God in the events of their lives both past and present
  • become aware of how God has already been helping them to witness to his presence and love of humankind

The formation of these uncatechized candidates may be concurrent with the formation of catechumens provided that opportunities are provided for them to reflect on what they are learning in light of their baptism. These candidates do not participate in all of the rites that are designed for catechumens. The rituals that are proper to them are:

  • Rite of Welcoming the Candidates
  • Celebrations of the Word of God...Sunday
  • Presentation of the Creed (only if they have no Christian instruction)
  • Presentation of the Lord's Prayer (only if they have never prayed this prayer)
  • Presentation of the Book of Gospels (only if they have no knowledge or experience with the Scriptures)
  • Rite of Calling the Candidates to Continuing Conversion (either at the Archdiocesan combined rite at the Cathedral or at the parish )
  • Reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation

These candidates also, are expected to receive the sacrament of reconciliation at a time prior to and distinct from the rite of reception.7 The purpose of this sacrament is to help the candidate "admit aloud sorrow for one's sins and to hear the church's minister extend the mercy of Christ. It can be a moment of powerful healing for those who have made this spiritual journey deeply - not just as a shift from one faith community to another but as a recommitment to Jesus Christ and his church."

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Catechized Catholic Candidates Preparing for Confirmation
In many of our parishes baptized Catholics are presenting themselves for reception of the sacrament of Confirmation. Some are preparing to be married and need to be confirmed before they are married. They are not proper candidates for the RCIA process.

Catechized Catholic candidates are those:

  • who have been baptized Catholic
  • have received some religious formation at home, in school, or in a religious education process leading to their reception of First Eucharist
  • have been participating in Sunday liturgy and receiving Eucharist

It is proper for the parish to prepare these adults for confirmation and then send them to the Cathedral for confirmation. There are two days in the course of the year when adult confirmation is celebrated at the Cathedral: Pentecost and the Feast of Christ the King.8

It is important to keep the emphasis of the preparation of these catholic candidates for Confirmation on the center of the initiation process, the Eucharist. Those who prepare these candidates need to use this time of preparation in such a way that these candidates spend time examining what their response to their baptismal vows has been and come to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Eucharist. For them, too, reconciliation becomes an important part of their preparation process. They should be provided with opportunities to approach the sacrament of Reconciliation before reception of Confirmation. For many this confession provides them with an opportunity to review their whole life to date.

Sometimes these candidates are included in the catechumenal process. Caution is advised when this occurs.

None of the rites for catechumens is proper for these Catholic candidates.

They do not join the catechumens during the dismissal session on Sundays; their proper place is with the assembly at the liturgy of the Eucharist.

Sometimes their presence at the catechetical session, particularly where these sessions incorporate reflection and discussion rather than just lecture, can be overwhelming to catechumens.

Also, the church expects catechumens to be spend at least a full year in the catechumenate as they apprentice into the faith and life of the Catholic Church9; Catholic candidates for Confirmation probably need a shorter period of time to prepare for Confirmation.

Catechumens are receiving initiatory catechesis which is a basic and essential formation, centered on what constitutes the nucleus of Christian experience, the most fundamental certainties of the faith and the most essential evangelical values.10

Catholic candidates are receiving ongoing catechesis which builds on the formation they have already received. Ongoing catechesis fosters the growth of a more mature faith.

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1Outlines of the beliefs of some major Christian Traditions are attached to this paper.
2RCIA # 400
Also, "...{those} who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are brought into a certain, though imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church....all who have been justified by faith in baptism are incorporated into Christ; ..." (Decree on Ecumenism, #3)
3 Sacramentum Caritatis, 17
4 National Statutes, 36
5 Turner, Paul, When Other Christians Become Catholic, (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2007), 134.
6 Canon 204
7 National Statutes, 36
8 Handbook for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, Archdiocese of Detroit, chapter 1, #4, p. 3.
9 National Statutes for the Catechumenate, #6.
10 General Directory for Catechesis, #67