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Evangelization and Parish Life

RCIA FAQs

RCIA Adapted for Children

Timing of Liturgies

Rite of Election

Marriage Questions

The Easter Vigil

Dismissal

Ash Wednesday

Scrutinies

Godparents

Situational Questions

What is the "The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults Adapted for Children"?

According to Church teaching (Canon Law), the age of seven is called "the age of reason" (cf Canon 97 §2). By this age, children can have enough understanding to be responsible for their own actions. Therefore, they can make their own baptismal promises, whereas in infant baptism the parents make promises on behalf of the child. Accordingly, once a child has reached the age of 7, the Church requires that he or she then follows the preparation guidelines for RCIA, although in an age-appropriate manner. This catechesis will include learning about the Faith and especially about the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist, as well as reflection on the scripture.

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What do children study in the "The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults Adapted for Children"?

The children are prepared to receive the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. According to the guidance of the Church, once a child has reached the age of 7, he/she then follows the preparation guidelines for RCIA as if he/she was an adult. This catechesis will include sacramental education and reflection on the scripture.

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When are the Rite of Acceptance and Rite of Welcoming usually celebrated?

These Rites can be celebrated when people have completed the period of Pre-Evangelization and Inquiry, and can be celebrated 2 to 3 times in a year (RCIA no. 18). A recommended date is the Feast of Christ the King.

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When is the Rite of Election usually celebrated?

This Rite is always celebrated by the Bishop (cf. RCIA no. 121) and usually on the First Sunday of Lent (cf. RCIA no. 126). Parishes may celebrate the Rite of Sending which takes place immediately before the Rite of Election (cf. RCIA no. 106).

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Do Candidates sign the book of the elect?

No. Only catechumens sign the book.

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What marriage issues impede the RCIA process?

Anyone who is in an irregular marriage (i.e. a Catholic with only a civil wedding ceremony or any person remarried without an annulment issued by the Church)should discuss their situation with a parish priest or marriage advocate at the parish as early as possible in the RCIA process. Each case is unique so seek assistance when needed.

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Do married Catechumens or Protestant Candidates need their marriage convalidated?

Married couples who have had no prior marriages, and in which neither party is Catholic, are not bound by Catholic form and are, therefore, married in the eyes of the Church. After they receive their sacraments no convalidation is necessary.

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How should uncatechetized Baptized Catholics who are married civilly be incorporated into the RCIA process?

Individuals or couples who are Catholic but married outside of the Church, and who have no previous marriages will need to have their Marriage convalidated prior to receiving the sacraments. In certain circumstances it may be appropriate to convalidate the marriage after reception of the sacraments if the couple fully understands the expectations of Church prior to their convalidation (i.e. they must live as brother and sister until convalidation).

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How should individuals or couples who have been previously married be incorporated into the RCIA process? What about a person married to someone who has been divorced?

Anyone who has a previous marriage (Catholic or non-Catholic), or is married to someone with a previous marriage, without a decree of nullity (annulment) issued by the Church must have their situation carefully examined. People in irregular marriages or who are married to someone with a previous marriage can participate in the Period of Pre-Catechumenate, the Rite of Acceptance and the subsequent period of the Catechumenate, but they cannot be accepted as elect (i.e. be admitted to the Rite of Election) and/or approach the sacraments until their impediment is removed. Each case is unique so seek assistance when needed.

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Who has faculties to confirm at the Easter Vigil?

By law: pastors can (and must) confirm those adults they Baptize. “Unless there is a grave reason to the contrary, an adult who is baptized is to be confirmed immediately after baptism and is to participate in the Eucharistic celebration also by receiving communion.” (Canon no. 866)

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Can a pastor confirm a person outside of the Easter Vigil?

Yes. If the candidate is a baptized Catholic, a Pastor must request faculties in order to confirm him or her. No faculties need be requested to receive and confirm a candidate baptized into another Christian church. Conferral of the sacraments should take place at a Sunday liturgy during the Easter season, but not at the Easter Vigil or on Easter Sunday.

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Who from the RCIA group should be part of the dismissal from Mass?

The RCIA no. 73 states: Ordinarily when catechumens are present in the assembly of the faithful during the Mass they should be kindly dismissed before the liturgy of the Eucharist begins. They must await their Baptism, which will join them to God’s priestly people and empower them to participate in the celebration of the Eucharist. Therefore, catechumens should be part of the dismissal rite.

Baptized candidates from another Christian tradition are already members of the Church [though not in full communion]and children of God. Their Baptism gives them the right to be present at the celebration of the Eucharist but they may not receive Holy Communion until they have been received into full communion with the Church. When these candidates are truly uncatechized they may choose to be dismissed with the catechumens, however, they must be made clear to them that they are not catechumens.

Baptized Catholic candidates are never dismissed. By their Baptism they have the right and responsibility to be with the community for the celebration of the Eucharist.

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Is it proper for catechumens and candidates to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday?

Receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday would not be proper for catechumens.

However, because they are baptized, it would be proper for the candidates to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday.

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Are the scrutinies for the Elect only?

Yes, as the prayer of exorcism in the three scrutinies is for catechumens who have received the Church’s election. The language of the prayers employs numerous images referring to their approaching Baptism, and thus are not proper rituals for candidates who have already received Baptism. In their place the RCIA provides a Penitential Rite for those preparing for Confirmation and Eucharist preserving the distinction between the scrutinies and the Penitential Rite. Furthermore, there is no combined rite for these celebrations. (RCIA no. 463)

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Is it possible to have two godmothers or two godfathers or two sponsors of the same gender?

No. At the celebration of Baptism there is to be only one male or one female godparent or one of each. (Canon no. 873).

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Who can be a godparent?

It is usual that at the time of Baptism and Confirmation a person has a godparent. This godparent takes on the responsibility of helping the person to live a Christian life in keeping with Baptism/Confirmation and to fulfill the obligations inherent in it.

To take on the responsibility of being a godparent a person:

  1. Must be a Catholic who is not a parent of the one to be baptized or confirmed
  2. Must have received all the sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Eucharist, and Confirmation);
  3. Must live a life of faith that befits the role to be undertaken (e.g. if married, must be in a valid marriage according to Church law);
  4. Cannot have a canonical penalty like excommunication;
  5. Cannot be under the age of sixteen.
    • If there is a just reason, someone of a younger age can be permitted by the pastor or the oneadministering the Baptism or Confirmation;
  6. Must be nominated by at least one of the parents in the case of infant Baptism, by the one tobe baptized in the case of an adult Baptism, or by the pastor or the one administering theBaptism in cases where necessity requires it.

Regarding Witnesses: At the request of the parents, a baptized and believing person not belonging to the CatholicChurch may act as a Christian witness along with a Catholic godparent.

An unbaptized person cannot act as a witness or godparent.

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One of my RCIA participants, while a baptized Catholic, joined for a few years a separated ecclesial community. She has decided to return to the Catholic Church. Does she to make a profession of faith?

No. She does not need to make a profession of faith. Her way back is via the sacrament of Reconciliation with individual confession and absolution.

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Is it proper to include the candidates in the Rite of Presentation of the Creed and Presentation of the Lord’s Prayer?

It depends on the spiritual needs of these candidates. If the candidates are truly uncatechized, have no experience with the Church of their baptism, were never raised in any faith, the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer will be totally unfamiliar to them. The presentations would be proper and would be needed by them.

However, if the Lord’s Prayer has been part of their prayer life it would not make any sense to present them with this prayer. In a similar way, if a candidate has had some experience with their church of baptism and has prayed the Creed as part of religious services in that church then it would not make any sense to present them with the Creed which is already part of their prayer life.

All candidates would benefit from a deeper study of both these prayers as would all in our parish community, but to ritually present them with these symbols as if they had never heard of them before would be incongruous. (See RCIA no. 407)

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Can a white stole be used at the Baptism and/or Confirmation of a child or adult as the white garment called for in the Rite?

No. The traditional vesture of the newly baptized/confirmed is the white robe (alb). The stole is the proper vestment for an ordained minister…priest, deacon. “The distinction between the universal priesthood of all the baptized and the ministerial priesthood of the ordained is blurred when the distinctive garb of ordained ministers is used at (Baptism), Confirmation. “[BCL Newsletter, Dec. 1984]

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