Question: I am thrilled that I found this website. Thank you very much! We are currently trying to begin a year round process for RCIA. I understand and love the way you explained the Inquiry time, but I am very confused on the Rites, not that of Acceptance, but of Sending and Election. There is also the question of delegation which in our diocese is given once a year before the Rite of Election. If you help me understand this part of a year round RCIA, I would be very grateful! Also what if a person comes to us say, in January, they would begin with the Inquiry. This person is not baptized and does not know anything about the Catholic Faith. He would continue with the inquiry sessions then enter the catechumenate in the fall, is that correct? Thank you again!
Answer: You ask a great question. To have a year-round ("continuous" also seems to convey the idea well), we welcome new inquirers when they call. The simple answer to your question is that the Rites of Sending and Election are only done once a year: the 1st Sunday of Lent, and all the un-baptized wait for that day. Some spend longer in the RCIA, but the best answer comes from the Rites book (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults).
Using your example of an un-baptized adult beginning in January, they would start with whatever class was offered the night they begin and continue in inquiry for the remainder of sessions (For example, 14 weeks if you use the 14-week cycle we recommend in the blog post at this link). Then, they would have a discernment and, if ready, go through the Rite of Acceptance around mid-April. They would go into the catechumenate (at whatever session is offered at that time). Some parishes split the catechumenate into 2 groups: (1) the group receiving Sacraments at Eastertime and (2) those still needing more preparation.
The un-baptized adult would stay in the catechumenate until the following Ash Wednesday. This is the most ideal timing because the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults book states that the time in the catechumenate may last "several years" (RCIA n. 7.2) and is further clarified in the appendix that the catechumenate "should extend for at least one year of formation ... Ordinarily this period should go from at least the Easter season of one year until the next" (Ap. III, n. 6). The intention is clear: the process would take the time of inquiry plus 1 year. For those that begin at some other time, they would spend a bit of extra time in the RCIA, sometimes 1 year and 9 months is common. They may get some repeated sessions, but this is always helpful as we see through different eyes as we grow closer to God.
If someone called the parish in June 2012 and finished Inquiry in September 2012, they would be in the catechumenate from September 2012 to February 2014 and then enter the period of purification and enlightenment at Ash Wednesday 2014 and be initiated at the Easter Vigil 2014. Once a parish moves to a year-round process, the transition is easy, because everyone is at a different stage and understands from day 1 that they need at least 1 year in the catechumenate. Anyone starting in September 2012 would also be initiated at the Easter Vigil 2014.
For the baptized Catholic candidate (un-catechized with no First Communion and no Confirmation, but baptized as a Catholic as an infant), a parish pastor may request a delegation from the bishop to confirm at some other time, such as late fall. For the baptized adult from another Christian faith (Reception into Full Communion), this can be done at any Sunday Mass, no delegation is needed, and can be done when the candidate is ready! Usually, in these cases, at least 10-12 months of catechesis is needed, and some parishes fully initiate these baptized candidates at one or two additional times (in addition to the Easter Vigil) each year.
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