BY CARDINAL TIMOTHY M. DOLAN
These recent weeks have been “back to school” for so many of our youth, providing yet another occasion for us to celebrate our splendid Catholic schools: elementary, secondary, and higher education.
An essential part of our “teaching” are also our programs of religious education, both for our youth, who may not be in one of our Catholic schools, and adult faith formation, which so many of you tell us you need and want.
Nor can we forget a particularly sparkling example of faith formation: the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).
Each year this fall season, hundreds and hundreds of folks, mostly adults, who are either not members of our Catholic family, or who, while once baptized, were never raised or formed in the faith, join our RCIA in their parish. Prompted by the Holy Spirit, and usually encouraged by a Catholic friend—often a spouse—they have requested the full entrance into and the embrace of the Church. Alleluia!
They begin these very days in our parish RCIA’s. The goal is the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, when those not baptized—we call them catechumens— will receive the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Communion. Those who may have been baptized Catholic, but not did not grow up in the faith, or those who were baptized in another Christian tradition and now want to become Catholics—these we call candidates—would make a profession of faith, and receive the sacrament of Confirmation and their first Holy Communion (while having made their first confession beforehand) on Holy Saturday.
I am so happy to hear many of our parish priests tell me that the RCIA, along with many other valued features of life, went into hibernation during Covid, but now, thank God, are back strong. That’s good news!
The RCIA is hardly a novelty. This is a way people entering full communion with the Catholic Church did so in the first centuries of the Church. In fact, back then, it was a three-year process, while now it is only about eight months.
The RCIA is a radiant experience for the entire parish community: Catechists within the parish cooperate with their priests, deacons, and lay faith formation leaders; each catechumen or candidate has a sponsor, who also becomes very involved; and the entire parish rejoices as these future new Catholics progress in their journey towards the end of Lent.
And what a boost this is to all of us! All we seem to hear about these days are people leaving the Church, and here we witness wonderful folks who are eager to join!
Candidates, catechumens, sponsors, catechists, deacons, and priests; thank you! We’re all on a journey with you! We’ll all rejoice with you next Easter!