The very first time I heard about the RCIA was at a diocesan information meeting in St. Louis in 1982. I don’t remember a lot about the meeting, but the one thing that really grabbed my attention was when the presenter said that we would be dismissing the catechumens from Mass after the homily. At the time, that was such an unheard of idea that I knew instantly it would cause a great stir in parishes. And indeed, it did cause an initial shock in parishes that implemented the dismissal. Many other parishes decided to simply not do it because it was such a radical departure from the way we had always done things.
It seems like we have gotten over the initial shock, but there is still a lot of resistance to the dismissal. There is also a lot of confusion about it. So here are a few thoughts of mine about why I think it is important. I’d love to hear yours as well.
Hostility or hospitality?
I don’t hear this as often, but there used to be a refusal to dismiss catechumens because it seemed inhospitable. I hope that thinking has died out. We are not sending the catechumens away because they are somehow unworthy. We’re sending them out to do the work that is appropriate to their order in the Body. The job of the Order of Catechumens is to hear the Word of God. During the dismissal session, they focus more intently on the Word, listening deeply to God’s call to them. This is an essential part of their training in the Christian life.
Don’t do catechesis
Another reason for not dismissing is parishes say they don’t have enough catechists. This is a confusion. The dismissal is not a time for catechesis. It is a time for reflection, prayer, and faith sharing the flows from God’s Word at that moment. The leader does not need to be a catechist. He or she only needs to be someone who can lead a reflection on faith. That could be a youth minister, a first communion preparation catechist, a choir member, a lector, someone from the parish council, a Bible study participant, or a member of the Women’s Guild. It could even be a catechumen who has some experience with the dismissal process. Or it could be a neophyte who has been through at least a year’s worth of dismissals already.
A single exception
A somewhat legitimate reason to skip the dismissal that sometimes comes up is that a parish has only one catechumen. I think you could do a dismissal session with only one or two catechumens, but it is true that having a few more participants is beneficial. If you decide not to dismiss the lone catechumen, it is still important to break open God’s word with him or her. You would simply do it after Mass instead of after the homily. After Mass, you could gather a few of the baptized to also share faith and the catechumen will not seem so isolated.
Keep the baptized candidates in the Mass
Here is one of the biggest confusions. Oftentimes, a Protestant who is married to a Catholic—and who has been going to Mass for years—decides he wants to become Catholic. Too often, the pour soul is stuck into the catechumenate and is then sent forth from the liturgy every Sunday without his wife. These people almost never belong in the catechumenate. Someone who has been to Sunday Mass regularly for years is catechized. They might need more catechesis, but they do not require the beginning conversion level of catechesis that the catechumens need. And since they are not in the catechumenate, these catechized Protestants would not be dismissed from Mass.
Keep the Catholics in the Mass
And, of course, parishioners should never be dismissed. That’s seems obvious, but we still get lots of questions about sponsors, spouses, and other team members. The only baptized person who should leave with the catechumens is the dismissal leader. By way of adaptation, baptized uncatechized participants in the catechumenate might also be dismissed. But my preference is that even these folks stay with the other baptized members of the assembly as a sign that they are in a different order—the Order of the Faithful.
So what happens in your community? Are you dismissing catechumens every week? What about in the summer? And what are you doing with the children? Please share your thoughts.
12 thoughts on “Five things your RCIA team may not know about the dismissal”
I’ve been looking at our dismissal practices in our parish now. Currently, we dismiss everyone (catechumens and candidates) because after BOW we have the catechetical session. It seems it could easily be timed to have the BOW session finish by the end of Mass (we have to meet in a different building, so I don’t know that logistically going back over to church for the final blessing would be feasible.
If the BOW is timed to the end of Mass, it would seem acceptable to me to have the catechetical session then, when the candidates could naturally join us. Anyone have thoughts on this?
We dismiss catechumens every week from the time of the Rite of Acceptance until the Easter Vigil…including Ash Wednesday and Holy Thursday. This year we have 1 adult and 5 children…all of them are dismissed. We rotate at which Masses the dismissals and scrutinies take place so as to have the whole parish community develop an awareness of what is happening and who is involved in RCIA. The adult meets with one parish faith sharer and the children meet together with another faith sharer.
One small correction in the title of #5. Catechumens are Catholics, they just have not been baptized yet. Should be Keep the baptized catholics in mass.
I have just been pointed to your website and the few things I have read so far are great. I have been doing RCIA for many years and think things like your site are very much needed.
Gosh – I got to this new parish in the middle of the year – dismissal? GUESS who goes!!!
Catechumens, sponsors, AND Team Members AND Catholic Adults seeking Confirmation!!!!! Needless to say, I’ve pared that down to catechumens and catechist for BOW!
I don’t think that is correct. Baptism is what makes us part of the Body of Christ. Therefore, I don’t think you can rightly say that catechumens (the unbaptized) are Catholics.
In our parish we do dismissal throughout the summer, but we end the extended sessions on Pentecost Sunday. As for our baptized candidates our director always tells them that they do not have to dismiss but if they would like to they may, most choose to dismiss because they enjoy BOW, we have had a couple of candidates choose to stay at Mass.
Only Catechumens are dismissed at dismissal- not candidates. Dismissal is for the UNBAPTIZED!
Last Advent was the first step we took to implementing the year-round R.C.I.A, and with that, learning to be more true to the RCIA itself. We separated the Rites of Welcome and Acceptance and had them on separate weekends, at different Mass times. The second step was not asking the baptized to dismiss. We didn’t know what to do with the uncatechized baptized folks though; that was a gray area. It was suggested to us to give these folks some options and let them take the lead. I explained what would occur in the BOW sessions, and suggested that perhaps they choose 2 sessions a month to dismiss and when they felt ready, stay at Mass for the duration.
What was a learning curve for my team was trusting the baptized candidates to actually attend Mass and not “checking in” with one of us. We asked the sponsors to attend with their candidates as often as possible and this seemed to help. We know we still have some refinements to make as we implement the full year-round R.C.I.A., but letting go was a big step!
Thanks for underlining and affirming what we do here at St.Anne’s. I agree with your observations and sharing about dismissals. This aspect of the Catechumenate journey is definitely most important.
Many of our catechumens say that dismissal was their favor moment and most helpful in establishing a relations with our God.Thanks and blessings on yo ministry. Dianne
We have year round RCIA with the dismissal. However, candidates are dismissed with catechumens. I am trying to change this since learning that the baptized should stay through Mass. It’s been diifcult to implement that change. We also ahve dismissal for the children but only twice a month – and again both candidates and catechumens.
Team RCIA has been such a great resource! Thank you for all you do.
I’m currently in RCIA as I’ve never been confirmed but am a practicing Catholic. I’m disturbed that everyone in the program no matter what phase they are in are being dismissed and told we are not allowed to take communion. I feel I’m being asked to take steps backwards so I’m pleased to see the information on your site.
Hi Kathy. I’m sorry that happened to you. Practicing Catholics should never be dismissed from Mass. Nor should they be in the RCIA. Blessings on your journey.