Q. We have three adults in our formation process. One is from the Baptist tradition and the other two are active Catholic members of our parish who need only confirmation.
Because they are all baptized, I understand they do not need the formal catechumenate process nor do they have to wait until the Easter Vigil. How do we determine when they are ready for confirmation? And in the case of our Baptist, reception into full communion?
Also, are these three officially catechumens or candidates? I am trying to move to a year-round process and get away from using the Catechism as a text book. My concern is to help these folks develop a relationship with Jesus, not just stuff their heads full of facts.
Can you suggest ways to proceed?
A. You are correct that these candidates (who are baptized) are on a different ritual path than the catechumens (who are not yet baptized). Because your two Catholics have already been participating for a while in your parish, you likely would not celebrate any of the optional rites from Part II with them (see RCIA 400).
You want to determine if your Baptist fits the criteria in paragraph 400. If they have had any formation or relationship with the Christian community since their baptism, then the optional rites in Part II are not for them either.
You could certainly celebrate blessings with all three of them as they are preparing as well as the full range of liturgies we celebrate as Catholics. As soon as your Baptist candidate is ready, you can celebrate the Rite of Reception into the Full Communion of the Catholic Church (which includes confirmation and Eucharist) with that person.
For your Catholics preparing for confirmation, your pastor would need to get permission from your bishop to confirm them once they’re ready. Otherwise have them celebrate confirmation with your bishop at the next possible occasion.
What does readiness look like?
To determine readiness for all these baptized persons, you would use the same criteria we use for catechumens, but adapted for their situations. You can find the criteria in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, paragraphs 42 and 120.
You would also want to make sure they have each been adequately formed in the four areas of Christian training described in the entirety of paragraph 75. You mentioned that your two Catholics have been active in the parish, so presumably they have been training in those four areas already through their participation in the parish.
You would want to make sure your Baptist candidate has also been trained in those four areas and had adequate time to be immersed in the Catholic community. If that person has already been active in their Baptist Church, they may already be very familiar with a life of discipleship in the living Word of God but may have some questions about Catholic Tradition and teaching. They may or may not have had experience with a life of self-sacrifice and participation in a Christian community. They may need some experience in the Catholic life of prayer, especially liturgical prayer and the liturgical year. And they may or may not already have experience in being an apostolic witness.
So paragraph 75 will be important. But you also do not want to delay their reception if they have already had a long life of Christian experience and are ready to live as a Catholic.
Connectedness is key
I’m so encouraged that your concern is to help your candidates develop a relationship with Jesus. As paragraph 75 outlines (also paragraph 9), the best way to help them do that is to immerse them into the life of the parish, getting them connected with everyday parishioners doing what Catholics do on a daily basis.
If they have been participating in a Christian community for a while, they will already have much of the foundation for that relationship with Jesus. Ongoing conversations with them and with their sponsors can help you and them determine when they are ready for the sacraments. In any case, the deeper you can make that bond with them into the Christian community, the more they will get to know Jesus and the faith we profess and will desire to continue deepening their faith and knowledge throughout their life.
What does it look like to walk with candidates in your parish? How do you help them get connected to your parish? Share your thoughts in the comments below.