Catechumen or Candidate?
By means of the processes described in the document, R.C.I.A., interested non-baptized persons become Catechumens, and Catechumens become full members of the Catholic Church by means of baptism, confirmation, and eucharist, which are referred to as the Sacraments of Initiation.
“However, when one speaks of a baptized person from a Protestant tradition, for example, who is preparing for reception into full communion in the Roman tradition, one is speaking of a different matter. A baptized person should not be led automatically through the full catechumenal process or be called a catechumen. Instead, we call him or her a candidate.” By this we mean that this person is a candidate for the catholic Sacrament of Confirmation and a candidate preparing to receive Holy Communion in the Catholic Church and thus become a full member of the Catholic Church, the Catholic Communion.
“Frequently candidates for full communion in the Catholic church find certain elements of the catechumenate process helpful in their preparation. For example, the focus on continuing conversion is appropriate for any Christian, especially at a time of transition. An understanding of Catholic beliefs, the practice of Catholic observances in the church year over an appropriate period of time and the experience of Catholic community are all necessary for an informed commitment that will last.” The differences in the process must be tailored by the candidate in conjunction with the RCIA Director and the Church-provided Sponsor.
“Since candidates are already baptized, the liturgical rites that mark the steps of the formation process are different from those of catechumens. there are rites of welcoming by the parish community and recognition by the bishop, a celebration of the call to continuing conversion and a penitential rite. Reception into full communion in the Catholic church takes place with a profession of faith, confirmation and eucharist.” By penitential rite we mean that the person examines his or her own life with some scrutiny to things that s/he has done right and things that s/he knows has been wrongfully done; these latter things need to be repented of. Sometimes the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the appropriate means for this person to mark the movement from sin to grace, from old life to new life before s/he enters into full communion. Sometimes it is a less formal act of repentance.
The R.C.I.A., sometimes generically called the Catechumenate, is a responsibility of the whole Church; this responsibility takes particular shape mainly in parishes, the normal locus of catholic community life; yet there are some other kinds of particular communities with the Catholic Church which serve as adjuncts to parish and service special needs such as this Catholic University community. In view of this commitment and obligation of the Church, we provide an outreach person for each person who presents himself or herself as a “seeker”; these church-provided Sponsor will serve as spiritual companions as they seek to discover God’s call.