A catechumen is an unbaptized woman or man seeking membership in the Catholic Christian community.
The catechumenate is the period of religious formation and education for catechumens as they prepare for the Christian Initiation.
A candidate is a baptized woman or man, coming from another Christian tradition, who desires to become a full, active member of the Catholic Christian community. Candidates follow the RCIA process, preparing with the catechumens, to receive the other Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil.
The Breaking Open of the Word is a reflection on the readings proclaimed at the Sunday Mass. After the homily, the catechumens and candidates leave the assembled community and, with their sponsors, they reflect on the scriptures’ meaning and the practical implications for Jesus’ words and teachings for life and for today’s world.
The Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist) are the ritual actions through which men and women become “new creations” in Jesus Christ, become full members of the Catholic Christian community, are forgiven of sin and are empowered by the Spirit to live the new life of the Risen Jesus. They are said to be initiated into the life of Christ and the Church.
The Sacred Triduum refers to the three days that follow the season of Lent: Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil. These are the most sacred days for Christians as they commemorate Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection—the mystery of God’s love in which God saved all humankind through the Son, Jesus Christ. The Easter Vigil—also called Holy Saturday—is the night when catechumens experience the three Sacraments of Initiation and candidates profess their faith and receive the Sacraments of Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist for the first time as Catholics.
In the Letter to the Ephesians (4.17-24), Saint Paul teaches that to be a Christian means to live in a radically different way than the way offered by the secular society that surrounds us. Being a Christian means acquiring a new mind and heart—the mind and heart of Christ Jesus—as we journey toward God’s Kingdom.
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is the primary way the Churchwelcomes new members. The thrust of RCIA is not merely making new members in the Christian community; rather RCIA emphasizes growing“disciples of Jesus.”
Through RCIA, unbaptized persons encounter Jesus by hearing the sacred scriptures proclaimed, by immersing themselves in the Tradition of the Catholic Christian community, and by discovering the Risen Jesus present concretely in the seven sacraments.
RCIA is the process that the Church has designed to help women and menrespond to the impulse of God’s Spirit, drawing them to community fellowship in Jesus Christ, to personal holiness, and to engage in loving service in the world.
The parish provides each catechumen and candidate with a sponsor. The sponsor is a member of the parish who is fully-initiated—they themselves have received the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Holy Eucharist and, as such, are full and active members of the parish community.
The sponsor is meant to be an example of faith for catechumens and candidates. It is to the sponsor that catechumens and candidates might turn to with questions or issues regarding their own journey and practice of the Catholic faith.
The sponsors lead catechumens and candidates in a reflection on the scriptures proclaimed at the Sunday Eucharist; this is called the Breaking Open of the Word.