Contact: Deacon John Weaver, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Catholic Church has a process that is individualized for each person, depending on his/her faith background and experience. There are four basic stages in the process. Movement through these stages can vary with each person. If a person is unbaptized, the faith journey could be longer and somewhat different from a person who has been baptized and formed in another church community.
The first stage or period is called Inquiry. This is a time of searching, asking questions and the beginning of the communal journey of faith formation or enrichment. This time lasts as long as needed for basic questions to be answered and for a person to discern if God is calling him/her to the Catholic community. When ready, the person celebrates a ritual in church with the Sunday assembly — Celebration of Acceptance and Welcoming. This is an introduction to the community as a member, although not fully initiated.
Inquiry sessions are more like conversations than classes. Inquirers set the agenda with ques-tions. There are no tests, teachers or homework. It is a time to explore basic teachings and practices of the church and to deepen the initial call to faith through hearing the “good news.”
The second stage or period is called the Catechumenate. This is an ancient word that means a time of deepening of faith and identity through prayer, instruction and formation of conscience. This is the longest period. Candidates are invited to join the community for the first part of the Sunday worship service which is the celebration of Scripture. After hearing God’s Word, they are dismissed to “break open the Word” and discover what God is speaking to them and to the Catholic community. Time is spent exploring Catholic Doctrine and/or practices related to this world. This period culminates with the Rite of Election. If the person is to be initiated at Easter (this is the typical time, but not the only time), the ritual is celebrated with the Bishop in the Cathedral in Jefferson City with all others in the Diocese who are preparing for entrance into the Catholic community. If a person is to be initiated at a time other than Easter, the ritual can be adapted for celebration at Sacred Heart Church.
The third stage is a shorter period of immediate preparation. For those to be initiated at Easter, this is the 6-week Lenten period. For others, the time frame can be adapted. It is a re-flective, prayerful time with ritual prayers celebrated with the Sunday community. This stage culminates with the Rite of Initiation. For the unbaptized, initiation consists of baptism, confir-mation and Eucharist. Those who have been baptized, make a profession of faith, are con-firmed and receive Eucharist.
The fourth stage is a time called Mystagogia, another ancient word that means reflection on the mysteries. During this time meetings are after the Sunday Eucharist to help reflect on the initiation experience and make the transition into full Catholic life.
Why is the process so long and involved?
Becoming a Catholic Christian is entering into a “way of life.” More than just getting some in-formation, it is formation by a living community with a long-standing tradition. The heart of this process is “conversion,” and initial or deepening experience of God, faith and formation by God’s Word. Although God effects this conversion, time is needed to grow into some new atti-tudes, practices, beliefs, etc.
How much time is required?
For a person who is not baptized, the process usually takes a year. For those who come from active practice and formation in another Christian tradition, the time could vary from four to six to eight months.
In you are interested in the Catholic Church, call the Sacred Heart Parish Office, 573-443-3470 and ask for Deacon John Weaver, or email email@example.com.