The word “catechumen” comes from biblical Greek and literally means “one who sounds out something”. The second step of the RCIA process is known as the Catechumenate. The purpose of this catechumenate period is to give the Inquirer, who makes a decision to journey through to Christian Initiation, a thoroughly supportive and encouraging environment. An Inquirer becomes a Catechumen through a formal Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumenate. During this ceremony, celebrated during a mass with the parish community, the Catechumen is given a special blessing and a bible, which they will use in the coming weeks to experience the living word of God along with their fellow Catechumens and Parishioners.
The Catechumenate flows from the love of the parish family as it ministers to those who are choosing membership in the Church. The parish brings many resources together to create an ongoing process that will assist the Catechumen every step of the way.
As this step begins, the parish offers specific encouragement and witness to the Inquirers through the assistance of individual Catholics called Sponsors. A Sponsor becomes a companion to an individual Inquirer. The Sponsor personally encourages the Inquirer in every way possible. He or she prays for and with the Inquirer, invites and accompanies the individual to parish celebrations and shares personal stories of what it means to be a Catholic.
Throughout the Catechumenate the Catechumens join with Parishioners at each Sunday Mass to listen to the biblical readings and the homily. The Old and New Testament scriptures read at each Sunday Mass are the focal point and basis for the theological and spiritual reflections that lead Catechumens and Parishioners through the RCIA process. After the homily, Catechumens are formally dismissed from the celebration of the Mass. They gather together with their Sponsors and catechists (teachers) to study the Word of God and to examine how their lives are touched by its power.
The Catechumenate is a spirit Journey of Catechumens moving toward specific goals, accompanied by Sponsors, catechists, a pastoral team, and the parish community. The entire experience is designed to lead Catechumens to discover their unique Christian vocation while they deepen their spiritual lives both personally and within the community. In the Catechumenate, participants gather to explore the directions in which their faith journeys are leading them. Through spiritual counseling and instruction provided by the parish team, Catechumens are guided in their quest for a deeper experience of faith and community within the Catholic Church. Essential to process is the Catechumens’ participation in various forms of community worship and active commitment to works of Christian charity and service.
This period of adult formation involves many members of the parish family all supporting one another. In fact, the parish may discover the ongoing presentation and celebration of the Catechumenate has become a major focus of enthusiasm and vitality for the whole parish community.
Catholics believe that the Spirit invites a particular person to respond to God’s call. How the Spirit chooses to lead those who are journeying is always unique to each person. A time will come, however, when the pastoral team and the Catechumen together will discover the Holy Spirit is indeed leading the Catechumen to the life-giving waters of Baptism or profession of faith for those already baptized.
Whenever any of us opens our hearts fully to another person, we become vulnerable. At the same time, however, we also become intimately lovable. Only through many encounters of patient sharing and gentle forgiving can a human relationship continue over a lifetime. And just as an engaged couple learns to accept, affirm and forgive one another, so do the persons journeying in the RCIA look to the Church to help them deepen their commitments and purify their hearts.