Q: I have a question regarding full reception into the Church of already baptized adults. I recall reading in one of the liturgical texts, a few months ago, but I cannot remember where, the recommendation that there is a Rite of Welcoming for already baptized adults who are preparing to come into full union with the Church at the Easter Vigil. My question is if there is a recommended time of the year to do this? I am also working from the place that there would not be a difference here between those baptized Catholic and those baptized in another recognized Christian faith. In part, my question is because I would like to be able to do something to formalize their process and place in the community shortly after the first of the year.
A: You’re unearthing a topic on which I have a lot of opinions.
The RCIA includes a rite of welcoming the candidates starting at 416.
However, do take a look at 400, which presumes that those undergoing this rite are baptized but “uncatechized adults” who “have not yet heard the message of the mystery of Christ.” It was not designed for people who were fully practicing Christianity in another denomination. It was for folks baptized as infants who got no other exposure to Christianity.
In practice, though, many parishes ignore 400 and just go with 416.
Sometimes I feel as though I’m on my own private soapbox without many people listening, but I think we overuse these adapted ceremonies for baptized candidates seeking initiation.
Another point that gets broadly overlooked is in National Statutes 33: “It is preferable that reception into full communion not take place at the Easter Vigil.” However, there are very few parishes observing this either.
In my parishes, I have always tried to keep the rite of reception of candidates apart from the Vigil by celebrating it whenever the candidate is ready, and without any preliminary ceremonies. I’ll be conducting it on a Sunday in December this year for one individual whom we feel is ready to join the Catholic Church now.
But if you want to do the Rite of Welcoming, you absolutely may, and it may be done at any time of year. Your pastoral instinct is the same one that most other parishes follow: They want a ceremony for the previously baptized candidates “to do something to formalize their process and place in the community.”
Personally, I think the rite has ecumenical difficulties. But the Church allows it, many parishes promote it, and you may do it.