Bishops approve revisions of statutes for the catechumenate

Catechumen Michelle Schlieben is baptized by Father Edward Sheridan, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church in East Northport, N.Y., during the Easter Vigil April 3, 2021, amid the coronavirus pandemic. Schlieben was fully initiated into the Catholic Church after also receiving the sacraments of confirmation and first Communion during the liturgy. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

BALTIMORE (CNS) -- During their fall assembly in Baltimore, the bishops were presented with, and voted to approve, revised national statutes for the catechumenate in both English and Spanish.

These revisions update the 1986 statutes and coincide with the bishops' revised English edition of the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults, more commonly known as the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, or RCIA.

Presenting these statutes for revision was part of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' approved strategic plan and was a joint effort of the USCCB's committees on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance, Divine Worship, and Evangelization and Catechesis.

This effort benefited from two 2014 studies: One was conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University to look specifically at how the statutes were being implemented, and the other was a consultation conducted by the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions.

Additional input came from a study of norms used by other episcopal conferences.

In introducing the revisions Nov. 16, Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki, chair of the Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance, said the purpose was to streamline the work and remove redundancies.

Documentation given to the bishops also pointed out these revisions "attempt to address identified pastoral, canonical and liturgical challenges" and "build upon the church's teaching on evangelization and the process of discernment that is part of the individual person's journey" to belong to the church.

Prior to the Nov. 17 vote to approve these statutes, Archbishop Listecki emphasized the significance of welcoming new members to the Catholic Church each year who have gone through parish catechumenate programs.

The revised statutes leave out bigger issues that the archbishop said the governance committee thought would be better treated in a non-legislative document.

Some of the statutes emphasize that the term "catechumen" is "to be strictly reserved for the unbaptized who have been admitted to the Order of Catechumens."

Spelling out the timeline, the statutes said that catechumens typically are in a parish program from Lent of one year to Easter of the following year and the program should be rooted in the church's liturgy, Scripture and works of service.

Catechumens are obligated to participate in the Liturgy of the Word and should prepare themselves for sacrament of baptism.

During the process, they can participate in charitable works of the church and enroll their children in Catholic school. They also could be buried in a Catholic cemetery if they die before they become full members of the church. But they should not be lectors at Mass or serve at the altar, according to the statutes.


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