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Frequently Asked Questions

Who Comes To Your Classes?

They aren’t really classes, but we’ll address that down a few questions.  The first phase of the process is called “Catholic Inquiry.”  It is designed to answer questions about what Catholics believe and how we practice the Christian faith.  There are a number of misconceptions about Catholic belief and practice, and we address those which we know are common.  We also address any other questions which the participants may bring up.  For example, the most common answer we give is probably “No, we don’t worship Mary.”

Catholic inquiry is for anyone and everyone.  We answer questions straightforwardly, and we do not proselytize.  It is a time of fact-finding.  Some of the participants will choose to continue into later stages of the process, and some will ultimately join the Church, but that is not the focus of Inquiry.  This is not “How To Be Catholic”, but “Catholic Inquiry.”  We welcome your questions and allow you to disagree.
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How Can I Become Catholic?

The path to membership in the Catholic Church is through the Rite of Christian Initiation.  Saint Richard Parish offers this process for all age groups.  The process varies by age and by whether a person has or has not already been baptized into a Christian denomination.  The exact answer to this question depends on the person.  Please feel free to discuss this with us.
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I Was Baptized Catholic But Never Practiced. Is This For Me?

Yes.  Through this process, we complete the Christian Initiation of any adult.  Whether you were baptized Catholic or in another Christian denomination, you will complete your initiation with the reception of the sacraments of Confirmation and First Eucharist.  If you were baptized Catholic and also received First Eucharist (First Holy Communion), then your initiation is completed through preparation for and reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation.
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What Do You Mean By “Rite?”

A “Rite” is a public religious celebration.  For example, marriage and baptism are Christian Rites.  In the case of initiation into the Catholic faith, you may celebrate the Rite of Acceptance, the Rite of Enrollment, the Rite of Sending, the Rite of Election, and the Rites of Initiation.
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What Are The Classes Like?

It’s a fine point, but we don’t call them classes.  We call them “sessions.”  This process is a spiritual journey, and we are all embarked upon it.  The journey has several phases broadly classified into two categories, informational and formational.  The information category involves two phases of inquiry.  The first phase is very informal.  We read about our salvation history, starting with the creation story in Genesis, and move up through that history to the life of Christ.  We discuss and apply the lessons to our own lives.  We then move into a more formal phase of Catholic Inquiry which actually does look like a class.  We have a number of different speakers who talk about elements of the Christian faith.  We discuss what they say, and answer any questions you might have.  If you choose to pursue the process, we get into Christian formation, another way of saying growing in the life of a Christian.
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What Do You Mean By “Christian Formation?”

We believe that it is one thing to KNOW about Christ and His Church, and a very different thing to BE Christian.  All the knowledge in the world is useless unless it is acted upon.  Christian formation in the Catholic sense involves study and action.  We study God’s word and the teachings of His Church.  We worship with the assembly at Mass.  We develop personal devotions.  We enhance our life of prayer.  We live out our faith in service to others.  We join in the life of faith within the Christian community.  We believe that a life in Christ must be shared.
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What Kind Of A Commitment Must I Make?

If you are a casual inquirer, we hope that you will attend every session so that you get a full picture of our faith.  If you desire (or come to desire) to be Catholic, we expect regular attendance.  We even offer a makeup session for when you must miss.  We also recommend weekly attendance at Sunday Mass where you will experience the faith in community.  One of the first things we go over in Inquiry is the Mass.  We give you a guide to the Mass so you can keep up with what is happening.  What we expect of you is based on what you wish to get.  As we go deeper into the process, our expectations of you increase.  For example, if you wish to continue after the Inquiry phase, we would expect that you would want to attend Mass weekly to understand our faith better, and to become more a part of us.
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How Long Does It Take To Join The Church?

Everyone’s journey is different, so a maximum time is difficult to define.  We believe that all of us are on a spiritual journey at the direction of the Holy Spirit.  After experience with hundreds of people, we have come to believe that the minimum time to spend preparing for initiation is around six months.  Special exceptions may be made for special cases.
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My Friend Says All She Had To Do To Join Her Church Was Walk Down The Aisle And Profess Faith In Christ.

We are thrilled that your friend has a relationship with Christ and has chosen a congregation in which to celebrate and grow in that faith.  That has never been the way we understand church membership to happen.  We still do things the way they were done in the early Church, or I should say that in the 1970’s we returned to doing things the way they were done in the early Church after a few centuries of a less-structured process.  In the early Church, becoming a Christian was a deadly serious proposition.  Because people were coming from paganism, the Church was careful that they were formed in Christianity before they were accepted.  It was deadly serious because the penalty for being known as a Christian was death.  The process took 2-3 years.

Clearly we don’t live in those times today, but the Church sees an obligation to you and to itself to help you be sure of the call of the Holy Spirit before you are initiated.  Some find our approach anachronistic in this day of instant gratification, but we hold that God’s work in our lives knows no time.
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What If I Start And Decide Catholicism Is Not For Me?

We will be sad to see you go, but you are the only one who can discern God’s call for you.  We will pray for you and hope that we have been used by God to help you on your faith journey, and through your association with us, you have grown in love of Christ and His will for your life.  We sincerely hope that you will continue your spiritual journey in another Christian community.  We do not question your faith journey.  That is between you and God.
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I Have Heard I Need A Sponsor. What Is That All About And How Do I Get One?

The practice of having a sponsor dates to the earliest days of the Church.  As mentioned in a previous answer, Christianity was an underground religion in the early centuries (and remains so in some parts of the world to this day).  In those days, a sponsor was someone who could vouch that the Inquirer meant the community no harm.  Today, a sponsor is a companion on the faith journey and someone to help you become a full participant in parish life.  They aren’t your teacher, but your friend and companion.

St. Paul himself had a sponsor.  Saul, as he was then called, had persecuted the followers of Christ.  After his conversion, he tried to join the disciples in Jerusalem, but they did not trust him.  A man named Barnabas came forward and vouched for him.  The story is told in Acts 9 in your Bible.  Verse 27 tells of Barnabas speaking on Saul’s behalf before the Apostles.

If you do not know someone who can fill that role, the parish will provide someone.  Sponsors must be fully initiated, practicing Catholics who are free to receive the Sacraments.  Except for special circumstances, they must be of the same sex as you and a St. Richard parishioner.  At St. Richard, our pastor requires that he have approval over all sponsors.
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Can My Spouse/Fiance/Parent Be My Sponsor?

While the qualifications for sponsor of an unbaptized person (godparent) and a baptized person vary a bit, Canon Law prohibits parents and fiances from serving as sponsors.  We at St. Richard have also come to see that spouses are not appropriate in most cases.  We do, however welcome all of the above to participate with you.  We may even ask them to sponsor another candidate.  They walk this journey with you, but their role is different from that of a sponsor.
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I Am Divorced. I Heard That I Can’t Become Catholic If I am Divorced.

Divorced people may, in fact, join the Church.  Several of our team members experienced the loss of divorce.  The Church knows that divorces are all too common in today’s society, and we try to minister to those who are affected.  If you are divorced and not currently married, there is no impediment to you receiving the Sacraments of Initiation and becoming a fully-participating member of our Church and parish.  However multiple marriages can pose a barrier to reception of the sacraments.  Please see the next question for more information.
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I Am Divorced And Have Remarried (Or My Spouse Was Previously Married). What About Me?

The Catholic Church is a Sacramental Church.  We understand that God’s grace comes to us on a continual basis, but that there are seven instances which were instituted by Christ which are to be celebrated by the Christian community.  We call these outpourings of grace which Christ blessed, Sacraments.  They are so important in the life of the Church that we spend more time in Catholic Inquiry learning about them than any other single subject.  One of those seven Sacraments is the Sacrament of Marriage.  We believe that Jesus meant what He said in relation to marriage in Matthew 19:6, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh.  Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.”

Some Sacraments may be received once and only once, and others more than once.  Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders (Ordination), and Marriage may only be received once in a lifetime.  That is why we may not baptize someone who is already baptized.

While it is obvious that not every lawful marriage is joined by God and therefore rises to the level of Sacrament, we must presume that your prior marriage was a sacrament until it can be determined otherwise.  Therefore, anyone who is in a marriage where either or both of the parties were previously married must ask the Church to render a decision as to whether any prior marriage(s) were sacrament.  This is called nullifying the marriage, or annulment.  If a prior marriage is discerned to be legal, but not a sacrament, the parties are free to receive the Sacrament of Marriage.  If, however, a prior marriage is discerned to have been sacramental, the parties are not free to receive the sacrament of marriage or any other sacrament, including those of initiation.

The process can sometimes be lengthy, but many Catholics and non-Catholics alike have experienced wonderful healing from pursuing it.  Please contact the RCIA Coordinator or pastor if you have questions or concerns.
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What Is The Cost Of This Class, I Mean “Process?”

There is absolutely no cost.  We love to share our faith and will provide you with any and all materials you need.
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May I Bring A Friend Or Family Member?

By all means, YES.  You may feel free to bring anyone you like to any of our sessions.  It is not at all uncommon for our participants to want to share what they have found, or to want to ease the concerns of friends or family as to what we are teaching.
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How Do I Sign Up, And When Do I Start?

Contact our RCIA Coordinator, Tom Lewis, at the parish office, 601-366-2335, Ext. 113, or email him at rcia@saintrichard.com
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For more information, click one of the links below.

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