The following questions are based upon an article that originally appeared in the Dignity/Washington newsmonthly and is reproduced here as an example for a program in your chapter. There are many different models you can use. Some smaller chapters may not have the volunteers or the resources to conduct a full program and may want to use the resources of a local welcoming parish. Hopefully, the questions and answers will create a spark that will help you deepen your community's spiritual life and commitment to community. The questions are universal although some of the answers may not apply to your chapter's situation.
Inquiry is a spiritual journey that deepens our sense of spirituality and community. Examples of the beginning of Inquiry might be participation in the Lenten Ashes to Easter program, New Steps, participation in our Sunday Liturgies, Days of recollection, retreats, or our own personal experiences that draw us into a need for a deeper sense of community and spirituality. It can come as the result of a great personal tragedy or loss, or as a moment of great happiness and joy such as coming out. It is during this recognition of a need for something more in our lives that Inquiry can begin. This journey is often referred to as the "pre-catechumenate."
The Inquiry program at Dignity offers members of our community the opportunity to explore their spirituality and consider entry into the full sacramentality of a Christian Community. As Catholic Christians, we recognize seven sacraments and endeavor to offer or facilitate reception of these sacraments.
What are Sacraments?
The sacraments are a sign through which the Church manifests and celebrates its faith and communicates the saving grace of God. More simply stated, God wants us to enter into a deep relationship and these are mileposts along that lifelong journey that provide us with special opportunities to receive God’s grace and love.
The most frequently received sacrament is the last of the so-called "Sacraments of Initiation" — Eucharist. Our Sunday liturgies offer all believing, baptized Christians the eucharistic feast at the Table. The first two Initiation Sacraments are Baptism and Confirmation. Dignity also validly provides those sacraments or facilitates the reception of those sacraments depending upon individual needs and circumstances. Dignity also offers twice yearly the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Penance) but it is always available upon request from our Priests. We also offer monthly at the 4:30 liturgy the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick which is no longer restricted to those near immediate death. It is also available by request. Dignity also provides couples with the rites of Holy Union, which may or may not be characterized as sacramental depending upon each couple’s discernment. Finally, the community has supported members in their discernment of priestly vocation and reception of the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
When a person decides to embark upon a journey leading to initiation into the full sacramental life of the community, they begin a period of inquiry known as the Catechumenate and they are known as Catechumens. The process can take anywhere from six months to a year and is typified by the periodic sharing of the Word of God and deepening sense of spirituality and Christ. A more formal period of inquiry begins typically during Lent and culminates in Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist at the Easter Vigil. This period is often referred to as the Rites of Christian Initiation for Adults or RCIA. A sponsor helps the catechumen prepare for Initiation sacraments.
The process is similar to that for the unbaptized in that the person studies and discusses scripture but it is different in that they are already a member of the Christian community of believers and may not participate in all of the rites associated with full initiation. Completing one’s Christian initiation through Confirmation is either done by us or through a Parish depending upon the individual's circumstance. Confirmations can occur at the Easter Vigil or at another time such as Pentecost. A person becomes a candidate for confirmation and has a sponsor or sponsors to help them along their spiritual journey. They may also participate in group discussions of the Word with other members in Inquiry. They are referred to as candidates for Confirmation.
A person baptized into another Christian faith is received into full communion with the Catholic Church through the completion of their initiation by the reception of Confirmation and Eucharist. The process is similar to that for others in inquiry although the traditions and beliefs unique to the Catholic faith may need to be studied in order to more fully understand the Catholic Church. They are referred to as candidates for reception into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. A sponsor helps the person along their spiritual journey.