Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults Adapted for Children
Children who have reached the age of 7 (age of reason) and have not been baptized are invited into the process of Christian initiation based on the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA.) This process will prepare young people and their families for the celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation - Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist - after an appropriate time of formation. (RCIA #256) Formation takes place within the parish community.
The adaptation of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults for children is found in Part II, Chapter 1 of the rite. It states, “This form of the rite of Christian initiation is intended for children, not baptized as infants, who have attained the use of reason and are of catechetical age” (#252 RCIA). The Christian initiation of children is similar to that of adults (RCIA #253); however, Part II, Chapter 1 of the rite provides for adapted language, catechetical process, and ritual celebrations that are more appropriate for children. Therefore, the process for children of catechetical age envisions the following:
This process “requires both a conversion that is personal and somewhat developed” (#253 RCIA). “The process of initiation thus must be adapted both to their spiritual progress, that is, to the children’s growth in faith, and to the catechetical instruction they receive” (#253 RCIA). Thus, the ritual envisions the catechetical process to be more than instruction; it is to be a time of conversion and growth in faith. “...their initiation is to be extended over several years, if need be, before they receive the sacraments of initiation” (#253 RCIA).
The rite envisions that the child’s parents or guardians are involved in the process: “They seek Christian initiation either at the direction of their parents or guardians or, with parental permission, on their own initiative” (#252 RCIA). “The children’s progress in the formation they receive depends on the help and example of their companions and on the influence of their parents” (#254 RCIA).
In addition to the parents, the rite suggests that the peer group of the children to be baptized participate in the process as companions in the catechetical sessions and during the celebration of the rituals. (cf. #254.1) Sponsors are another form of support for the child(ren) and the family, particularly if the family is uncatechized or has not been actively involved in the Church for some time.
Children for Full Communion
Children of age of reason and baptized in another Christian faith are not catechumens. "Those baptized persons who have lived as Christians and need only instruction in the Catholic tradition and a degree of probation within the Catholic community should not be asked to undergo a full program parallel to the catechumenate" (NSC 31).
"[T]he reception of candidates into the communion of the Catholic Church should ordinarily take place at the Sunday Eucharist of the parish community, in such a way that it is understood that they are indeed Christian believers who have already shared in the sacramental life of the Church and are now welcomed into the Catholic Eucharistic community . . . " (NSC 32).