The National Black Catholic Congress, Inc.
Most Catholics enter the Church through baptism as infants and receive the Eucharist and Reconciliation (First Communion and Confession) and Confirmation when young. However, there are many people who become Catholics, or receive the sacraments they have previously missed, later in life.
Each year on Holy Saturday during the Easter Vigil, thousands are baptized into the Catholic Church in the United States. Parishes welcome these new Catholics through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). Listed below are some questions and answers about RCIA.
What are the steps of RCIA?
Prior to beginning the RCIA process, an individual comes to some knowledge of Jesus Christ, considers his or her relationship with Jesus Christ and is usually attracted in some way to the Catholic Church. This period is known as the Period of Evangelization and Precatechumenate. For some, this process involves a long period of searching; for others, a shorter time. Often, contact with people of faith and a personal faith experience lead people to inquire about the Catholic Church. After a conversation with a priest, or RCIA director, the person, known as an "inquirer," may seek acceptance into the Order of Catechumens, through the Rite of Acceptance. During this Rite, the inquirer stands amidst the parish community and states that he or she wants to become a baptized member of the Catholic Church. The parish assembly affirms this desire and the inquirer becomes a Catechumen.
The Period of the Catechumenate can last for as long as several years or for a shorter time. It depends on how the person is growing in faith, what questions they encounter along the way, and how God leads them on this journey. During this time, the Catechumens consider what God is saying to them in the Scriptures, what changes in their life they need to make to respond to God's inspiration, and what Baptism in the Catholic Church means. When a Catechumen and the priest and the parish team working with him or her believes the person is ready to make a faith commitment to Jesus in the Catholic Church, the next step is the request for baptism and the celebration of the Rite of Election. Even before the Catechumens are baptized, they have a special relationship to the Church.
The Rite of Election includes the enrollment of names of all the Catechumens seeking baptism at the coming Easter Vigil. Typically, on the first Sunday of Lent, the Catechumens, their sponsors and families gather at the cathedral church. The Catechumens publicly express their desire for baptism to the diocesan bishop. Their names are recorded in a book and they are called the Elect.
The days of Lent are the final Period of Purification and Enlightenment leading up to the Easter Vigil. Lent is a period of preparation marked by prayer, study, and spiritual direction for the Elect, and prayers for them by the parish communities. The Celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation takes place during the Easter Vigil Liturgy on Holy Saturday when the Elect receive the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist. Now the person is fully initiated into the Catholic Church.
As a newly initiated Catholic, they continue their formation and education continue in the Period of the Post Baptismal Catechesis, which is also called Mystagogy. This period continues at least until Pentecost. During the period the newly baptized members reflect on their experiences at the Easter Vigil and continue to learn more about the Scriptures, the Sacraments, and the teachings of the Catholic Church. In addition they reflect on how they will serve Christ and help in the Church's mission and outreach activities.
What is meant when by coming into full communion with the Church?
Coming into full communion with the Catholic Church describes the process for entrance into the Catholic Church for already baptized Christians. In most cases, these individuals make a profession of faith but are not baptized again. To prepare for this reception, the people, who are called Candidates, usually participate in a formation program to help them understand and experience the teachings and practices of the Catholic Church. Although some preparation may be with Catechumens preparing for baptism, the preparation for Candidates is different since they have already been baptized and committed to Jesus Christ, and many have also been active members of other Christian communities. The Candidates may be received into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil or at another Sunday during the year depending on pastoral circumstances and readiness of the Candidate.
What is the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday like?
The Easter Vigil takes place on Holy Saturday, the evening before Easter Sunday. This is the night that "shall be as bright as day" as proclaimed by the Exsultet, an ancient church hymn as we joyfully anticipate Christ's Resurrection The Holy Saturday Liturgy begins with the Service of Light, which includes the blessing of the new fire and the Paschal candle which symbolizes Jesus, the Light of the World. The second part consists of the Liturgy of the Word with a series of Scripture readings. After the Liturgy of the Word, the Catechumens are presented to the parish community, who pray for them with the Litany of the Saints. Next, the priest blesses the water, placing the Easter or Paschal candle into the baptismal water. Those seeking Baptism then renounce sin and profess their faith after which they are baptized with the priest pronouncing the words, "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
After the Baptism the newly baptized are dressed in white garments and presented with a candle lighted from the Paschal Candle. They are then Confirmed by the priest or bishop who lays hands on their heads, and invokes the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. He then anoints them with the oil called Sacred Chrism. The Mass continues with the newly baptized participating in the general intercessions and in bringing gifts to the altar. At Communion, the newly baptized receive the Eucharist, Christ's Body and Blood, for the first time.
What does the white robe symbolize?
The newly baptized are dressed in a white garment after baptism to symbolize that they are washed clean of sin and that they are called to continue to walk in this newness of life.
What does the candle symbolize?
A small candle is lit from the Easter candle and given to the newly baptized as a reminder to them always to walk as children of the Light and to be the light of Christ to the world
What does the Sacred Chrism symbolize?
The Sacred Chrism, or oil, is a sign of the gift of the Holy Spirit being given to the newly baptized. It is also a sign of the close link between the mission of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, who comes to the recipient with the Father in Baptism.
Why was this ancient rite restored?
It was restored in the Church to highlight the fact that the newly baptized are received into a community of faith, which is challenged to realize that they too have become different because of this new life in the community.
Is there a ceremony or preparation for Catholics who never or seldom have practiced the faith?
For Catholics who have been Baptized, Confirmed and made First Communion but then drifted from the faith, the way they return is through the Sacrament of Penance. Catholics who were baptized but never received Confirmation and/or Eucharist also participate in a period of formation. This process of formation is completed with the reception of the Sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Communion often at the Easter Vigil or during the Easter Season.
What is the role of a godparent for an adult being baptized?
Prior to the Rite of Election, the Catechumen may choose one or two godparents, who will accompany the Catechumen on the day of Election, at the celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation, and during the Period of Mystagogy. They are called to show the Catechumens good example of the Christian life, sustain them in moments of hesitancy and anxiety, bear witness, and guide their progress in the baptismal life.
(Fong & Furuto, 2001; Green, 1999). Without a culturally competent approach, practitioners often create misinformed assessments, ineffective interventions, and faulty evaluations (Bent- Goodley, 2005). The African-centered or Afrocentric approach provides a culturally competent alternative to respond to domestic violence in the African American family. Williams (1992, 1999) stressed that the lack of a cultur- ally competent approach in batterers’ intervention pro- grams has resulted in low participation and completion rates for African American men. African American men often question the credibility and capability of non–African American practitioners to address their issues. Williams (1999) stated that practitioners must have (a) knowledge of themselves and their culture; (b) knowledge of the history, strengths, and challenges of African American families; and (c) the ability to engage the com- munity to sustain advances in the family. Finally, the prac- titioner must also be cognizant of and prepared to address
issues of social justice and oppression.
Gondolf and Williams (2001) asserted the need for cultur- ally focused counseling, defined as “specialized counseling for racially homogenous groups that explicitly identifies and addresses cultural issues that may reinforce violence or pre- vent barriers to stopping violence” (p. 284). They provided specific recommendations as to how to engage African American men who batter from a culturally competent per- spective by exploring, for example, issues of discrimination, experiences with violence, and past relationships with women.
1 John 4:7
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; everyone
who loves is begotten by God and knows God.
Our Christian Identity
To understand more fully how to defend and protect human life, we must first consider who we are, at the deepest level. God creates us in his image and likeness, which means we are made to be in loving relationship with him. The essence of our identity and worth, the source of our dignity, is that we are loved by God: "We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father's love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son."
We are called to divine intimacy, true communion with God, and we can grow in this closeness with him through daily prayer, reading the Scriptures, and frequent participation in the sacraments, especially Confession and the Eucharist.
Our Mission as Christians
The knowledge and realization of how deeply we are loved by God elicits a response of love that simultaneously draws us closer to God and, at the same time, impels us to share his love with others.
Embracing a relationship with God means following in his footsteps, wherever he may call. Just as Jesus invited St. Peter and St. Andrew to become his disciples, he invites us to do the same: "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19).
Being a disciple of Jesus naturally includes sharing the Gospel with others and inviting them into a deeper relationship with God. As Christians, our identity and our mission are two sides of the same coin; like the apostles, we are called to be missionary disciples.
This doesn't necessarily mean quitting our jobs or moving to foreign countries. For most of us, our mission field is daily life: "Christ teaches us how to evangelize, how to invite people into communion with him, and how to create a culture of witness: namely, through love. A Christian life lived with charity and faith is the most effective form of evangelization."
The first step towards living this life is allowing Jesus to meet and transform us daily. If we respond to his grace, our lives will show we have something beyond what the world offers: we follow a person whose love changes our lives, so we want others to also experience his transforming love.
When we live in union with God, open to his prompting, we're more able to see the opportunities for witness and his guidance in responding to these opportunities. We may fear doing the wrong thing or saying the wrong thing, but we do not need to be afraid. Jesus promised his disciples, "I am with you always, until the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20).
As a society and as individuals, we often measure ourselves by false standards: by what and how much we do, our successes or failures, how others treat us, the degree of our pleasure or independence, etc. And when these changeable substitutes prove to be insufficient, or when we are faced with challenges and suffering, we may feel helpless, alone, or abandoned; we may be tempted to feel as though our lives have decreased value or worth.
But God's love—individual, real, unchanging—is the true source of our worth, identity, and dignity. It really is not a question of who we are, but rather whose we are. Because his love will never change, nothing can reduce our God-given dignity, and nothing can diminish the immeasurable worth of our lives.
When someone is facing great trials, we need to meet them where they are, walk with them on their journey, intercede for them, and be open to sharing Christ's love however he directs.
When a woman becomes pregnant, and her boyfriend threatens to leave if she continues the pregnancy, we need to lovingly walk with her. When family members or friends become seriously ill, we need to assure them that God still offers them something in this life, and they still have purpose. We need to consistently be with them every step of the way.
Sometimes our actions speak for themselves; other times, words are needed. Whatever the situation, Jesus knows how to speak to each person's heart; we simply need to follow where he leads.
A Culture of Life
This is how we answer our missionary call. This is how we build a culture of life, a culture that joyfully proclaims the truth of God's love, purpose, and plan for each person. Changing the culture is a process of conversion that begins in our own hearts and includes a willingness to be instructed and a desire to be close to Jesus—the source of joy and love.
When we encounter Christ, experience his love, and deepen our relationship with him, we become more aware of our own worth and that of others. His love for each person is cause for great joy, and growing understanding of this priceless treasure motivates us to share his love with others. Our lives are often changed by the witness of others; so too, others' lives may be changed by our witness and authentic friendship with them.
Let us go, therefore, and not be afraid. God is always with us.
1987; Richie, 1996; T. Roberts, 1994). African American children are more likely to be removed from the home because of domestic violence (Bent-Goodley, 2004a), and the contraction of HIV among African American women is higher compared with other women when involved in a domestic violence situation (Wingood & DiClemente, 1997; Wyatt, Axelrod, Chin, Carmona & Loeb, 2000). Yet African Americans resist requesting support from formal systems of care, such as the criminal justice and social service systems (Bent-Goodley, 2003; Joseph, 1997; Peterson-Lewis, Turner, & Adams, 1988; West, 1999).
In spite of the knowledge of domestic-violence challenges experienced by African Americans, there are limited cultur- ally competent remedies offered to secure change regarding this issue (Asbury, 1987; Bent-Goodley, 2005; D. W. Campbell, 1993; Gondolf, Fisher, & McFerron, 1991; Sorenson, 1996; West, 1999). Thus, African Americans are often revictimized by service providers because of negative stereotypes and a lack of cultural understanding (Allard, 1991; Hampton & Gelles, 1994; Joseph, 1997; Kupenda, 1998; Richie, 1996; Wyatt, 1997). In this article, I will discuss how to apply cultural competence through an African-cen- tered approach to domestic violence and provide implications for practice with African American families.
The Need for a Culturally Competent Approach
The ability to engage diverse populations according to cul- tural nuances and understandings can result in more relevant solutions and successful outcomes
The maker of heaven and earth,
the seas and all that is in them,
Who keeps faith forever,
secures justice for the oppressed...
"Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you."
Look! I am bringing the city recovery and healing; I will heal them and reveal to them an abundance of lasting peace.
Domestic Violence in the African American Community: The Role of the Black Church
by Lynda Marie Jordan
Domestic violence is a pattern of abusive behavior in which a person uses coercion, deception, harassment, humiliation, manipulation, and/or force to establish or maintain power and control over his or her intimate partner. Economic, emotional, psychological, physical, sexual, and verbal tactics are used by perpetrators to control and obtain power over their partners.1 Domestic violence crosses ethnic, racial, age, national origin, sexual orientation, religious, and socioeconomic lines. The majority of victims of domestic violence in heterosexual relationships are women. One out of every three adult women experiences at least one physical assault by an intimate partner during adulthood.2 In recent years, the definition of domestic violence has expanded to include other forms of violence, such as the abuse of elders, children, and siblings. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has redefined the term “domestic violence” and uses the preferable, more specific “intimate partner violence” (IPV), which includes violence between same sex partners and male victims of violence.3 In this paper, the term domestic violence will be used interchangeably with the term intimate partner violence. African Americans experience domestic violence at a high rate in comparison to their numerical representation in the population. Although domestic and sexual violence occurs in all socioeconomic classes, socioeconomic disadvantages do increase the risk of the incidence of violent crimes. In intimate partner violence cases of spousal assault, power balance is an important risk factor.
Among domestic violence cases, husbands who have (or feel that they have) less power than their wives are more physically abusive toward them, because of the perceived lack of power in other areas of their lives.4 This paper will focus on issues of intimate partner violence for African American women in heterosexual relationships.
Domestic violence impacts people across race, religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. No group class, can claim immunity from this problem, which is universal in scope. Domestic violence can be defined as “a pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors including physical, sexual, and psychological attacks, as well as economic coercion that adults or adolescents use against their intimate partners” (Schechter & Ganley, 1995, p. 10). Although both men and women are abused, 85% to 95% of survivors are women (Rennison, 2003; Tjaden &Thoennes, 2000). Reported estimates suggest that over 5 million women expe- rience domestic violence annually (National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 2003).
Domestic violence has been described as more prevalent among African American and American Indian families (Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000). The accuracy of this assertion is questionable because of methodological shortcomings, low numbers of people of color in domestic violence research, and difficulty getting people of color to seek assistance from formal authorities (Asbury, 1993; D. W. Campbell, 1993; Hampton, Carrillo, & Kim, 1998; Hampton, Gelles, & Harrop, 1989; Hampton & Yung, 1996; Lockhart, 1985). Yet there are statistics related to African Americans that cannot be ignored. Compared with all other groups, African Americans are more likely to be killed or sustain a serious injury because of domestic violence (Fagan, 1996; Hampton et al., 1998; Hampton & Yung, 1996; Rennison & Welchans, 2000). African Americans are also more likely to be arrested, prosecuted, and incarcerated because of domestic violence (Mann,
"We are still a long way from
the time when our conscience can
be certain of having done every-thing possible to prevent crime and to control it effectively so that it no longer does harm and (...) to offer
to those who commit crimes a
way of redeeming themselves and making a positive return
Pope John Paul II, July 9, 2000
An African-Centered Approach to Domestic Violence
Tricia B. Bent-Goodley
From the USCCB Pro-Life Document, "How To Build A Culture Of Life"
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Human life is sacred and the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society.
Evangelizing means bringing the Good News of Jesus into every human situation and seeking to convert individuals and society by the divine power of the Gospel itself.
Domestic Violence Resources:
National Resource Center on Domestic Violence
Break the Cycle http://www.breakthecycle.org/
GuideStar - https://www.guidestar.org
The National Domestic Violence Hotline
National Dating Abuse Helpline
National Child Abuse Hotline/Childhelp
National Sexual Assault Hotline
National Center for Victims of Crime