History of the Initiation Process


Early Church – Small communities took individuals into their company and introduced them to their way of life. Religious persecution prevailed and so a strong faith was demanded in the face of possible martyrdom.

100-200 AD – Initiation began to take on formal shape and requirements ~ the beginnings of a “catechumenate” as we know it. The conversion of Gentiles called for a more comprehensive formation in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Third-Fourth Century – Initiation developed into a fully structured process, (at least three years). The Peace of Constantine in 315 AD made Christianity legal; now there were large numbers of candidates, but poor quality control. Although this was the time of the most developed structure, during this period there were a variety of models of initiation developed in the various local communities.

Fifth Century – The gradual disintegration of the catechumenate occurred because large numbers of people were being baptized and the practice of infant baptism eventually became normative. In the West, confirmation and Eucharist were separated from baptism.

Twelfth Century – Catechumenate no longer existed. Elements of it were incorporated into religious community formation and seminary training during the intervening centuries.

Sixteenth Century – Dominicans and Augustinians tried to counteract the mass baptisms occurring in some places. In 1538 a synod of bishops urged pastors to return to the missionary principles of Alcuin and establish a catechumenate.

Twentieth Century – Catechumenal structures were revived in parts of Africa and France. In France great problems had arisen because of the large numbers of non-practicing Catholics. In Africa, the White Fathers had recognized the need to build the Church from the grass roots.

Vatican Council II – The Council called for reinstating the catechumenate. The bishops’ vote on restoration of the catechumenate was: Yes = 2,165; No = 9; Null = 1

Post Vatican Council II –
1966 – provisional ritual for catechumenate distributed
1969 – second draft distributed for experimentation
1972 – promulgation of the Ordo initiationis christianae adultorum by Pope Paul VI
1974 – provisional English translation available titled Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults
1986 – U.S. Bishops’ Conference approved present edition of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults with U.S. adaptations, national statutes, and a national plan of implementation
1987 – Canadian Bishops’ Conference approved the present edition of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults with Canadian adaptations.