St. Mary of the Visitation Catholic Church, Est. 1865
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Served by the Salvatorians
Preparing to Receive the Sacraments

Baptism - Confirmation - Eucharist - Reconciliation
Coming into Full Communion with the Catholic Church

Visitation Parish and General Church Guidelines

Sacraments are grace-filled encounters with God - through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. The sacramental encounter depends upon the action of God and the person's response, but the church community recognizes and ritually celebrates these steps in a person's journey of faith. The community works with individuals and families to provide Christian witness and instruction about the sacraments, and normally the sacraments are celebrated in the presence of the parish community. Preparing and celebrating with the community are important aspects of receiving the sacraments of initiation. Except in rare cases, one receives the sacraments where one is or intends to be an active member.

Readiness to receive a sacrament depends upon (1) conversion and desire to receive the sacrament, ( 2) being of at least the minimum age according to Church norms, (3) showing a knowledge of what the sacrament is and means, and (4) appropriate preparation. The age at which a person is baptized affects when and in what order other sacraments are received. The long-standing practice in the United States has been to baptize infants, provide catechesis for First Reconciliation and First Eucharist when the child is around seven years of age, and then to provide additional catechesis for the reception of Confirmation in the teen years. When older children, teens, or adults who have not been baptized wish to be received into the Church, they join the parish community for catechesis and are fully initiated with the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist.

Parents who wish to have their infant baptized must contact the pastor and make arrangements to attend baptismal classes that are offered several times throughout the year. The classes provide information about the theology of baptism, describe responsibilities of parents and god-parents, and give parents the opportunity to access their own faith journey. The classes may be attended either before or after the baby is born, but it is necessary to work out schedules with the church before making family plans for the baptism.

Currently in our parish, baptized children who are in second grade Catholic Christian Formation (CCF) or parochial school and have completed one year of faith formation (religious education classes) may begin specific preparation for the sacraments of Reconciliation and Eucharist.  Parents have a significant responsibility in preparing their children for the sacraments. In addition to teaching by living the Faith, parents use materials provided by the parish to reinforce CCF lessons and to help their children develop greater understanding and appreciation of the sacraments.

Older baptized children who have had previous religious education but have not received the sacraments of Reconciliation or Eucharist participate in their regular grade-level CCF classes and receive preparation for sacraments by joining the special classes (schedules for these classes are worked out each year with the participants). Older baptized children who have not had adequate religious instruction will join their regular CCF class and will receive additional instruction as needed. The opportunity for sacramental preparation will be offered when it is appropriate, probably the following year.

Following Church norms for unbaptized children of catechetical age, these children and youth will be given the time necessary to be catechized and fully initiated with the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. Preparation for Reconciliation comes after this sequence. These classes are scheduled as needed; for more information contact CCF director or youth minister.

Following diocesan guidelines, our parish offers a two-year process of Confirmation preparation for teens. Like all sacraments, Confirmation does not have to be received by a certain age; therefore teens are invited to participate in this program, but they are not required to do so. Most teens will have two opportunities during their high school years in our parish to prepare for Confirmation. Currently we confirm on an alternate year basis, and the sacrament is usually conferred during the ninth or tenth grade year, but a student may choose to prepare at a later time. Confirmation classes are separate from regular CCF classes and meet on Wednesday nights. Regular participation in these sessions as well as in the Sunday CCF program during these two years is required. In the first year there are approximately eight sessions plus a service project; in the second year there are approximately three sessions per month. Preparation includes not only instruction but also participation in the life of the parish as well as service to parish, community, and Church. Candidates must attend two retreats, complete a service project, and participate in an interview process. When older students enter our program, individual evaluations must be made to determine the appropriate preparation for them.

The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is the process by which previously unbaptized adults are brought into full communion with the Church. Adaptations of this basic process provide for all the variations of faith experiences of adults who might wish to join the Catholic Church or complete their initiation as Catholics. Some of the variations include persons who were baptized in another Christian faith, persons who were baptized Catholic but who never received religious instruction, and Catholics who were never confirmed. The RCIA process involves participation in the worship, service, and social life of the parish. The purpose is to lead people to conversion, commitment, and habits of prayer and service. The group usually meets on Wednesday evenings about three or four times a month for prayer, discussion, and instruction, and periodically rituals are celebrated with the parish community to mark faith steps toward full initiation at the Easter Vigil. Any Catholic who has been inactive in the practice of his faith and/or who wishes to update his understanding of Catholicism is also encouraged to inquire about programs the parish has to offer; it might be appropriate to attend the RCIA meetings, or it might be more suitable to join another parish group.

      St. Mary of the Visitation Catholic Church - Huntsville, Alabama