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Canada: Whether the readings at Roman Catholic mass are prescribed and consistent across all churches, including Chinese Catholic churches in Toronto; information on the Roman Catholic Initiation for Adults (RCIA), including its application among Chinese Catholic churches in Toronto

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Publication Date 31 March 2011
Citation / Document Symbol CAN103719.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Canada: Whether the readings at Roman Catholic mass are prescribed and consistent across all churches, including Chinese Catholic churches in Toronto; information on the Roman Catholic Initiation for Adults (RCIA), including its application among Chinese Catholic churches in Toronto, 31 March 2011, CAN103719.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e2fb7e72.html [accessed 21 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

A Roman Catholic priest, who is employed as the Director of Diocesan Formation Services at the Archdiocese of Montreal and as a professor of theology at Concordia University, explained, in correspondence with the Research Directorate, that there are 22 independent churches that make up the Catholic Church in Canada, including Latin, Maronite, Melkite, Coptic, Armenian, Syriac and Ukranian churches, "each with their own canon law and liturgical practices" (Priest 11 Mar. 2011). He also explained that the 2010-2011 liturgical calendar published by the National Liturgy Office of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) is the calendar for all the Latin churches, which represent the "vast majority" of Catholics in Canada (ibid.). The annual liturgy calendar provides information on daily celebrations and readings at mass and is attached to this Response (CCCB n.d.).

The priest suggested that the calendar is published as a convenience for readers, since it is derived from a more detailed reference book called the Ordo, which he deems "the true reference that should be followed" (Priest 11 Mar. 2011). In follow-up correspondence, he also signaled that the Archdioceses of Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto are part of the Latin church (ibid. 14 Mar. 2011). The CCCB website includes a comprehensive list of all the Canadian "Dioceses of the Latin Rite," with links to their respective websites (n.d.).

In correspondence with the Research Directorate, the administrative coordinator of the Archdiocese of Ottawa indicated that all Catholic churches adhere to the CCCB liturgical calendar "in principle" (14 Mar. 2011). A representative of the Archdiocese of Toronto's Office of Formation for Discipleship stated, in correspondence with the Research Directorate, that all its parishes adhere to the CCCB liturgical calendar (24 Mar. 2011). The Director of the CCCB's National Liturgy Office offered more detail on the readings at mass during a telephone interview with the Research Directorate, explaining that readings are scheduled for three-year periods and that, in rare exceptions, a regularly scheduled reading can be substituted for a reading that aligns with a major feast (18 Feb. 2011).

Roman Catholic Initiation for Adults

According to the priest affiliated with the Archdiocese of Montreal,

[t]he [Roman Catholic Initiation for Adults] RCIA, in the strict sense, is a process by which a non-baptized person becomes a baptized Catholic. In Canada, the process has been broadened to also include Christians from other denominations who wish to become Catholic but who were already baptized in their own denomination. (Priest 11 Mar. 2011)

He clarified that although the RCIA process is generally conducted in a group setting, some people fulfil the process "one-on-one for lack of numbers or other legitimate reasons" (ibid.). He outlined the key phases of the RCIA process as follows:

  1. The pre-catechumenate, in which a person is simply inquiring about becoming Catholic and perhaps having a first experience of Catholic life. There is no fixed schedule for this, and this phase may not even be necessary.
  2. The catechumenate, in which a person has decided to [convert] and has formally joined a process of education and training in Catholic faith and life. Theoretically this could take years, but in practical terms in most places in Canada it takes place from September until the following Easter.
  3. The 'period of purification and enlightenment,' which is the final phase of the catechumenate, and which begins at the beginning of Lent, 6 weeks before Easter. It is a time less for information and more for spiritual preparation.
  4. The rites of initiation themselves, which normally take place on the Easter vigil (i.e. the Saturday night before Easter Sunday). (ibid.)

The Toronto archdiocese representative provided corroboration for the above summary, outlining the same four phases and listing baptism, confirmation and the Eucharist as the initiation rites performed during the Easter Vigil (24 Mar. 2011). She added that the "destination" or goal of the RCIA process is "weekly participation in the celebration of Sunday Eucharist (Mass)" (Archdiocese of Toronto 24 Mar. 2011). She also included a step after the rites of initiation, called the "mystagogy," which lasts a "formal period of 50 days" and consists of "post-baptismal catechesis" and "ongoing formation" (ibid.).

Asked whether the RCIA process is prescribed and consistent across all parishes within the Archdiocese of Toronto, she replied that

[t]here are definite differences across the archdiocese. The diversity of parishes, pastors, various cultures, perceived needs and human resources all impact on how a parish prepares for and celebrates initiation with adults and children. (ibid.)

The Catholic priest explained that, since people come from diverse backgrounds, the specific topics covered during the RCIA process depend on the composition of the group (Priest 11 Mar. 2011). Additionally, because there is a question and answer period "at each session," the topics covered can follow the interests of the participants (ibid.). For the most part, however, the "RCIA training is meant to cover the following categories":

  1. The elements of Catholic dogma as contained in the creedal statements of the Church (principally the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed).
  2. The moral teaching of the Catholic Church, usually presented as a detailed commentary of the 10 commandments.
  3. The elements of worship of the Church, most importantly through an understanding of the sacraments and rituals.
  4. Some presentation of different Catholic approaches to prayer and spirituality. (ibid.)

Duration and Requirements of the RCIA Process

The Ottawa archdiocese's administrative coordinator indicated that although the duration of the RCIA program "varies depending on the individual," it "generally" takes one to two years to complete (14 Mar. 2011). The Catholic priest explained that "each local bishop has the right to set local norms" on the duration of the RCIA process, adding that it is "normally" completed in less than a year; however, he also stated that the length of time can vary based on "the situation of the individual," citing as example the possibility of shortening the process for someone who is sick (11 Mar. 2011). The website for the Holy Rosary Parish in Guelph, Ontario, indicates that the "RCIA is not a program that begins and ends on a predetermined schedule" since "[s]ome people need more time than others to prepare for initiation into the Roman Catholic Church" (5 Sept. 2010). However, the Parish also states that, usually, the RCIA process takes from one to two years (Holy Rosary Parish 5 Sept. 2010). The Toronto archdiocese representative explained that the RCIA is

not equivalent to a course with a clear beginning and end. Each person inquiring about becoming a member of the Catholic Church brings his or her own faith story and relationship with God. Although two people may begin the journey at the same time they may or may not … be ready to celebrate initiation at the same time. (24 Mar. 2011)

The representative also explained that it generally takes nine to twelve months before initiation is celebrated, but emphasized that the "duration definitely varies from parish to parish" since "many different factors" affect how parishes prepare for, and celebrate, initiation (Archdiocese of Toronto 24 Mar. 2011).

In regard to the requirements of the RCIA process, the representative indicated that the

Church expects that the person seeking initiation has a relationship with Jesus, is immersed in the life of the local parish, has a clear understanding of the basic teachings of the Church, is striving to live a Catholic way of life, has been gathering to reflect on the Word of God Sunday after Sunday and desires to be part of the weekly Sunday Eucharist. (ibid.)

However, she also stated that a "particular parish may demand something far more than the Church does" (ibid.). According to the priest affiliated with the Archdiocese of Montreal, in addition to "living a life in conformity with Catholic teaching," "the person must complete the formation required by local norms and adapted (if necessary and possible) to his or her particular circumstances" (Priest 11 Mar. 2011).

Baptism

The Ottawa archdiocese's administrative coordinator stated that baptism "generally" takes place at Easter Vigil "but can occur at other times" (14 Mar. 2011). The priest similarly noted that "adults are, as far as possible, to be baptised at Easter," but explained that "exceptions can be possible or even necessary" (11 Mar. 2011). The Holy Rosary Parish also indicates that the RCIA's "period of purification and enlightenment" "ends with the celebration of the initiation sacraments at the Easter Vigil" (5 Sept. 2010). The Toronto archdiocese representative similarly indicated that baptism, confirmation and Eucharist -- the three sacraments of initiation that "form one unitive rite" -- are normally celebrated at Easter Vigil (24 Mar. 2011).

Archdiocese of Toronto Chinese Catholic Churches

The Archdiocese of Toronto lists four churches under its administration that offer mass in Cantonese and Mandarin:

  • Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish
  • Saint Agnes Kouying Tsao Parish
  • Saviour of the World Chinese Catholic Parish
  • Chinese Martyrs' Catholic Church. (n.d.)

The Pastor of the Chinese Martyrs' Catholic Church stated, in correspondence with the Research Directorate, that mass readings are prescribed and consistent across all churches, including Chinese Catholic churches (Pastor 1 Mar. 2011). Both the Pastor of the Chinese Martyrs' Catholic Church and the Reverend at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, who also corresponded with the Research Directorate, confirmed that their parishes follow the CCCB liturgical calendar attached to this Response (ibid.; Rev. 17 Mar. 2011). The Pastor also noted that Chinese Catholic churches follow the same rites as all Catholic churches (1 Mar. 2011).

The Pastor explained that "[t]he RCIA program is universally structured and is consistently followed by all churches or parishes globally" and summarirzed the phases of the program as follows:

Phase I: The Rite of Acceptance

This is the liturgical rite, usually celebrated on the first Sunday of Advent, marking the beginning of the catechumenate proper, as the candidates express and the Church accepts their intention to respond to God's call to follow the way of Christ.

Period of the Catechumenate

This is the time, in duration corresponding to the progress of the individual, for the nurturing and growth of the catechumens' faith and conversion to God; celebrations of the word and prayers of exorcism and blessing are meant to assist the process. This period occurs from the first Sunday in Advent to the first Sunday of Lent, and the topics discussed during this period include:

An Introduction to the Sacraments

The Sacrament of Baptism

The Sacrament of Confirmation

The Eucharist

The Sacrament of Reconciliation

The Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick

The Sacrament of Holy Order

The Sacrament of Marriage

People of God

Who is Jesus Christ?

The Early Church

The History of the Church

Christian Moral Living

Social Justice

The Consistent of Ethic

The Dignity of Life

Phase II: Election

This is the liturgical rite, usually celebrated on the First Sunday of Lent, by which the Church formally ratifies the catechumens' readiness for the sacraments of initiation and the catechumens, now the elect, express the will to receive these sacraments.

Period of Purification and Enlightenment

This is immediately preceding the elects' initiation, usually the Lenten season preceding the celebration of this initiation at the Easter Vigil; it is a time of reflection, intensely centered on conversion [….] the topics discussed during this period include:

What is Lent?

Saying Yes to Jesus

Take a Look: The Scrutinies

The Nicene Creed

The Presentation of the Creed

The Way of the Cross

The Lord's Prayer

The Presentation of the Lord's Prayer

The Meaning of Holy Week

Phase III: Celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation

This is the liturgical rite, usually integrated into the Easter Vigil, by which the elect are initiated through baptism, confirmation, and the Eucharist.

Period of Post-Baptismal Catechesis or Mystagogy

This is the time, usually the Easter season, following the celebration of initiation, during which the newly initiated experience being fully a part of the Christian community by means of both pertinent catechesis and particularly by participation with all the faithful in the Sunday Eucharistic celebration. During this period, topics discussed include:

Conversion: A Lifelong Process

The Laity: Called to Build God's Kingdom

Your Special Gifts

Family Life

Your Prayer Life

Discernment

Holiness

Evangelization. (Pastor 1 Mar. 2011)

In addition, the Pastor explained that, at his parish, the length of the program is approximately two years and that the rite of initiation, also referred to as the sacrament of initiation, takes place at Easter, Christmas and on the Chinese Martyrs' Catholic Church feast day, which is 3 July (ibid.). At his parish, eligibility for entry into the rite of initiation includes the following three requirements: attendance at three spiritual retreats; two interviews with the Pastor; and 85 percent attendance in the entire RCIA program (ibid.).

The Reverend at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish provided the following list of topics discussed during the RCIA process [translated by the Translation Bureau]:

Our Lady of Carmel Catechism Class Schedule (10-11)
Class Month Day Topic Reference Books Leader
1 - - Getting acquainted; etiquette and posture - -
2 - - Ritual and Meaning of Mass Mass Handbook -
3 - - Differences between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism Catechism Guide, pp. 4-9 -
4 - - Status of Mary and the Rosary Catechism Guide, pp. 10-14; Rosary Handbook -
5 - - Necessary Truths - People Need Religion Catechism Guide, pp. 19-24 -
6 - - Man's Position, Nature and Behaviour Catechism Guide, pp. 209-218 -
7 - - Sin and God's Salvation Catechism Guide, pp. 218-220, 224-228 -
8 - - Overview of the Ten Commandments Catechism Guide, pp. 229-231 -
9 - - First Commandment Catechism Guide, pp. 232-238 -
10 - - Second Commandment Catechism Guide, pp. 239-241 -
11 - - Third Commandment Catechism Guide, pp. 242-245 -
12 - - Fourth Commandment Catechism Guide, pp. 246-252 -
13 - - Fifth Commandment Catechism Guide, pp. 253-262 -
14 - - Sixth and Ninth Commandments Catechism Guide, pp. 263-266 -
15 - - Seventh and Tenth Commandments Catechism Guide, pp. 267-273 -
16 - - Eighth Commandment Catechism Guide, pp. 274-276 -
17 - - Four Precepts of the Holy Catholic Church Catechism Guide, pp. 277-285 -
18 - - Liturgy and the Liturgical Year Catechism Guide, pp. 129-136, 203-206 -
19 - - Divine Grace and Overview of the Sacraments Catechism Guide, pp. 137-140 -
20 - - The Seven Sacraments: Baptism Catechism Guide, pp. 141-152 -
21 - - The Seven Sacraments: Confirmation Catechism Guide, pp. 153-158 -
22 - - The Seven Sacraments: Holy Communion Catechism Guide, pp. 159-169 -
23 - - The Seven Sacraments: Confession Catechism Guide, pp. 170-180 -
24 - - The Seven Sacraments: Anointing of the Sick Catechism Guide, pp. 181-184 -
25 - - The Seven Sacraments: Holy Orders Catechism Guide, pp. 185-192 -
26 - - The Seven Sacraments: Marriage Catechism Guide, pp. 193-202 -
27 - - Prayer and Reading of the Bible Catechism Guide, pp. 289-301 -
28 - - Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition Catechism Guide, pp. 24-33 -
29 - - Creeds and God Catechism Guide, pp. 34-36 -
30 - - God as Trinity Catechism Guide, pp. 37-47 -
31 - - God as Creator of Heaven and Earth Catechism Guide, pp. 48-53 -
32 - - Angels and Devils Catechism Guide, pp. 53-57 -
33 - - Creation of Man by God and Disobedience of Our First Parents Catechism Guide, pp. 57-66 -
34 - - Why Jesus was Born into the World Catechism Guide, pp. 67-70 -
35 - - Birth, Childhood and Private Life of Jesus Catechism Guide, pp. 71-75 -
36 - - Public Ministry of Jesus Catechism Guide, pp. 75-81 -
37 - - Crucifixion and Burial of Jesus Catechism Guide, pp. 81-86 -
38 - - Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Catechism Guide, pp. 87-94 -
39 - - Meaning of the Descent of the Holy Spirit Catechism Guide, pp. 95-100 -
40 - - A New Heaven and a New Earth: the Second Coming of Jesus Book of Revelation -
41 - - Distinctiveness of the Holy Catholic Church Catechism Guide, pp. 100-107 -
42 - - Mission of the People of the Church Catechism Guide, pp. 107-115 -
43 - - Communion of Saints Catechism Guide, pp. 116-117 -
44 - - The Four Last Things Catechism Guide, pp. 118-125 -
45 - - 50 classes planned in all. Six of these will be kept free for sharing testimonials and for sermons by the priest

The Reverend stated that the length of the process is approximately one and a half years, as per the guidelines from the Archdiocese of Toronto (Rev. 17 Mar. 2011). To receive the sacrament of baptism, which is "only administered at Easter," RCIA participants at his parish must pass an oral and written examination and be given a recommendation by the Catechists-teachers (ibid.).

Information on the practices of other Chinese Catholic churches in the greater Toronto region was not available in the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Archdiocese of Ottawa. 14 March 2011. Correspondence with an administrative coordinator.

Archdiocese of Toronto. 24 March 2011. Office of Formation for Discipleship. Correspondence with a representative.

_____. N.d. "Parishes - Languages." [Accessed 14 Mar. 2011]

Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB). 18 February 2011. Telephone interview with the Director, National Liturgy Office.

_____. N.d. "List of Dioceses of the Latin Rite." [Accessed 14 Mar. 2011]

Holy Rosary Parish. 5 September 2010. "Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults." [Accessed 7 Mar. 2011]

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish. N.d. "Our Lady of Carmel Catechism Class Schedule (10-11)." Translated by the Translation Bureau, Public Works and Government Services Canada. Sent to the Research Directorate through correspondence with the Reverend on 17 March 2011.

Pastor, Chinese Martyrs' Catholic Church, Markham. 1 March 2011. Correspondence.

Priest and Director, Diocesan Formation Services, Archdiocese of Montreal. 14 March 2011. Correspondence.

_____. 11 March 2011. Correspondence.

Reverend, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish, Windsor. 17 March 2011. Correspondence.

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Representatives from the University of Toronto Chinese Catholic Community (UTCCC), National Office of Religious Education at the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), Saviour of the World Chinese Catholic Church and Saint Agnes Kouying Tsao Catholic Church did not respond within the time constraints of this Response.

Internet sites, including: Archdiocese of Montreal, Archdiocese of Ottawa, Archdiocese of Toronto, Catholic Canada, Chinese Martyrs' Catholic Church, Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, The North American Forum on the Catechumenate.

Attachment

Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB). N.d. National Liturgy Office. "The 2010-2011 Liturgical Calendar: Year A - Series I." [Accessed 21 Feb. 2011]

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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