RCIA at one parish....then attend another?


Hi All,

I’m looking forward to participating in RCIA this Fall! I started the interview process at my local parish, but was very concerned by some unorthodox statements made by the nun who interviewed me. Particularly since I felt disrespected; she acted as if I was closed-minded for sticking to Church teaching.

So I looked elsewhere…

Found a great parish at some distance away. They are very orthodox and I know I will get good instruction. I’d love to attend RCIA there, but maybe return to my nearby parish after I am baptized. This would save me oodles of time and gas money.

Would that be very problematic…to attend RCIA in one parish, and then join a different one after being baptized? I think I can learn to love and accept this heterodox nun in the future…I just don’t want her spoiling this very special time of RCIA, baptism, confirmation, and 1st Eucharist!!!



That is perfectly fine to do. There is nothing wrong with attending RCIA at one parish and then becoming a member at another parish later on. Once you are Catholic, you can join any parish you want. There are many reasons for doing this. People go to RCIA at a parish they do not intend to join because it lacks a program, the meetings work with their schedule, they know more of the people there, etc, etc, etc

Once you are Catholic, you are Catholic, you can go wherever you want.


I didn’t attend RCIA at my local Parish because I was unsatistifed with their communication. I found a website for a Parish that was about 30 minutes away and had a good RCIA program so I enquired there and was able to join.
I’m so glad I went to that Parish because I met great friends there !


You should not be concerned about where you participate in the RCIA process and should go where you feel you would be more comfortable. It is a fact of life that different personalities and different approaches can make or break an experience and so you shouldn’t start out in a place that makes you uncomfortable. God bless your journey.


The first thing you need to understand (to address your question) is that Catholic parishes are territories. That means that one is a member of the parish where one actually lives.

That’s why participating in RCIA in a parish other than your actual parish can present certain issues and potential problems. Before doing this, you need to speak with one pastor or the other (not RCIA director, or anyone else, but the pastor). I would suggest starting with the pastor of the parish where you are considering participating in RCIA----the reason being that it is better not to be in a situation where you say to one priest “I don’t want to be part of your RCIA program…” only to have to come back later if the other priest says “no.”

People who do not understand what they are writing about will tell you “it doesn’t matter.” It does matter. Parishes are territories and the pastor’s ability to administer the Sacraments of Initiation (especially to adults) depend upon whether or not someone lives in that parish. While an exception to this might very well be possible, the only person who can tell you this is the pastor of that parish—no one on the internet can answer on his behalf.


I had absolutely no issues going through RCIA in the only parish in my diocese that had the EF even though it wasn’t my local parish. It wasn’t even brought up.


Not so much. Attend the other RCIA program without anxiety.

The Church is the body of Christ, and Christ is all:

Ephesians 1:22-23
22 And he put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body,* the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.

The Church is one body, of many parts, and if parishes are territorial, they are wrong:

1 Co 1:10–17
10I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree in what you say, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and in the same purpose. 11For it has been reported to me about you, my brothers, by Chloe’s people, that there are rivalries among you. 12I mean that each of you is saying, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” 13Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14I give thanks [to God] that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15so that no one can say you were baptized in my name. 16*(I baptized the household of Stephanas also; beyond that I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with the wisdom of human eloquence,* so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning.

Peace and all good!


I would follow this advice. It might very well be that there would be no problem with doing so (as people have attested, it happens often enough). But it’s always best to hash these things out with the pastor rather than make presumptions.


That’s a rather stunning misuse of this Scripture! In this case, people from the same territory were claiming that they followed Paul (or Apollos or Peter). Paul was reminding them that they were all Christians. However, since they were all from the same Church (e.g., the Church in Jerusalem, the Church in Corinth, etc), they were all under the leadership of the same bishop. Paul isn’t talking about this dynamic (which, of course, is the dynamic that you’re pooh-poohing here), but rather, of the notion that all are Christians as opposed to some being Pauline Christians and others Petrine Christians, and so on.

Fr David is correct: it would be up to the discretion of the pastor, whether to allow a person from another parish to attend RCIA and receive the sacraments at his parish. At the very least, that pastor doesn’t want to give the impression to the neighboring pastor that he’s ‘poaching’ catechumens from his neighbor’s parish! :wink:


Where we receive sacraments is relatively unimportant. In our profession of faith, it is made clear that one baptism is sufficient. You seem to be saying we are not baptized into Christ, we are baptized into a particular parish…your contention is much closer to the belief of non-denominational Protestants than in keeping with the spirit of the doctrine of the one church.

There is no reason a person cannot receive catechesis at one parish, and each sacrament of initiation at a different parish, and still not be welcomed into full communion with the church, or any parish after the fact.

There are no earthly territorial boundaries to the body of Christ.

Surely your pastor, or parish council, or you as parishioner, does not compare the worthiness of one of your fellow parishioners based on where they received their sacraments; for clearly sacramental grace comes from God, not from you parish!:shrug:


Canon 518 states that parishes are normally set up on territorial basis, but they can be set up on other bases such as language or nationality. But I don’t see anything remotely resembling a requirement for any Catholic to attend the parish in their territory.

If the Church is one Church, what possible reason is there for directing someone to one parish?


I have to say that the question is a lot like asking “why do I have to go to my state of residence to get a drivers’ license, instead of my state of choice, just because I happen to live there?” Not to be trite about it, but it really is the same principle.

More directly to your question: Because a parish is a territory. It’s the very definition of the word. Yes, some parishes can be personal (and that’s completely legitimate) but personal parishes* are not the norm.

Whether or not some people like this (and no, that’s not directed at you personally, but a general statement), the fact is that the Catholic Church has decided that parishes are territories.

A pastor has jurisdiction within his own parish. Likewise, a bishop as pastor of his diocese. That means that he has both the ability and the responsibility for the care of souls within that territory.

Especially when it comes to administering Sacraments that require some kind of jurisdiction, parish territories are relevant in the extreme. When it comes to marriage, the very validity of the marriage depends on this jurisdiction. Even though it’s not the topic of the thread, it does form part of the answer to the question you’re asking me.

The Churches laws and norms for administering RCIA are quite complex. Bishops have different responses to exactly what they allow parish pastors to do. Most Catholics don’t realize that baptizing an adult is reserved to the bishop (canon 863) although he can delegate this to pastors. That’s why this is so important to the OP’s question. No one here can know whether or not the OP’s bishop only gives permission to pastors to baptize adults who actually have a residence in the parish.

The other relevant point is that pastors have a responsibility to administer the Sacraments to their own parishioners (those who reside within the parish). A pastor is well within his rights to have a policy of not admitting potential RCIA candidates unless they live within the parish. This happens very often in places where people try to pick a church based on something like architecture or aesthetics (although that’s more common for weddings).

My point is that a Catholic, or potential Catholic, needs to be aware when someone crosses parish boundaries there is a possibility things might not work as planned and there’s a possibility for misunderstandings or other problems in the future. Telling someone “it doesn’t matter” or “it makes no difference” is objectively untrue. Exceptions can be made, and often are made; however exceptions do not mean that parish boundaries do not exist or do not matter (which is what many posters on CAF erroneously claim).

Simply put, saying to someone “talk to the pastor” is the correct answer (and not just because I wrote that). It’s objectively the correct answer. On the other hand, telling someone “it doesn’t matter” is objectively the wrong answer.

For the OP’s situation, it’s necessary to begin by talking to one or the other pastor; and I would suggest by starting with the pastor where the OP would like to enroll in RCIA. No one here can say whether or not he can baptize an adult who does not live within his parish, and no one here can say whether or not he will be willing. Especially because the OP intends specifically not to continue attending that same parish after completing RCIA, only that pastor can answer the OPs question—not someone on the internet.

It’s even worse when people post anecdotal responses like “I did it this way…” or “my pastor says he doesn’t care…” Those kinds of responses aren’t helpful to the OP when this kind of question is asked.

  • Just so that (some) readers here understand the vocabulary: a parish is said to be “personal” when the membership is determined by who is eligible to join (by persons) rather than territory. I recall in the seminary, when we first heard about “personal parishes” we thought that meant someone’s private parish—hence my explanation.


No – not baptized “into a particular parish”. Rather, being part of a parish by virtue of one’s domicile, though, a person is baptized into the body of Christ at his parish. Subtle, but important difference. We are each part of a particular Church, and within that Church, by virtue of the ordinary’s assignment of parishes, we are part of a given parish.

There is no reason a person cannot receive catechesis at one parish, and each sacrament of initiation at a different parish, and still not be welcomed into full communion with the church, or any parish after the fact.

Agreed – yet, the case you raise is different than the one under discussion here. Yes, many people move during their childhood, and therefore, are baptized in one parish, receive 1HC in another, and perhaps are confirmed in a third. That’s not the situation being considered here, in which an adult wishes to travel to receive RCIA instruction (and therefore, the sacraments of initiation), and then return to his parish for regular Mass attendance. That’s something that isn’t normative; and that’s why it’s necessary to discuss the matter with the pastor.

There are no earthly territorial boundaries to the body of Christ.

Yet, there are territorial boundaries to parishes and dioceses; and these are important in considerations of canon law. :wink:

Surely your pastor, or parish council, or you as parishioner, does not compare the worthiness of one of your fellow parishioners based on where they received their sacraments

Who ever suggested such a thing?

for clearly sacramental grace comes from God, not from you parish!:shrug:

And who ever suggested this? You’re pretty adept at tossing out red herrings… :wink:


Is there any purpose for everything you have stated other than ‘that’s the rules’? What is the purpose of any of this?


What possible reason is there for any of this, other than “that’s the rules”? Pope Francis said something to the effect that the Church needs to stop focusing on rules for the sake of rules, and get on with the work of helping the poor and making the world a better place.

This territorial stuff is pure silliness, and does nothing to make the world a better place. It just focuses energy on useless trivia.


I don’t know why people argue with you, Father, when you explain it so well. :thumbsup:


Can. 107 §1. Through both domicile and quasi-domicile, each person acquires his or her pastor and ordinary.

Can. 515 §1. A parish is a certain community of the Christian faithful stably constituted in a particular church, whose pastoral care is entrusted to a pastor (parochus) as its proper pastor (pastor) under the authority of the diocesan bishop.

Can. 518 As a general rule a parish is to be territorial, that is, one which includes all the Christian faithful of a certain territory. When it is expedient, however, personal parishes are to be established determined by reason of the rite, language, or nationality of the Christian faithful of some territory, or even for some other reason.

Can. 519 The pastor (parochus) is the proper pastor (pastor) of the parish entrusted to him, exercising the pastoral care of the community committed to him under the authority of the diocesan bishop in whose ministry of Christ he has been called to share, so that for that same community he carries out the functions of teaching, sanctifying, and governing, also with the cooperation of other presbyters or deacons and with the assistance of lay members of the Christian faithful, according to the norm of law.

Can. 857 §1. Apart from a case of necessity, the proper place of baptism is a church or oratory.

§2. As a rule an adult is to be baptized in his or her parish church and an infant in the parish church of the parents unless a just cause suggests otherwise.

I am not aware that Pope Francis has made any changes to those canons.


Right now we live in a time where people are more able to move around than ever before. I think the territories give the pastors a guide of the limits of where they can pastor so they don’t infringe on another pastor’s territory. Plus it gives them a smaller area to focus their ministry. That said, people should have the freedom to attend where they feel most comfortable.

I did my RCIA and attended a church about 23km away (which is about 14 miles away). Initially the priest was a little concerned because of the rule but we talked it out and it worked out well. I was an active member of the church for many years. I learned a great deal from my priest and I had some wonderful times there. Eventually I migrated back to a parish in my community but that had to do more with a change in my schedule verses the rule.

I know in my area, the priests don’t care about territory, they are more concerned with whether the person is growing in their faith or not.

Although there are times when we certainly do need to follow the rules, there are times such as this when we also need to be true to our hearts. One has to go to a parish that is going to feed their spiritual needs such as the need for a young people’s group, active choir, strong children’s catechisms, and a priest the person feels comfortable speaking to. This is really important because if you don’t trust your priest, you are less apt to go to confession. The spiritual needs are different for everyone which means if traveling a distance is going to fill those needs, then one does it.

At one point in my life I used to travel two hours to attend church because I felt more at home there verses at the churches closer to my house. It is better to travel two hours to a parish and be fed by the spirit verses walking across the street to attend a church that doesn’t stir the spirit in you.

If the local parish is not feeding the community’s souls and needs then they need to do some soul searching and determine what is no longer working and make changes accordingly.

Right now, parishes are experiencing shortages and I think we have to be honest with one’s spiritual needs. One needs to go where one is fed by the spirit. Sure some parishes are more apt to be territorial than others but that happens everywhere in all of the churches across the denominations.

One just needs to follow one’s heart.


Wow, thanks everyone! That was a lot of feedback and I appreciate all of it. Sounds like there are rules, but the rules have not been implemented with great strictness (otherwise, I think there’d be more unanimity in the answers). To be safe, I will just check with the pastor of the parish I’d like to attend RCIA for, and discuss the matter.

Thanks again for all your responses!


If I recall, my parish had people go through the RCIA program, but they attended the Easter Vigil at their own parishes. My diocese is huge, and it is not uncommon for people to work so far away from home, they cannot make it back in time for class!

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