What is the role of the sponsor in RCIA?

Hey folks, I’m in the very early stages of considering RCIA in the fall, but I don’t know what is meant by needing a sponsor. Is this something to do with the classes themselves, something that comes along later, or am I misunderstanding something here? Please enlighten me. many thanks, CW

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A sponsor is basically a person who will walk with you on your journey to the fullness of the Catholic faith. It generally beginning with the instruction of RCIA, but could be someone who you see as initiating your interest.

They are there to pray and be an example of prayer, to be an example of how to witness the faith (sometimes in difficult times), show you the hope and truth of the faith, and to support you in the steps leading to your entering the church.

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The sponsor is an ancient thing. Back in the days of the early Church, when she was persecuted and met in secret, someone who wished to be baptized had to have a Christian “vouch” for them. Sponsor them into the religion. Give them guidance and support and also stand up and say “this person is not here to harm us”.

So, now, when someone wishes to be baptized, they have a sponsor. It is colloquially called “Godparent”. They stand up for the person to be baptized, they support them spiritually and lead a good example.

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A “sponsor” is also known as your Godfather, once you are baptized.

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And one thing to understand, not every person who goes through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults goes to formal classes to prepare. Some meet one on one with a priest or his delegate.

“RCIA” refers to the actual Rites, not to the prep. It is like sending your kid to school every day by saying “time to go to Commencement”.

Anyway, some parishes do a series of classes to prepare people for the Rites and some of those parishes want your sponsor to attend with you. This is not required by the Church, in fact, your sponsor can be stationed in Antarctica or on the Space Station and you can have someone else (does not even have to be a Christian) stand as proxy for the Catholic sponsor.

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I’m so glad you’re considering RCIA! Remember, you can attend just to inquire and learn…you don’t have to actually join the Church at the end of the year…it’s up to you when you decide you’re ready. Someone in my parish went for 5 years before he was ready to be confirmed, and someone in my class who was baptized this year took two years. Just saying, go and don’t feel any pressure. There’s a lot of variety in the level of instruction in RCIA from parish to parish, so I hope you find a good one. I’m so grateful for having a loving and welcoming RCIA with a great team of leaders, and I got a wonderful sponsor who’s now a dear friend. If you don’t know anyone who can be your sponsor, just ask your RCIA leader and they’ll help find someone. One of our deacons volunteered for another gal in my class. I’m glad you’re thinking about the next step. We will be praying for you!

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It should be noted that if you are preparing for Baptism that the sponsor who walks through the journey with you as you go through RCIA need not be the person who becomes your “godparent” when you are baptized. There is a point during the various rites where the “godparent” can take over from the sponsor who accompanied you from the beginning.

If you are already baptized the sponsor who accompanies you in your journey will be the person who is your sponsor at Confirmation.

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Thank you all for making this a lot clearer. :slight_smile:

Can I ask what changed for you? I remember your posts about not being sure about joining even though you loved the rituals, etc.

Nothing has really changed, but I do feel drawn to take this step at some point. It may not be this year or next, but at some time in the future I will likely check things out at that level. At the moment I’m not too excited about it, but felt the more I know the less I’ll be hesitant over it when the time comes. Thanks for asking. :slight_smile:

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