Catechism & Conversion

Dear Prospective Catechumen:

Greetings in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ!

Thank you for expressing interest in learning more about the Orthodox Christian Faith. We welcome everyone, including our own members, to grow in knowledge of the Church teachings and traditions.

A catechumen is defined as “one receiving instruction in the basic doctrines of Christianity before admission to communicant membership in the Church.” You may have already decided to join the Orthodox Church. However, participating in a learning program does not obligate you to join the Church.

If you have decided to enter into the process of preparation, the following is an outline of the process—its guidelines and requirements. See checklist at the end.

  1. Regular Church Attendance- Worship of God is at the center of Orthodox life and spirituality. Worship is not only an experience of learning but a way that God’s mystical grace comes to us, touches us and changes us. A catechumen is expected to attend Sunday Divine Liturgy each week as well as special services throughout the year. Some examples of the other services are: reat Lent- Compline on Monday evenings, Presanctified Liturgy on Wednesday evenings, Salutations on Fridays evenings; Holy Week- Bridegroom Services (Sun-Tue evenings), Holy Unction on Wed. evening, Holy Friday services and Pascha midnight services; Paraklesis Service- offered once a month and during August Fast; Great Feasts of the Holy Cross (Sept. 14th), Christmas (Dec. 25th), Theophany (Jan. 6th), Pentecost and Dormition of Theotokos (Aug. 15th).
  2. Instructional Class Attendance- Orthodoxy means “right doctrine” or “true worship.” In other words, the Orthodox Church has specific teachings and traditions regarding the nature of God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Church; as well as what it means to be a follower of Christ and how to live as a Christian. A catechumen is expected to attend the Instructional Classes, at this time known as “Orthodoxy 101”. They are offered on a weekly or bi-weekly basis for a period of 10-15 weeks. Preparation and active participation are expected of each student in the class. Please refer to www.meocca.org for class schedules.
  3. Spiritual Guidance- In the Orthodox Church, one does not determine and follow their own spiritual path without the advice and guidance of spiritual fathers and mothers. Personal accountability is essential to growth in Christ along with intellectual knowledge and church attendance. In a spirit of love, the spiritual guide watches over the growth and progress of the spiritual child. The priest will help the catechumen in a spiritual self-examination to prepare for Holy Confession. The priest will also help deal with personal questions, issues, problems that arise before and after joining the Orthodox Faith. The catechumen is expected to participate in spiritual guidance and counseling with the priest of the community.
  4. Frequently Asked Questions
    • How long does it take to become a member of the Orthodox Faith? Usually, it is a year-long process. However, the priest always uses discretion to determine the readiness of a catechumen. Becoming a member is not just learning about the Faith but growing in Faith--a personal transformation must be evident. Often, this takes time and is dependent on the level of commitment of the catechumen.
    • If my fiancee and I wish to be married, does the non-Orthodox spouse need to join the Church? No, the Church does not require or force a person to join the Church. The Church will marry someone who is Orthodox with someone who is non-Orthodox. That non-Orthodox person however, must be a Christian baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity.
    • When can I start receiving Holy Communion and other Sacraments? Holy Communion and the other Sacraments (except Marriage, see above) are offered only to those persons who are baptized and chrismated in the Orthodox Church. Becoming a catechumen is the process of preparing for Baptism and/or Chrismation. After you are baptized/chrismated, you should first participate in the Sacrament of Holy Confession and then, under the guidance of the priest, you may receive Holy Communion and other Sacraments.
    • If I was baptized in another Faith/Denomination, do I need to be re-baptized? The practice of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and most Orthodox Churches that "confess One baptism," is to not re-baptize converts. Rather, the Sacrament of Chrismation, which is the bestowing of the Grace of the Holy Spirit, is believed to fulfill and complete the Grace given in Baptism. However, a potential convert must provide documented proof of his/her Trinitarian baptism (done in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit) in another Faith.
    • Do I need to change my name? Legally, no. Spiritually, one who is converting to Orthodoxy through baptism or chrismation is encouraged to take on a Christian or Saint’s name. The reason is two-fold. First, the saint becomes a personal example to the catechumen of how to live the Christian life. Second, the saint becomes the patron of the newly converted, praying and interceding to God on their behalf. This new name would be used when participating in the sacraments of the Orthodox Church. Some catechumens may already have a saints name, some might choose a name that sounds similar to their name, some may choose a name based on admiration for a particular saint.
    • Do I need a Godparent? Yes, everyone who is converting to the Orthodox Faith needs a godparent (aka sponsor). The sponsor must be an Orthodox Christian in good standing with the Church. He/she should be a model and example of faithfulness and take quite seriously the role of godparent. A female catechumen is encouraged to choose a female godparent and likewise male for male. If the godparent is from another parish, a letter of verification of membership in good standing from his/her parish priest is required.

Undoubtedly, you will have more questions and I hope we can answer them for you and provide a positive, edifying experience of learning and growth.

In Christ,

+ Fr. Richard Demetrius Andrews


CATECHUMEN CHECKLIST

__ ATTEND CATECHISM CLASSES (see www.meocca.org for class schedules)
     Received Certificate for good attendance.
     Take a test on Basics of Orthodox Christianity.

__ JOIN AND BECOME ACTIVE IN A LOCAL ORTHODOX CHURCH
     Become a financial steward of the parish.
     Meet with stewardship committee member.
     Offer my time and talents to the parish.
     Become active in one ministry in service, fundraising, education (or youth).

__ ATTEND VARIOUS WORSHIP SERVICES
     Sunday Divine Liturgy (every week)
     Saturday Great Vespers (once per month)
     Weekday Divine Liturgy for patron Saint (once per year)
     Paraklesis to Theotokos (monthly and August 1-15) (two)
     Great Compline (Mondays of Great Lent) (two)
     Presanctified Liturgy (Wednesdays of Great Lent) (two)
     Akathistos/Salutations (Fridays of Great Lent) (two)
     Holy Week Services (all services)
         Lazaros Saturday Liturgy
         Bridegroom Matins (Sun.-Tue. Evening)
         Holy Unction (Wed. aft. Or eve.)
         Mystical Supper (Wed. eve. Or Thurs. am.)
         Holy Passion/12 Gospels (Thurs. eve.)
         Holy & Great Friday (3 services, all day)
         Descent into Hades Liturgy (Sat. am)
         Resurrection Service & Liturgy (Sat. eve into Sun. am)
         Agape Vespers (Sun. am)
         Twelve Great Feasts (Vespers and/or Liturgy), *includes special service.
         Nativity of Theotokos (Sept. 8)
         *Exaltation of Holy Cross (Sept. 14)
         Entrance into Temple of Theotokos (Nov. 21)
         Nativity of Christ (Dec. 25)
         *Theophany (Jan. 6)
         Meeting of our Lord (Feb. 2)
         Annunciation to Theotokos (Mar. 25)
         Palm Sunday (Sunday before Pascha)
         Ascension (40 days after Pascha)
         *Pentecost (50 days after Pascha)
         Transfiguration of our Lord (Aug. 6)
         Dormition of Theotokos (Aug. 15)

__ ESTABLISH RELATIONSHIP WITH SPIRITUAL FATHER
     Meet periodically/regularly to track progress
     Counseling (including Q&A)
     Schedule Confession
     Discuss preparation for Eucharist/Communion
     Set date for Baptism and/or Chrismation
     Other Sacramental Considerations
         If married, bless Marriage with Orthodox Wedding Service
         Receive Holy Unction
         Ordination (if applicable)

APPLICATION FOR CHRISMATION