About RCIA sponsors

A friend who was confirmed with me recently asked what relationship we were supposed to have with our sponsors after confirmation. I told her by what I had read there should be some level of ongoing interaction, but I was not sure, and I was not sure our program expected any.

She asked me because her sponsor, with whom she had no trouble of which she was aware, apparently now even refuses to speak to her at Mass. My sister's sponsor failed both to attend one of the rites and to tell her she would be absent. She thought it was unreasonable for my sister to be hurt about either her absence or her failure to communicate, so she subsequently resigned before RCIA ended, leaving my sister to find a new sponsor shortly before Easter. I was more fortunate; my sponsor's schedule made it difficult for us, but she was always there for the rites, and to the extent circumstances allow, we have even managed to maintain some level of relationship. I am not sure what our other RCIA classmates have experienced.

According to When you are an RCIA Sponsor by Rita Burns Senseman, adult sponsors act as companion, guide, Christian community representative, and witness. Their role is to provide companionship and information during the early stages of RCIA and introduce the candidate into the life and fellowship of the congregation and its activities. The sponsor's role ends at the Rite of Election, unless the sponsor is also to be the godparent.

Senseman writes that the sponsor's role is intended to terminate when the godparent steps in, although the expectation is there will be some sort of friendly relationship formed during the sponsorship that will continue. The godparent's role is to be a lifetime commitment.

My sponsor was with me through the entire process, but I am not certain that means she is also my godparent. I suspect that in our program we had no godparents, which would explain why at least some sponsor-candidate relationships dissolve after confirmation. That may even be common practice in other RCIA programs. Since no one told us, however, I do not know.

The word from our experience to anyone in RCIA is to be aware there is a wide variation in how much and in what way sponsors interact with RCIA candidates. If no one    explains it or you are unsure, ask someone in the program to specify what you should expect of a sponsor in your program. Problems can always occur, but a little level-setting in the beginning can minimize misunderstandings and hurt.