The Process of Discernment

*This article is a summary of the Discernment Process PowerPoint presentation created by Sister Gael Gensler, OSF. Sr. Gael is a pastoral associate for the St. Julie Billiart Parish in Tinley Park, IL. She has been involved with adult initiation for thirty years and has served on the NA Forum staff as the Director of Institutes. She is co-author of a web resource, Apprentices in Faith, an author of the Foundations in Faith series (RCL), and writes on initiation topics.

The Christian Initiation process fosters faith formation resulting in transformation. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the process leads one to conversion of heart and to a response to Christ’s invitation to live an active, Christian life. “Falling in love” with our Lord is the ultimate goal. Every transition in the process is enhanced through prayer and discernment.

The discernment process for candidates, catechumens, sponsors, and catechists is a crucial component of Christian Initiation. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, praying and reflecting on where we have been and where we are headed helps to identify our Catholic Christian purpose. Conversion of heart is the ultimate result. Conversion of heart helps one to realize that God’s covenant is real, that He is our God and we are His people, and that we are all connected as the Body of Christ. It is a Christ-centered, sacramental, ecclesial, and holistic journey.

Discernment observes “outward indications” of inward dispositions (RCIA, #43). It identifies how one is moving from one stage of the journey of faith to another. Below are some questions that can be asked throughout the various stages of the Christian Initiation Process.  (READ MORE)

A. The Initial Interview (Conversation)


  • Tell me something about God (or, Tell me something you have heard about God).
  • Do you have questions about God?


  • Tell me something about Jesus.
  • What are some of the stories you have heard about Jesus?
  • Do you have a question about Christ?

Sacramental Questions

  • Have you been baptized?
  • Have you received Communion (Eucharist)? When and where?
  • What is your understanding of these sacraments?
  • Do you have a question about how Catholics understand sacraments? (True Presence, Reconciliation (confession), Confirmation, Marriage, etc…)

Ecclesial Questions

  • What experience do you have with a church?
  • What have you observed about Catholics?
  • What do you hope you will find here?

Journey Questions

  • Tell me something that brought you to our community or about your desire to explore the Catholic faith.
  • What are some of the events that have brought you to us, at this time?
  • Who are some people you know who believe in God?

Holistic Questions

  • Describe your understanding of what is right and wrong and how this understanding helps you make decisions.
  • What have you heard about the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, and the Great Commandment?

B. Discernment for the Rite of Welcome and Acceptance

The following are indicators of conversion and readiness to celebrate the Rite of Welcoming and Acceptance (RCIA, #42):

  • Initial faith and conversion
  • Fundamentals of Christian teaching
  • Evidence of first faith
  • First stirrings of repentance
  • Start of calling upon God in prayer
  • A sense of Church
  • Some experience of the company and spirit of Christians in the community


  • In what ways has your relationship with God changed or deepened?
  • Have your questions about God been answered?


  • In what ways has your relationship with Jesus changed or deepened?
  • What difference does your relationship with Jesus make in your life—at home, at work?


  • In what ways has your understanding of faith as a community of believers grown?
  • What have you observed about Catholics?

C. Discernment before the Rite of Election

The following are indicators of conversion and readiness to celebrate the Rite of Election (See RCIA #76 & #78):

  • A transition from initial faith to enlightened faith
  • Initial conversion to deepened conversion
  • Is directing one’s heart toward God
  • Is participating in the liturgy
  • Is inspired to apostolic activity
  • Nurtures a life in accord with the spirit of Christ


  • What is your understanding of God’s covenant with us?
  • How do you experience this covenant?


Describe your relationship with Christ.

What would you like to say to Jesus now?

Other paragraphs of the Rite which are helpful: 43, 119, 120, 121, 122, 131

Other Areas to Discuss

Questions about Catholicism

People they know in the parish

Family origin

Present family (married, previous marriages, children)

The process of initiation