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THEO543, THEO611 and THCT602 Sacraments and Sacramentality

Teaching organisation

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning. The total includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures, tutorials, online learning, video-conferencing, or supervision. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment.

Unit rationale, description and aim

This unit concerns the Sacraments of Initiation—Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist—within the Catholic tradition. It introduces the idea of sacraments and sacramentality and outlines the scriptural, historical, ritual and theological underpinnings of the Church’s initiatory practices. It focuses on both the theoretical and practical aspects of celebrating these sacraments in the Church today and considers the different patterns of initiation for children and adults. This unit aims to provide students with a broad understanding of how Sacraments of Initiation lay the foundation of the Christian life, how Sacraments of Initiation developed within the history of the Church and how their theology and ritual practice have been adapted over time to the changing historical circumstances and theological developments in the life of the Church. 

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - give an account of the historical development of Christian initiation (GA4);

LO2 - demonstrate a fundamental understanding of the theology underlying the Sacraments of Initiation (GA4);

LO3 - outline the diversity of ritual patterns for Christian initiation respecting the dignity and individual needs of children and adults (RCIA) (GA1);

LO4 - locate and analyse key, contemporary, official Church documents governing the initiation of Christians into the Catholic Church today (GA8);

LO5 - use a variety of resources to prepare initiatory liturgies for a range of school and parish contexts (GA1, GA8).

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA8 - locate, organise, analyse, synthesise and evaluate information 


Topics will include:

  • Sacraments and sacramentality
  • Biblical foundations of Sacraments of Initiation
  • Historical development of the Catholic Sacraments of Initiation
  • Theology and Rite of Baptism
  • Theology and Rite of Confirmation
  • Theology and celebration of Eucharist
  • The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults
  • Issues surrounding the order of reception of Sacraments of Initiation

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning or the equivalent of 10 hours per week for 15 weeks. The total includes formally structured learning activities such as lectures, tutorials, online learning, videoconferencing, or supervision. The remaining hours typically involve reading, research, and the preparation of tasks for assessment. 

The unit is normally offered in interactive online mode which enables students to engage in both synchronous and asynchronous learning activities through live online-class interactions and according to their self-devised schedule as individual learners. Online materials are carefully structured and sequenced in modules with built-in exercises and activities designed to support the achievement of the learning outcomes. Through live-online classes students are provided with the opportunity to work collaboratively in groups with the guidance of the lecturer to apply principles in practical activities which enable them to reflect critically on key information, analyse and integrate new information with existing knowledge, draw meaningful new connections, and then work individually to apply what they have learned to liturgies being prepared and celebrated in their own unique circumstances. Students are encouraged to reflect critically on their personal experience and observations in light of materials covered in the unit. Assessment tasks are integrated into and built upon modular unit materials but extent students beyond the modular materials to engage in analysis and research tasks which require them to apply the knowledge they have gained through completion of the unit’s readings, analyses and exercises. 

The interactive online mode of this unit requires students to be independent learners, responsible for managing and modifying their own learning journey in response to frequent constructive feedback provided to them on their learning progress evidenced in exercises and assessment tasks. Students are encouraged to establish a regular study schedule for individual reading and online participation. Key to success in the online mode is regular reading, and interaction with fellow students – through online forums and live-classes students are provided with the opportunity to build a supportive and encouraging learning community so that even when studying at a distance they feel connected to their fellow learners and the lecturer as they proceed through the unit together. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

To pass this unit students are required to attempt all assessment tasks and achieve a cumulative grade of Pass (50% or higher). The assessment tasks for this unit are designed to enable students to demonstrate their achievement of each learning outcome. 

Assessment task 1: Forum Contributions require students to write online postings and responses to the work of their fellow students which is informed by material presented in the modular materials. This assessment task provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate and articulate their understanding of key aspects of the materials and concepts under consideration in this unit in a focused manner. Online posts and responses provide an opportunity for students to consider, peer-review and offer constructive feedback to each other on postings in light of knowledge gained through study and analysis of unit materials. 

Assessment task 2: Liturgy Exercises provide an opportunity for students to demonstrate their knowledge of and apply key principles studied in the unit. Through these targeted exercises students explore in a focused manner several key concepts of Sacraments of Initiation which are foundational for the unit. 

Assessment task 3: requires students to research and write a Major Essay which enables them to engage in an extended investigation and critical consideration of a topic central to the unit, in dialogue with unit materials and other relevant primary and secondary sources. This assessment offers students the chance to demonstrate a synthesis of knowledge and insight gained throughout the unit and to apply it to a practical setting. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Forum contributions: require students to demonstrate their knowledge of key aspects of Sacraments of Initiation in online posts and to respond critically to the postings of other students.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO5

GA1, GA4, GA8

Liturgy Exercises: require students to demonstrate in practical exercises their knowledge of key concepts of Sacraments of Initiation through analysis and application of key principles to practical contexts.


LO4, LO5

GA1, GA4, GA8

Major Essay: requires students to research and write an extended critical consideration of a set essay topic synthesising and demonstrating understanding and application of central concepts of Sacraments of Initiation covered in the unit.


LO2, LO4, LO5

GA1, GA4, GA8

Representative texts and references

Baldovin, John F. Bread of Life, Cup of Salvation: Understanding the Mass. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003.

Fisher, J.D.C. Confirmation: Then and Now. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications/Hillenbrand, 1978/.2005.

Gabrielli, Timothy R. Confirmation: How a Sacrament of God’s Grace Became All About Us. Collegeville: Liturgical, 2013.

Irwin, Kevin W. The Sacraments: Historical Foundations and Liturgical Theology. New York: Paulist, 2016.

Johnson, M.E. The Rites of Christian Initiation: Their Evolution and Interpretation. Rev. ed. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2007.

Laurence, John D. The Sacrament of the Eucharist. Lex Orandi Series. Collegeville: Liturgical, 2012.

Mitchell, Nathan. Eucharist as Sacrament of Initiation. Forum Essays Number Two. Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 2003.

Morris, Thomas H. The RCIA: Transforming the Church – A Resource for Pastoral Implementation. Rev. ed. New York: Paulist, 1997.

Turner, P. Ages of Initiation: The First Two Christian Millennia. Collegeville: Liturgical, 2001.

Witczak, Michael G. The Sacrament of Baptism. Lex Orandi Series. Collegeville: Liturgical, 2011.

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