RCIA: Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults
The letters stand for Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, and it is the process by which those over the age of seven enter the Catholic Church.
RCIA is for those who want to become Catholic, those who are thinking about becoming Catholic, and those who just want to know more about the Catholic Church.
That’s why we begin with a process called Inquiry. This is an informal time for asking questions about the Catholic Church and discerning whether this is where God is calling you. The Inquiry period varies for each person. Not everyone who participates in this stage becomes Catholic. Whatever your reason or interest level, ALL ARE WELCOME, ALL THE TIME!
At St. Joseph/St. Raphael Parish, Inquiry meetings are held at various times throughout the year. Consult the Sunday bulletin or call the parish RCIA Director, Lisa Lenard, at 323-7523.
RCIA classes begin in September, but those interested can begin the process year round. RCIA is a flexible process, tailored to the needs of the participants, and not everyone is one the same schedule. The first step is to come to an Inquiry meeting or contact the parish RCIA Director.
The Catholic Church teaches that there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph. 4:5). Those who have already received a valid baptism are already members of the Body of Christ and do not receive that sacrament again. Instead, they are received into the Church after making a profession of faith and receive the sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist. Their preparation process is similar to those who are unbaptized.
Adult Catholics who wish to complete their Sacraments of Initiation by receiving 1st Eucharist or Confirmation also participate in the RCIA process.
Absolutely! Everyone is always welcome to worship at a Catholic Mass. You may participate in all parts of the Mass except the reception of communion.
RCIA classes are a time to learn more about the faith you are accepting and what is expected of you as a Catholic. Participants gather with the Catholic community each Sunday at Mass for the Liturgy of the Word, meet weekly to learn more about the sacraments and living life as a Catholic, and become involved in parish life with the help of a sponsor.
Adults receive the sacraments when they are ready. For most people, this occurs at the Easter Vigil, which is celebrated the night before Easter Sunday. However, those who are not ready to be initiated at this time remain in the process until the time is right for them as individuals.
Many families choose to go through the RCIA process together and receive the sacraments together. There are separate, age-appropriate classes for children.
A Sponsor shares the journey with those seeking initiation into the Catholic Church. This involves listening to their stories and sharing the Sponsor’s own faith journey. Sponsors don’t need to offer answers to questions but rather just be open to those asking questions. A Sponsor’s main job is to help participants build relationships in the parish by bringing them into the Sponsor’s own community of family & friends, contacting them between sessions, escorting them to parish activities, and sitting with them at mass.
The requirements for a Sponsor are the same as the requirements for a godparent. The Sponsor must be a fully initiated Catholic (having received baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist), at least 16 years of age, and practice her or his faith. Often RCIA participants have a friend or family member who wants to serve as their Sponsor. Those who do not are paired with a member of the parish who has volunteered to be a Sponsor.
RCIA is a journey which is divided into four stages with rites marking the transition between each of the stages. The first stage is the Pre-catechumenate which we usually refer to as Inquiry. This is the time when a person first expresses interest in knowing more about the Catholic Church or in becoming Catholic. The Inquiry period varies for each person. Not everyone who participates in this stage becomes Catholic; some discern that they are on a different journey and are called elsewhere. Whatever their reasons or interest level, all are welcome, all the time!
Typically, formal Inquiry begins sometime after Easter and filters into RCIA classes which start in the late summer/early fall. At some point, when the catechists discern that the majority of the group is ready to commit to formal preparation to receive the sacraments of initiation, the Rite of Acceptance is held. This happens anywhere from Thanksgiving through the early weeks of January and varies with each group. It is important to remember that RCIA is a flexible process, and except for the Rites which take place during Lent, not everyone is one the same schedule.
The Rite of Acceptance is the liturgical rite welcoming our RCIA participants into our faith community. It marks the beginning of the second stage of RCIA, called the Catechumenate, and through this rite, the Church accepts their intention to respond to God’s call to follow the way of Christ. Those desiring to receive the sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist) will now be formally called Catechumens. Also, at this time, those already baptized, who wish to be received into full communion with the Church, will be formally welcomed as Candidates. The Catechumens and Candidates will now gather with the Catholic community each Sunday at mass for the Liturgy of the Word, during which together, we hear the scriptures, respond to them, and reflect on the meaning of God’s word for us personally and as a community. After the intercessions, the Catechumens and Candidates are dismissed and, with their catechist, continue a process of reflection and application of the word of God proclaimed in the Sunday assembly. They also meet with their catechists weekly to learn more about the sacraments and living life as a Catholic. In addition to this important time, with the help of a sponsor, the Catechumens and Candidates are introduced to other members of the parish community and take part in parish activities.
The Catechumenate ends on the first Sunday of Lent, and that ending is marked by two very important and back-to-back rites. The Rite of Sending is held that morning at the local church. With it, the local parish community acknowledges the readiness of their Catechumens and Candidates to receive the sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil. Those Catechumens and Candidates are then sent to the bishop (or his representative) who, as the head of the local church, welcomes those who have been chosen by Christ to the final period of preparation before their reception of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. This second rite, held that afternoon or evening, is called the Rite of Election (for Catechumens) or the Call to Continuing Conversion (for Candidates). At the end of this rite, the Catechumens are now called “the Elect of God.”
We recognize a difference between those who are preparing for baptism and those who have already been baptized because the Catholic Church teaches that there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph. 4:5). Those who have already received a valid baptism are already members of the Body of Christ and do not receive that sacrament again. Instead, they are received into the Church after making a profession of faith and receive the sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist.
The Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion mark the entrance into the final period of preparation for the sacraments of initiation called Purification and Enlightenment. Purification and Enlightenment coincides with Lent, which was originally begun as the time of final preparation for those entering the Church. While RCIA participants are encouraged to ask questions and receive information about the Catholic faith during this stage, and all other stages, of the RCIA process, the emphasis during this time is on spiritual preparation to receive the sacraments. They are called to enter the desert of Lent and seek God’s direction for their lives during these final weeks before the Easter Vigil. During this time, we celebrate minor rites almost every Sunday, praying blessings over the Elect and the Candidates and asking them to examine their lives in the light of the Gospel.
Lent ends on Thursday evening of Holy Week at the beginning of the Easter Triduum. The Triduum is a three-day celebration of the passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord. It is at the last part of the Triduum, the Easter Vigil, that most of the Elect and Candidates are initiated. However, those who are not ready to be initiated at this time remain in the process until the time is right for them as individuals.
After the Vigil, the Neophytes (newly baptized) and the other new Catholics (previously, the Candidates) enter the final stage of their initiation called Mystagogia. Weekly meetings continue until Pentecost as participants continue to learn about what it means to live as a Catholic Christian.