The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults, or RCIA, is a communal process for formal initiation of new members (Unbaptized) into the Catholic Church. This process is a return to the formation process of the earliest age of the Church in the first and second centuries.
All are Welcome!
RCIA is faith formation that includes study, exploration, faith-sharing, with specific liturgical rites for seekers and inquirers. Seekers and inquirers are non-baptized adults who desire to be fully initiated into the ( Christian Faith ) Roman Catholic Church. Baptized adult and older children Christians who desire full communion in the Roman Catholic Church are called Candidates.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops describes the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults as a process in which participants undergo…conversion as they study the Gospel, profess faith in Jesus and the Catholic Church, and receive the sacraments…The RCIA process follows the ancient practice of the Church and was restored by the Second Vatican Council as the normal way unbaptized adults prepare for baptism.
Likewise, the language used in the RCIA is that of the early Church formation process. Catechumens are those people who are seeking full initiation into the Faith ( Catholic Church ) through all of the Sacraments of Initiation – Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation.
Also, the Candidates, who are seeking initiation into the Catholic Church through Eucharist and Confirmation can take part in this process. This tends to happen in smaller parishes who do not have separate processes for Baptized Adults.
RCIA is a Journey
The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults is a Journey that proceeds through time. There is no real time limit but is expected to at least follow one full Iiturgical year and has several steps:
This is the very first step for the unbaptized as they enter the formation process. There is no true end to this process and an Inquirer may stay in this process ubtil, the RCIA Team ( explained below ) or the Inquirer, feels they are ready to proceed; and if the inquirer wishes to become fully initiated withinthe Roman Catholic Church. At this point the inquirer is part of what is called the Pre-Catechumenate.
Inquireres now called Catechumens and Candidates (Those already Baptized) at this point acknowledge that Christ is calling them into the Church through the movement of the Holy Spirit. This is a time for deeper reflection.
Rite of Initiation
The first Rite in the RCIA process, the Rite of Initiation accepts new members into the worshipping community.
The longest part of the process, the Catechumenate is a time of learning and formation in the Christian Faithand later on traditions and doctrine of the Catholic Church. This is a time for sharing stories, reading scripture, and studying the Church customs, traditions and doctrine. Participants also participate in worship services and various Church rituals.
Rite of Sending
The Catecumen (unbaptized) sign their names in the book of the elect before the community and then they and Candidates are sent to the Bishop for the Rite of Election.
Rite of Election
Catechumens are chosen to be received by the bishop and the community and to receive the Sacraments of Initiation at Easter. At this time the Bishop also recognizes candidates who wish to become full members of the church as well.
Sacraments of Initiation
At the Easter Vigil (Holy Saturday), all newly elected members of the community who have been journeying through the RCIA process are welcomed formally into the community of believers through receiving the Sacraments of Initiation – Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation.
This is a time of reflection and celebration after the formal reception into the Catholic Church. Mystagogia means “leading into the mystery” and it is a time to explore the deep mystery of our faith and go forth to help build the reign of God on Earth as new members of the faithful. It must be remembered that all Christians are in the process for the rest of their lives, however it is traditional to set aside one liturgical year to help guide novices ( new members) through their first experiences as Roman Catholics.
People journeying through the RCIA process need sponsors and community support to help them grow in faith. The RCIA team of sponsors help guide, support and instruct those discerning whether to become members of our Catholic community. Team members share their faith with inquiring adults who are seeking more information about the Christian Faith and Catholic Church, many of whom seek to celebrate one or more of the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation.