The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is a process of conversion and spiritual formation for individuals who are interested in living the Christian life in the Catholic tradition. It is a time of prayer, study, reflection, faith sharing, ongoing discernment and participation in the life of the parish.
The RCIA is for:
▪ those who are not baptized; and
▪ those who were baptized in another Christian denomination and who want to become Catholic.
The RCIA is also for teens and children who are interested in exploring becoming Catholic. When the Catholic Church uses the word “adult” in reference to Christian initiation, teens and children (who have reached the age of reason -- around the age of 7) are included. To learn more about the RCIA adapted for children, contact Judith Brusseau at 202.903.2807.
FOR INDIVIDUALS WHO ARE NOT BAPTIZED…
Individuals who are not baptized are invited, through the RCIA experience, to explore the possibility of being baptized in the Catholic Church. The various periods of the RCIA process are designed to support individuals seeking baptism in their discernment and if they choose, to prepare them for the rites of initiation and living the Christian life in the Catholic tradition. Movement through these periods is marked by ritual celebrations with the parish community.
The periods of the RCIA process are:
Pre-Catechumenate , also known as the Inquiry: Anyone who is interested in exploring the Catholic Church is welcome to participate in the weekly inquiry sessions, where individuals may ask questions and gather information. This time of inquiry is to help each person discern whether s/he wants to consider fuller participation in the Catholic faith community. This period has no set time duration. An individual may remain an inquirer as long as necessary to discern whether s/he wants to continue with the process.
Catechumenate: If an inquirer feels ready to continue with the process, s/he will move into the Period of the Catechumenate and will be called a catechumen. The Catechumenate is, in essence, a time of apprenticeship in the Christian way of life. It includes deeper spiritual and faith formation, prayer and reflection, and involvement with the parish community. While there is no defined length of time for an unbaptized person who is considering initiation to be a catechumen, the period extends for at least one year. This period begins with the Rite of Acceptance into the Catechumenate, where inquirers are introduced to the parish community at a Sunday Mass. After the Rite of Acceptance, catechumens are normally dismissed each week during Sunday Mass after the Liturgy of the Word for further conversation and reflection.
Purification and Enlightenment: When a catechumen is ready to commit even more fully to preparing for initiation into the Catholic Church, s/he will move into the Period of Purification and Enlightenment. This period of more intense preparation begins with the Rite of Election on the first Sunday of the Season of Lent, when the bishop of the local church calls the catechumens to the sacramental rituals of initiation. The Period of Purification and Enlightenment coincides with the 40 days of Lent.
Initiation: The period of formation culminates with the sacramental rites of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist, celebrated at the Easter Vigil.
Mystagogia: For one year after initiation, those who are newly baptized are known as “neophytes.” During this time, the neophytes are invited to continue with their spiritual and faith formation and to participate more fully in the life of the parish community of Holy Trinity.
FOR INDIVIDUALS WHO WERE BAPTIZED IN ANOTHER CHRISTIAN DENOMINATION…
For individuals who were baptized in another Christian denomination and who are considering becoming Catholic, the RCIA process provides a time of formation and discernment leading to reception into the full communion of the Catholic Church.
Individuals who were baptized in another Christian denomination and want to explore becoming Catholic are also invited to join us for the weekly Tuesday evening inquiry sessions. For these individuals, the time of Inquiry provides an opportunity for them to tell their story and to reflect upon the meaning of their baptism. It is also a time for the catechists – the teachers of the faith – to learn about the extent of their Christian formation and participation in a faith community. These conversations are essential for determining next steps in the process leading to reception into the full communion of the Catholic Church.
One sure next step for baptized candidates for full communion is a period of catechetical and spiritual preparation. The length of this time of preparation is determined on an individual basis, which means that when baptized candidates for full communion are received into the Catholic Church will depend on their individual readiness. Unlike the rites of initiation for the unbaptized, the Rite of Reception of Baptized Candidates is not tied to a particular liturgical season or feast, so it may be celebrated any time of the year, preferably in the context of Sunday Eucharist.
THE ROLE OF PARISH SPONSORS IN THE RCIA PROCESS
Parish sponsors accompany the catechumens in the process of conversion and faith formation as companions on the journey. They support the catechumens with prayer and their own witness to the Christian way of life. They engage in thoughtful conversations with the catechumens, listening deeply to the catechumens as they grow in faith. And they stand with the catechumens at the liturgical rites that mark the various stages of the path towards initiation, at times affirming the catechumens’ readiness for the next phase of their preparation and ultimately, for baptism.
Equally important are the sponsors who accompany those who are already baptized and seeking full communion with the Catholic Church. These sponsors provide similar support, and further, they reflect with the candidates on the meaning of baptism and about what it means to live the Christian life in the Catholic tradition.
Serving as a sponsor not only fulfills a necessary ministry envisioned by the RCIA, but it is also an incredibly enriching experience for parishioners who respond to this invitation. If you want to learn more about what is involved in serving as an RCIA sponsor, please contact Anne Koester at firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE ROLE OF PARISH PRAYER PARTNERS
While “prayer partner” is not found in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults as a particular ministry, it is an additional way for the parish community to be engaged in the RCIA and support our catechumens preparing for baptism and our baptized candidates seeking full communion with the Catholic Church. Prayer partners are asked to accompany an individual catechumen or candidate on his/her faith journey through prayer. Prayer partners will also be encouraged to send their assigned catechumen or candidate an occasional note of support. They will also be invited to the liturgical rites that will be celebrated with their catechumen or candidate as part of the process of initiation into the Catholic Church.
Please contact Anne Koester at email@example.com, if you are interested in serving as a prayer partner.