The RCIA Formation Process is for:
- Unbaptized - Adults who need a process to help them grow in awareness to God's call to conversion as well as ways to respond to that call, the R.C.I.A. gradually uncovers the story of God’s salvation for all; the mystery of Jesus’s life, death and resurrection; and the workings of the Holy Spirit as revealed in the beliefs, sacramental life and spiritual practices of the Catholic Church. They are considered catechumens. The process of Christian initiation (known also as the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, or RCIA) prepares you to enter into the Catholic Church by celebrating what are called the sacraments of Christian initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist (or Holy Communion).
- Baptized in Another Christian Church - those catechized and uncatechized persons who are seeking full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. They are considered candidates. If you were already baptized in another Christian tradition, the initiation process prepares you to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church by celebrating the sacraments of Confirmation and the Eucharist (or Holy Communion).
- Baptized but uncatechized Catholic Adults - persons who were baptized as infants and not given any religious upbringing within the Catholic Tradition. These adults will be prepared to celebrate the sacraments of Penance, Confirmation and Eucharist. They are also considered candidates.
What is the Rite of Christian Initiation?
The Rite of Christian Initiation is based on the principle that the process of conversion proceeds gradually, in stages. Progress from one stage to the next is marked by a liturgical celebration in the midst of the parish community. The experience and needs of those in each category described above differ, and so the length of time may vary for each person. Yet there are certain similarities among all the groups and the process they will experience.
The first stage is called the period of inquiry (or the precatechumenate). This is when the individual first expresses an interest in becoming a Christian or a Catholic. With the help of the parish community, the individual explores his or her relationship with Christ and how that relationship might be enriched and deepened by joining this Christian community. There is no liturgical rite to mark the beginning of this stage. This period of inquiry typically lasts 8 weeks but may last several months or several years and ends either when the inquirer feels ready to move forward to the Catechumenate stage, when the community is prepared to welcome him or her, or when he or she decides against continuing in this direction.
The second stage is called the catechumenate and, for the unbaptized listed above, who are now called “catechumens,” continues to the stage of Purification and Enlightenment. For the baptized but uncatechized (not yet educated in the faith), the period should be a similar length. “Candidates” for full communion may complete this stage in a shorter time frame. The Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens (for catechumens) and the Rite of Welcoming (for candidates) mark the beginning of this stage.
Catechesis is based in Scripture and proclaimed in the midst of the worshiping community. This is also a time for the catechumen or candidate to learn how to live as a Catholic Christian through their faith journey and the support of their parish community. This period ends when the catechumens and candidates express their desire to receive the sacraments of initiation and the parish community acknowledges their readiness. The catechumen then becomes an “elect,” which is marked by the Rite of Election during the next stage.
Purification and Enlightenment
The third stage is the period of purification and enlightenment. It coincides with the liturgical season of Lent. During this time, the elect (catechumens) and the candidates enter into a period of intense preparation and prayer which includes the three public celebrations of the scrutinies (for catechumens) and is marked by the presentations of the Creed and the Lord's Prayer. The Rite of Election (for catechumens) and the Call to Continuing Conversion (for candidates) are celebrated at the beginning of this stage. This period ends with the celebration of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist at the Easter Vigil. (Note: only the elect are baptized. All receive the sacrament of Confirmation and welcomed at the Eucharistic table.
The fourth stage is the period of post baptismal catechesis or mystagogy. The newly initiated explore their experience of being fully initiated through participation with all the faithful at Sunday Eucharist and through appropriate catechesis. The period formally lasts through the Easter season and may be marked by a parish celebration on or near Pentecost. On a more informal level, mystagogy is a lifelong process, one in which all Christians are engaged, as we all work to deepen our sense of what it means to live the Christian life.
Some Common Questions
Must I make a commitment to Catholicism to participate in this program?
No! We realize that many people are searching and need to know more about the Church before they make such a commitment. We also realize that Catholicism is not for everyone. We ask no firm commitment until the beginning of Lent.
I was baptized a Methodist, Baptist, etc. Must I be re-baptized in order to join the Catholic Church?
No! There is only one Baptism. Candidates seeking full Communion within the Catholic Church will not be baptized again. They will simply make a Profession of Faith and receive the Sacraments of Eucharist and Confirmation.