The RCIA is an experience of personal formation and spiritual growth for individuals who are interested in becoming disciples of Jesus in the Catholic tradition. The RCIA experience incorporates prayer, study, reflection and discernment in a combination of public rituals and community preparation.
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is modeled on the initiation ritual of the ancient Christian community and was revived in the Roman Catholic Church following the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. It is now the principle way that the Catholic community welcomes new members. (Click here for an explanation of what we mean by "the Catholic Church.")
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults includes three types of individuals:
Catechumens are adult individuals who have never been baptized and have no religious tradition or church affiliation. Through the Rite of Christian Initiation, Catechumens prepare to celebrate the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and First Eucharist.
Candidates are adult individuals who have been previously baptized.
• Some Candidates may have been baptized in a non-Catholic Christian tradition. Through the Rite of Christian Initiation, these Candidatesprepare to make a ‘Profession of Faith,’ and to celebrate the sacraments of Confirmation and First Eucharist.
• Other Candidates may have been baptized in the Catholic Church but were not fully catechized or did not complete their initiation in the Catholic Church. Through the Rite of Christian Initiation, theseCandidates prepare to celebrate the sacraments of First Eucharist and/or Confirmation.
Some individuals participating in the Rite of Christian Initiation may be adults who were baptized, fully initiated and catechized in the Catholic Church, but have not been active and/or want to learn more about their Catholic faith.
Some participants in the Rite of Christian Initiation may have decided that they wish to become Catholic. However, others may not be sure, and some may not want to become Catholic but are interested in learning more about the Catholic faith. Participation in the Rite of Christian Initiation does not assume that a participant will eventually choose to join the Catholic Church.
Many RCIA participants are married to a Catholic, or planning to marry a Catholic. Some have not been active in any religious tradition and have no church home. Others may have been active in another Christian tradition, but never been baptized or fully catechized in that tradition.
Although you may enter the RCIA process at any time, formal preparation for initiation usually begins in the fall and may last a year or longer. It is divided into four phases:
• Pre-Catechumenate or Inquiry -- this is a period of inquiry and discussion, designed to help individuals decide if they are interested in considering fuller participation in the Catholic faith community.
• Catechumenate -- this is a period of continuing discernment and formation, designed to help individuals understand the Catholic faith and practices of the Catholic community.
• Enlightenment or Purification -- this is a period of final discernment and preparation, designed to help individuals finalize their decision and prepare to celebrate the sacraments of initiation, Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.
• Mystagogia -- this is a period of continuing reflection and formation following initiation, designed to help new Catholics understand their conversion experience and prepare to participate more fully in the life of the Catholic community.
The Rite of Christian Initiation includes a combination of private prayer, reflection, and discernment; small group study and faith-sharing; and public rites or rituals designed to celebrate the candidate’s progress toward initiation.
During the Pre-Catechumenate and Catechumenate phases, RCIA participants meet each week with RCIA participants from other local parishes. The catechetical sessions are designed to address the particular needs, questions and concerns of each participant. There is an opportunity for questions and discussion, often in small groups or one-on-one.
The process will always respect the privacy and personal comfort level of each participant. Issues and concerns which cannot be discussed in the general session can be addressed in private with a sponsor or a member of the parish staff.
Rituals or Rites of Initiation
Participants in the RCIA participate in the following rituals or "rites" by which the Catholic faith community publicly recognizes their status as catechumens who are in the process of joining the Catholic Church. These rituals include the Rite of Acceptance, the Rite of Election, the Scrutinies and the Rites of Exorcism.
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Breaking Open the Word
RCIA participants also participate in Breaking Open the Word, which takes place each week during or after Sunday Mass in the local parish. Breaking Open the Word is a continuing opportunity to discuss the Sunday scripture readings and the participants’ personal journey of faith.
Sponsors and companions play an important role in the process by which an individual joins the Catholic faith community. Sponsors and companions remind us that we are participating in a process of conversion, which involves a personal experience of being welcomed into a faith community of human persons. Sponsors represent the faith community; they insure that no individual walks the journey of conversion on their own.
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If you have been divorced and remarried, your marital status may affect your freedom to join the Catholic Church.
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