The process by which adults come into the Church is known as “RCIA”, which is short for “The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.” This process was instituted for use in all parishes in the United States in 1988.
Who is the process for?
- The unbaptized. The primary focus for the RCIA is on those who are not already Christian and have not been catechized.
- The baptized but uncatechized. Those who have been baptized either as Roman Catholics or as members of another Christian community, but have not received further catechetical formation or instruction. These individuals typically have not celebrated Confirmation or Eucharist.
- Those seeking full Communion with the Catholic Church. These are baptized, practicing Christians from other denominations, who seek entry into the Catholic Church
Note: according to canon law, children of catechetical age are considered to be adults for the purposes of Christian Initiation once they have reached the age of reason (defined at 7 years old).
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is not for adult candidates who have already received their First Eucharist in the Catholic Church. They should have their own formation process and be confirmed at a celebration other than the Easter Vigil.
What does the process look like?
The RCIA 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. Because the experience and needs of those in each category described above differ, the process will look different for each person. Nevertheless, there are certain similarities among all the groups and the process they will undergo, and these can be listed as follows: (click each stage to who an explanation.)
The first stage is called the period of inquiry (or the pre-catechumenate). This is when the individual first expresses and interest in becoming Catholic, and begins to explore, with the help of the parish community, what his or her relationship with Christ might be and how that might be enriched and deepened by joining this Christian community. There is no liturgical rite to mark the beginning of this stage, and this period of inquiry may last several months or several years. It ends when either the inquirer decides against continuing in this direction or when the inquirer feels ready to move on and the community is prepared to welcome him or her.
The second stage is called the catechumenate and, begins with the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens and the Rite of Welcoming. Catechesis for this period is rooted in the Lectionary and the Word as it is proclaimed in the midst of the community. This is also a time for the catechumen or candidate to learn how to live as a Catholic Christian. This period ends when the catechumens and candidates express their desire to receive the sacraments of initiation and the community acknowledges their readiness.
Purification and Enlightenment
The fourth stage is the period of purification and enlightenment which coincides with Lent. During this time the Elect (formerly the catechumens) and the candidates enter into a period of intense preparation and prayer which includes the three public celebrations of the scrutinies and is marked by the presentations of the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. The Rite of Election and the Call to Continuing Conversion 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 the groups are confirmed and welcomed to the table.)
The fourth stage is the period of post baptismal catechesis or mystagogy. At this time, 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 that all Christians are engaged in, as we all work to deepen our sense of what it means to live the Christian life.
Still interested in the process? Learn more by talking to your parish. Click here