The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults
•What is it?
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is the way people are now initiated into the Christian way of life, specifically the Roman Catholic tradition.
Through the RCIA, the Church in the twentieth century restored the ancient catechumenate, which existed in the fullest form between the second and fifth centuries after Christ.
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is a process determined by the individuals for whom it was designed. Each individual moves along at her or his own pace with the leaders responding to each individual’s pace and needs.
•Who is the Rite of Christian Initiation for? 1. For those seeking baptism.
2. For those baptized in other Christian denominations now seeking membership in the Roman Catholic Church.
3. For those who were baptized Catholic, but did not complete the other Sacraments of Initiation (Eucharist and/or Confirmation). The core reality of Christian initiation, and therefore of Christian identity, is conversion. This is the dynamic and ongoing process of turning oneself more and more directly into the presence of God, which is the call of every Christian.
What are the various ministries involved in the RCIA?
† The Community
The initiation of new members can only take place within the context of a community of believers. “The initiation of adults is the responsibility of all thebaptized...Hence, the entire community must help with the candidates and the catechumens throughout the process of initiation...” (RCIA, 9).
† Sponsor / Godparent
This is a person who accompanies the candidate on the faith journey, and who testifies publicly in liturgical ceremonies to the candidate’s readiness. This person must be fully initiated and a practicing member of the Roman Catholic Church.
† Catechist / Team Member
This is a person responsible for presenting the faith to the candidates and of being visible and actively involved. This is done in collaboration with others including the RCIA director.
How does it work?
The way of becoming a Catholic Christian follows a process of journeying through different periods of formation. Each period is a span of time devoted to formation in doctrine, prayer, liturgy, and Christian living. These periods are linked by three liturgical stages which ritualize the conversion process.
† Period of Inquiry or Pre-Catechumenate
This initial period intends to awaken the faith of persons, through a dialogue between their own lives and the message of Christianity. It is a time for genuine questioning about the meaning of what life can be in Christ and finding that meaning in the Roman Catholic faith.
† Rite of Acceptance / Welcome
This begins one’s formal entrance into the Church. Those who are unbaptized are called catechumens and those who have been previously baptized are called candidates.
† Period of the Catechumenate
Where the Pre-Catechumenate was more concerned about information, this period is about formation in the Christian life. The “text” for this period is the scriptures.
† RCIA† Rite of Election
This brings the catechumenate period to an end. This ritual marks the transition from the deepening of faith to a consecration in the faith. This is usually done on the First Sunday of Lent. The catechumens are now called “the elect.”
† Period of Enlightenment / Purification
This is like a six-week retreat. The entire parish community renews its commitment to the Christian life by joining with the elect and candidates in reflecting on Scripture and prayer.
† Period of Mystagogy
This period follows the celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation as a person reflects on their experiences and looks at how they can be stewards in the community with the gifts they have been given by God. This period is a reminder that the initiation process is not the end of becoming a Christian, but merely the beginning of becoming one.
For further information, please contact:
Shirley McDermott, R.C.I.A. Director