The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults
"There is One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism." Ephesians 4:5
The Office of Christian Formation serves the parishes of the Diocese of St. Augustine by supporting the implementation of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). In particular, the OCF:
provides consultation to pastors and RCIA Coordinators through phone calls, e-mail and parish visits
coordinates the Rites of Election
coordinates the Neophyte Mass
offers Welcoming All Who Come to Our Doors, a five session training program for those involved in working in a parish RCIA Program. Other trainings are provided as needed or requested.
How Do I Become a Catholic?
Life is a journey that continually calls us to search for meaning. The human heart yearns for relationships that nourish the soul and satisfy the need to love and to be loved. Often when people reflect on these needs in their lives, it is not unusual for them to realize that perhaps it is God or a good relationship with God that is missing within their lives. This awakening to the need leads people to seek a worshipping community to guide them on their faith journey.
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is the normative way for unbaptized persons and those who have been baptized in another Christian tradition to become Catholic.
The RCIA is for:
Unbaptized...persons at the age of reason (aged 7 and older) for whom the RCIA gradually uncovers the story of God's saving power for all; the mystery of Jesus' life, death and resurrection; and the workings of the Holy Spirit as revealed in the sacramental life, beliefs and spiritual practices of the Catholic Church. Within the setting of the parish community and in accordance with the Church's liturgical year, "this process of formation includes four stages as well as rituals that mark these stages." (National Directory for Catechesis, 35) These persons are called catechumens.
Baptized in Another Christian Tradition... those persons at the age of reason and older catechized (instructed) and uncatechized (not instructed) in another faith tradition other than Catholic who are seeking full communion with the Roman Catholic Church (Confirmation and Eucharist). These persons are called candidates.
Baptized but uncatechized Catholic Adults...persons who were baptized as infants in the Catholic Church, but who never received any instruction or formation in the Catholic faith. These adults will be prepared to celebrate the Sacraments of Reconciliation, Confirmation and Eucharist.
Adult Catholics who were baptized and received their First Eucharist in the Roman Catholic Church and are interested in completing their initiation by receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation should contact their parish about the two annual Adult Confirmation ceremonies celebrated in the Diocese of St. Augustine. These Catholics are not part of the RCIA process.
What is the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults?
The RCIA is based on the premise that the process of conversion proceeds gradually, in stages. In the RCIA, progress from one stage to another is marked by a liturgical celebration held in the midst of the worshipping community. The experience and needs of each individual in the process of RCIA differ and so the length of time in the process may vary for each person. A full liturgical year is the minimum for a catechumen. The length of time can differ greatly for candidates. There are similarities that all people in the process will experience.
The first stage is called the period of inquiry (or precatechumenate). This occurs when the person first expresses an interest in becoming a Catholic Christian. With the help of the parish community, the individual explores his or her relationship with Christ and how that relationship might be enriched by becoming a Catholic. There is no liturgical rite to mark the beginning of this stage. The period of inquiry might last several months or several years and ends when the inquirer feels ready to move forward and when the faith community is prepared to welcome him or her or decides against continuing in this direction.
The second stage is called the catechumenate and, for the unbaptized listed above, who are now called "catechumens," lasts for one year or more. For the baptized but uncatechized (not yet educated in the faith) the period should be similar in length. "Candidates" for full communion may complete this stage in a shorter time frame depending on their past experience. 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 on Scripture and doctrine as it is proclaimed and taught in the faith community. At the end of this stage, catechumens and candidates express their desire to receive the Sacraments of Initiation and the parish community acknowledges their readiness.
Purification and Enlightenment
The third stage of the RCIA is the period of purification and enlightenment. It coincides with the liturgical season of Lent. The catechumens and candidates celebrate the Rite of Sending in their parish community and then they are taken to the diocesan cathedral for the celebration of the Rite of Election (catechumens) and Call to Continuing Conversion (candidates). During this stage, the Elect (catechumens) and candidates enter a period of intense prayer and preparation which includes the three public celebrations of scrutinies (catechumens) and one penitential rite (candidates) and several other minor rituals, including the presentation of the Creed and the presentation of the Lord's Prayer. This stage ends with the celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil.
The fourth stage is the period of post baptismal catechesis or mystagogy. The newly initiated (neophytes) explore their experience of being fully initiated by full participation in the Sunday Eucharist as well as in continuing formation. This period formally ends at Pentecost, but on a more informal level, mystagogy is a lifelong process...one in which every Christian is engaged throughout their lives.
It is important to note that a candidate may not need to take part in the full process. According to the National Statutes for the Catechumenate, "Those baptized persons who have lived as Christians and need only instruction in the Catholic tradition and a degree of probation within the Catholic Community should not be asked to undergo a full program parallel to the catechumenate." (National Statutes for the Catechumenate, 31)