Rite of Christian Initiation (RCIA)
The search for meaning in our lives is a common thread that unites all people. We want to understand where we came from and whose we are. The spiritual search for understanding, by the prompting of God’s Spirit, often leads to a church which invites us to develop a relationship with the God who created us. As Catholics, we believe in Jesus Christ, who came to earth, died for our sins redeeming us. Through the Bible, especially the Gospels, and the traditions of the Church we develop a greater relationship with Christ.
Adults (and children age 7 and over) who have never been baptized are known as catechumens. The RCIA supports the person’s desire to respond to God’s initiative in their life. Through special ceremonies (called Rites), sharing of the Scriptures, teaching the truths of the Faith and service to the parish and community, the RCIA encourages the inquirers in their desire for a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Each catechumen has a sponsor who walks alongside them through the journey of initiation.
There are four stages of Initiation. First is the Precatechumenate, or Inquiry during which the person begins to explore their initial faith in Jesus Christ and His Church. This phase culminates in the Rite of Welcome and the person is referred to as a catechumen. During the Catechumenate phase, the mysteries of the faith are explained and the meaning of the Gospel message for our lives is explored. This period ends at the beginning of Lent, through the Rite of Sending from the parish and the Rite of Election at the Cathedral. Supported by the recommendations of their sponsors and the parish, the catechumens are accepted by the Archbishop as being ready for the Initiation Sacraments. Now they become known as the Elect and have entered the Period of Purification and Enlightenment. These six weeks offer the participants the opportunity to delve even deeper into their relationship with Christ. Through three rituals called the Scrutinies, the Elect and faithful of the parish examine their lives and pray for the grace to remove any obstacles or weaknesses. Finally, after the sacraments are received at the Easter Vigil, the Period of Mystagogy focuses on life in the community of the Church.
For children and teens, the process is the same as adults but geared toward their level of maturity.
Unlike catechumens, Candidates have already been baptized either through the Catholic Church or another Christian denomination. Now, they are responding to Christ’s invitation to be taught the faith and complete their initiation into the Catholic Church. Recognizing that through Baptism they are already members of the Church and children of God, candidates receive doctrinal and spiritual preparation and are invited to participate in the life of the community. Symbolic of God’s action in their lives, the candidates will participate in some of the Rites which mark the catechumenate. The journey will culminate when the candidates will make a Profession of Faith, receive Confirmation and take part in the Eucharist.