RCIA: An Invitation to Become
Part of the Catholic Church

 

What is the RCIA?

R.C.I.A. stands for the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults.  The R.C.I.A. is a process developed by the Catholic Church to help people who are interested in becoming Catholic.  It is also a means for Catholics who have not received the sacraments of Eucharist and/or Confirmation in order to complete the Sacraments of Initiation.  A participant who has not been baptized is referred to as a Catechumen and for the one who has been baptized and is completing their Christian initiation, a Candidate.

How does it work?

At Sacred Heart Church, those who are interested enter into a process structured to study, share and seek out the meaning of faith in their lives.  Through a study of Sacred Scriptures, traditions and teachings of the Catholic Church and through prayer and faith sharing, participants grow to a deeper understanding of their own faith journey.

Thus participants form and reform their own relationship with God, gaining an awareness of God’s presence in their lives and in the life of the Church community.  Meeting with other people who are also searching for a better understanding of their own call to faith is a very important aspect of their formation.  Adults learn best by sharing experiences and insights with each other.

The R.C.I.A. process encourages participants to reflect on their own life journey in relation to the call of Scripture and the Church.

Each participant is invited to move through a series of four distinct phases in the R.C.I.A.  Those who decide to become full members of the Church are welcomed at the Easter Vigil.  Those who are not Baptized receive the Sacrament of Baptism on that night and all participants receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion and the Sacrament of Confirmation.  

I. ‘Pre-catechumenate’
The first phase is called the pre-catechumenate.  This is a time of inquiry in which the person ‘inquirer’ asks questions and is helped to discern their intentions concerning faith, conversion and what the Catholic Church teaches.

Here there are “no strings attached” as one participates in this phase.  Should one feel that after this initial inquiry, they would like to deepen their understanding of the Catholic Church with a hope of one day joining it, they are invited into the Catechumenate.

II. The Catechumenate or Candidacy
The Catechumenate is a period of time and the structure within which the catechumens prepare for initiation.  The RCIA is the Church’s ritual process for calling adults to a conversion of mind and heart leading them and preparing them for a full active life in the Church.

The second phase commences with the Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens and a Welcoming of Candidates at one of the Sunday Masses.

Very briefly, the goal of this period is that as the representative Catholic Christian Community we will provide you with:

  • A clear understanding of our most basic beliefs, doctrines, practices, traditions, morality, rights and responsibilities as Catholic Christians.
  • An environment in which you may come to grips with the mystery of your own conversion.  It is intended that you will have the opportunity to make the gospel relevant in your life.  Hopefully, you will pinpoint areas of your life where conversion is being called for and begin to try to make those changes.  The changes may be very subtle or extremely complex.

What is important is that the real work of conversion is taking place. Before going on to initiation, it is important that the goal of the Catechumenate and Candidacy be at least partially accomplished. It is also important that there be a genuine readiness.

III.  Purification and Enlightenment
This phase begins in Lent.  The community having discerned that the candidate is ready to become a Catholic, he/she is “elected” to this period.  We celebrate the Rites of Sending & Election for Catechumens and Call to Continuing Conversion for Candidates at this time.  Lent is a time for reflection, prayer and conversion leading up to Easter and the celebration of the sacraments of initiation:  Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist (Communion).

IV. Mystagogia
The fourth and final phase takes place after Initiation.  It is a time to look back at the “mystery” of what has taken place.  In addition, we ask our new Catholics to explore the ways in which they would see themselves integrated into Parish Life.  

Sponsors and Godparents
Each person in the process needs to select a sponsor.  A sponsor is a person who will accompany the person becoming Catholic.  The Sponsor is a special contact for the person entering the faith.  He/she is available to answer questions which may arise during the process.

As both sponsor and candidate share their faith journeys with each other, both are enriched.

The godparent is a person chosen by the candidate to be the witness of his/her Baptism.  This person may or may not be the candidate’s sponsor.


Linda Teresky
Coordinator of Religious Education
609-393-2801 Ext. 101
lteresky@trentonsacredheart.org