Welcome! We are so pleased that you have felt called to become Catholic. The way in which the baptized Christian or the unbaptized person journeys to become Roman Catholic, ultimately celebrating the Real Presence at the Lord’s table, is through RCIA, which stands for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Each stage of this journey is ritually celebrated and recognized with special prayers and liturgical ceremony in the presence of the worshiping community.
There are four steps in the spiritual journey of the initiation of adults, each leading to periods of growth. The first step is Inquiry or the Pre-Catechumenate. The second step, the Catechumenate, runs from early fall to late winter. In this stage, the group attends the 8:45am Mass and is dismissed immediately following the homily to meet, “break open the Word” and receive further catechesis. The shorter third stage, Purification and Enlightenment, coincides with the Lenten preparation for the Easter celebration and the reception of the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil. The fourth and final step, Celebrating the Mystery, is a time when neophytes learn to live out their Catholic faith.
This first step of the RCIA process is a time of discovery. It is a time of getting acquainted, feeling comfortable in the company of other seekers and Catholics, and getting answers to questions. Through this exchange the Church shares its life story – its traditions, people and history. People who are considering if they are called to the Catholic way of life are known as inquirers. This period ends with the Rite of Welcome into the order of Catechumens. In this special rite, celebrated with the parish community during Mass, the inquirers are given a special blessing recognizing their intention to become Catholic and seriously continue their journey of faith.
The second step, the Catechumenate phase, marks the beginning of formal instruction in the faith. The word “catechumen” comes from biblical Greek and literally means “one who sounds out something”. The unbaptized catechumens or the baptized candidates are given a supportive and encouraging environment to continue their faith journey. A sponsor is assigned to each one who walks the faith journey with them. The participants enter a more intense preparation for the reception of the sacraments of initiation. This phase ends with the Rite of Election.
Purification and Enlightenment
The third step of the RCIA is a time for inward reflection, spiritual purification and enlightenment. It spans the season of Lent, six weeks of preparation culminating at the Easter Vigil. Lent is an especially appropriate time for this final step of reflection and examination of one’s motivation as one focuses on Jesus’ journey to Gethsemane. At the Easter Vigil, those to be initiated are baptized, confirmed and share in the Eucharist for the first time. Those to be fully initiated make their solemn profession of faith, are confirmed and share in the Eucharist.
Celebrating the Mystery
The seven weeks of the Easter season, from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday, form the fourth and final step in the RCIA process. This step is titled Mystagogy. The name comes the Greek and refers to the profound and joyous “mystery” of living life fully aware that Jesus is Lord. The newly initiated are called neophytes (from the Greek for “new believers”). On each of the Sundays in Easter season, the Church presents scriptures which tell the wondrous stories of how the disciples were convinced of their call and power to proclaim the victory of Jesus. From the experience of Pentecost onward, they traveled forth, announcing the good news of Christ’s presence in every step of life’s journey. It is this sense of “mission” that culminates the RCIA process. Having become a follower of Jesus, the newly baptized Christian is called to spread the good news of Christ’s life and message in their new parish community and the larger community in which they live.
We are happy to answer your questions! For more information, please contact Ann Shevlin in the Adult Formation Office at (678) 992-2047 or at firstname.lastname@example.org .
May God bless your new journey of faith!