"...and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God's way in righteousness and holiness of truth." Ephesians 4:23-24
How does a person become Catholic?
There are several ways. The normal process by which people are fully initiated into the Catholic Church is called the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, or RCIA for short. The Catholic Church warmly welcomes new members and tries to provide appropriate spiritual formation according to each person’s needs at any time throughout the year. In general, though, people who are becoming Catholic fall into three categories: infants and young children; people who, whether baptized or unbaptized, have had little or no religious training in the Christian faith; and baptized people who have been active members in other Christian denominations.
Infants and Young Children
In the case of young children (Ages 7 and under), it is the parents who prepare for the baptism and make the baptismal promises on their children’s behalf. Non-baptized Children eight years old and older will receive full initiation into the Catholic Church through the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist after appropriate preparation geared toward them.
Baptized Christians Who Have a Solid Formation in Faith
These persons need an understanding of Catholic belief, an experience of Catholic liturgy/liturgical year, and an acquaintance with the Catholic community. Depending on the circumstances, their participation in the RCIA program will supplement and complete their sacramental initiation into the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church does not believe in re-baptism, so as long as the original baptism was valid, persons in this category would make a Profession of Faith in the Catholic Church, be confirmed, and receive their First Communion.
Persons with Little Christian Formation
For these persons the full RCIA is the way into the Catholic Church. The RCIA is primarily for unbaptized adults, but adapted Rites may also be celebrated for baptized, uncatechized adults.
Baptized Catholics with Little Christian Formation who have not celebrated First Communion and Confirmation Those adult Catholics who were baptized but never celebrated any other sacraments are invited to participate in RCIA to refresh their understanding of the Catholic Faith and to prepare for the celebration of Reconciliation, Eucharist, and Confirmation.
All those who are inquiring about becoming Catholic or completing their sacramental initiation as a Catholic will be invited to an initial meeting with the Director of Religious Education to talk about their spiritual journey thus far, and to answer initial questions about the process. This initial inquiry meeting can take place at any time during the school year.
What is Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA)?
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is the process by which people can question, search, and inquire into the Catholic faith. Some are deciding if they are called into the Catholic Church; others have been Catholic all their lives and are now interested in discovering what this really means. Together we witness to the fact that our search for God is a lifelong journey, a journey on which we make the most progress when we walk it with others and with intention. It is a journey which leads many to seek full membership in our Church. For others this journey may not lead to full membership. There is no set timetable, however, on average the process takes between eight to twelve months. Those who enter the process are expected to attend Mass on Sunday, attend a weekly RCIA session, and become increasingly more involved in parish activities.
If you would like to talk about where you are, or if you are curious about our Church and our faith, or even if you’ve been attending Mass here and would like to find out about possibly joining, this is where to begin! All are welcome to come and see, to ask questions, and to look more deeply.
RCIA is a Journey...
The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults is a process that proceeds over weeks and months. It has several steps:
This is the earliest phase in the process; it is also known as the Period of Inquiry. Catechumens and Candidates acknowledge that Christ is calling them into the Church through the movement of the Holy Spirit. This is a time for seeking and reflection. There are no commitments, and coming to inquire doesn’t mean you have to join the Church.
Rite of Acceptance
At a certain point, those in the inquiry process are asked if they would like to take the next step of discernment and continue this process. In the Rite of Welcome and Acceptance, the inquirers are presented to the congregation, accept the Gospel for the first time and commit themselves to a Christian way of life in the Catholic Church. The church in turn pledges its support for them.
The Catechumenate is a time of learning and formation in the traditions and doctrine of the Catholic Church. This is a time for sharing stories, reading scripture, and studying the Church customs, traditions and doctrine. It is expected that participants regularly attend weekly Mass, even if they are unable to receive the Eucharist at this time, and they are encouraged to get involved in the life of the parish community.
Rite of Election
Catechumens and Candidates are chosen to be received by the bishop and the community and to receive the Sacraments of Initiation during the Easter season, with Easter Vigil being the preference.
Sacraments of Initiation
For those who are called to full membership in the Church, the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist) are celebrated at Easter Vigil. People can be received into the Church at any time, but the Easter Vigil, held on Saturday evening before Easter Sunday, is a very special night and the liturgy is most appropriate for the reception of new members, especially those who will be baptized for the first time. Due to circumstance and readiness, catechumens and candidates can also be received into the Church at Pentecost Sunday as well as other times of the year.
This is a time of reflection and celebration after the formal reception into the Catholic Church. Mystagogia means “leading into the mystery” and it is a time to explore the deep mystery of our faith and go forth to help build the reign of God on Earth as new members of the faithful. Classes continue after Easter to further integrate the new Catholic into their new faith, develop their prayer life, and find their place in the Church community. Mystagogia as a formal class, ends around Pentecost Sunday, but mystagogia as an ongoing formation continues for the rest of one’s life.
Important Tools for the Process
The "tools" used in formation at St. John the Apostle are the New Catholic Answers Bible Revised Edition and the U.S. Catholic Catechism for Adults. We will provide these for you. The most important resources, however, are your sponsor and faith community. Supplemental material such as pamphlets, handouts, and sacramentals, are also given to the class.
People journeying through the RCIA process need sponsors and community support to help them grow in faith. The RCIA team of sponsors help guide, support and instruct those discerning whether to become members of our Catholic community. Every year, our RCIA participants are looking for mature, fully initiated Catholic sponsors to share their journey with them. Team members share their faith with inquiring adults who are seeking more information about the Catholic Church, many of whom seek to celebrate one or more of the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation.