Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA)
The RCIA offers a journey of faith to those folks who want to explore whether they are called to become fully initiated members of the Roman Catholic community. The journey helps to encourage inquirers toward discipleship. We do this forming a deeper knowledge of Christ in scripture, and an introducing the teachings of the Catholic Church. As the journey continues, each journeyer forms a deeper personal relationship with Jesus.
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is a process through which non-baptized men and women enter the Roman Catholic Church. The RCIA process follows the ancient practice of the Church and the Rite was restored by the Second Vatican Council as the normal way adults prepare for baptism.
RCIA includes several stages marked by learning, sharing, studying, praying, and celebrating various rites at Mass. Participants in the RCIA are known as catechumens. They experience a process of conversion as they study the Gospel, learn to profess faith in Jesus and the Catholic Church, and prepare to receive the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist.
Coming into full communion with the Catholic Church describes the process for entrance into the Catholic Church for men and women who are baptized Christians, but not yet Roman Catholics. These individuals prepare to make a profession of faith but they are not baptized again.
To prepare for coming into full communion, the people—who are called candidates—participate in a formation program to help them understand and experience the specific teachings and practices of the Catholic Church. Some of their formation and preparation may be with the catechumens preparing for baptism. The experience for candidates can be very different from that of catechumens since candidates have already been baptized and committed to Jesus Christ. Many candidates have been active members of other Christian communities and are now exploring.
A parishioner's role in RCIA
The entire Christian community is responsible for the initiation of its newest disciples. Here are some specific ways:
- As a mentoring community. Every baptized parishioner has a role in initiation of our new members. We are part of that mentoring community that apprentices the new disciples. By observing our prayer, words, deeds and actions in the parish and in the broader community our newest members learn what it means to live as a Catholic Christian today. We provide the examples. We are the models. RCIA depends on us because we make up the Christian community.
- As sponsors. In addition to the prayers we offer for our candidates and the examples we provide, there are other specific ways parishioners are involved in RCIA. Baptized members of the community serve as sponsors for candidates in the RCIA. A sponsor is an active member of the parish who walks with the candidate on the journey to new, fuller life in Christ. The sponsor supports and guides the candidate along the way. The sponsor is the candidate's personal connection to the parish.
- As catechists, coordinators and assistants. Members of the community also serve as catechists (teachers) for the process of initiation. Other members of the community serve as coordinators and assistants in various aspects of the initiation process. Furthermore, in Journey to the Fullness of Life, the bishops urge that "even more parishioners" become actively involved in the RCIA. The more parishioners become personally invested in the process of initiating others into the life of Christ, the more the community itself will be renewed in its own life in Christ.
- As members of the Sunday assembly. There is one final way that every worshiping parishioner is involved in the RCIA. That's through participation in the liturgical rites of initiation that usually happen at Sunday Mass, especially in the months before Easter but also throughout the year. There are major liturgical rituals that mark the progress of the candidates who are in the initiation process. These liturgical rites are major events not only for the candidates in the process, but also for the entire parish. During the rites the parish recognizes and celebrates the candidates. As a member of the parish you are asked to pray with and for those in the initiation process. As a member of the Body of Christ, you also make manifest Christ's presence in the community. You, and we, are a sign of Christ to the candidates in the RCIA.