RCIA (RITE OF CHRISTIAN INITIATION OF ADULTS)
Is a process for preparing and welcoming new members into the Catholic Church. Enquirers may come from Christian or non-Christian backgrounds. Some may have Catholic spouses or Catholic friends who have influenced them by their example. Some may already be baptised in another Christian denomination and be interested in finding the fullness of their Christian faith in the Catholic Church.
THE RCIA TEAM CONSISTS OF: A coordinator, who attends to all the meetings, prepares the resource material and liaises with the Parish Priest.
- A Catechist, with some formal training to answer questions of Catholic Doctrine.
- At least, one other parishioner who has committed to supporting the RCIA process (usually for at least 1 year).
The members of the RCIA Team are called to share their experiences of life as a Catholic – the beliefs, the joys, the struggles, and the graces bestowed on us. These are all discussed openly and in a way that does not place any pressure on Enquirers to make the next step unless they are ready and willing to. Enquirers who are ready to make the next steps are gradually led into the Church Community by the Rites designed to strengthen them for their journey.
The initial enquiry about becoming Catholic is usually received by the Parish Priest. He will explain the process and refer the Enquirer to the coordinator.
In our Parish RCIA has a time frame of approximately 9 months with each group starting around August each year, with a view to receiving the Sacraments of Initiation at the following Easter Vigil.
Given the various stages throughout the RCIA process in keeping with the various Rites involved, there is a rough “cut-off” time for new entrants of about 3-4 weeks after the first meeting. Whilst having to wait until the next August to join RCIA, for new Enquirers who miss the “cut-off” the RCIA coordinator will often offer to meet with them and encourage them to attend Sunday Mass regularly, with the support of another parishioner if necessary. This is because in the Mass, the “late” Enquirer will still learn much of what it means to be a faithful Catholic.
To start the RCIA process, an information night is held in August. This is advertised in the parish bulletin and at the local Catholic schools. Parishioners are also encouraged to extend the invitation to anyone who might be interested.
The information night is an opportunity to explain the RCIA process, answer questions about meetings, and to reassure people that there is no pressure or commitment to be made for many months. As part of a warm welcome, tea and coffee will be served. At the end of the evening those interested in continuing in the journey of faith are required to complete an information form which will provide the parish priest with contact information as well as religious, marital, etc. background information. Experience has taught that it is particularly important to find out whether Enquirers may be living in relationships against Church teaching, including cases where people have been divorced and subsequently remarried. These situations must be attended to by the priest as soon as possible.
Enquirers who move through the various Rites of the RCIA process will at some stage in the process become either Catechumens (i.e. the unbaptised) or Candidates (i.e. those validly baptised in another non-Catholic Christian community). Each Enquirer will be invited to bring along a Sponsor
A Sponsor is someone who is already a faithfully practising Catholic who will be able to assist you in your journey by their example, and also by answering any questions that may arise from time to time outside of the RCIA meetings.
If an Enquirer does not have an available Sponsor, the RCIA team will arrange one from within the parish community. Either way, it is important for a Sponsor to be arranged as soon as possible, given the importance of their role within your journey of faith.
RCIA meetings are held weekly, with short breaks coinciding with the school holidays. Team members agree to give their contact details to the group so that anyone feeling the need for personal support or an answer to an important question does not feel isolated.
The first couple of meetings are unstructured “getting-to-know-you” gatherings. Each person, including team members, is given the opportunity to share with the group what has led them to the point of joining the RCIA. Most people are comfortable doing this, some are not. It can be quite emotional for people to try to express the soul-searching that has been going on in their lives. This sharing time is invaluable for the group and greatly assists the RCIA team in recognising the needs of the Enquirers.
Right from the start of the RCIA process, the group is led into prayer – starting with an explanation of the Sign of Cross, given that each meeting will begin with the Sign of the Cross to ask the Holy Spirit to be our guide. At the end of the evening another prayer is used to close the meeting.
We have found that listing topics for discussion and giving reading material each week generates the questions more easily; however, people are encouraged to ask questions on any topic at any time. In light of this, a printed meeting schedule, which outlines the topics to be covered each week, is distributed to all Enquirers. Included during the various weeks will be explanations of various Catholic prayers and devotions and outlines of essential Catholic teachings.
- THE PRE-CATECHUMENATE
- THE CATECHUMENATE
- THE PERIOD OF PURIFICATION & ENLIGHTENMENT
- THE PERIOD OF MYSTAGOGY
This is the time the inquirer explores the different aspects of Catholic Faith and is accepted in to the Church as a Catechumen through THE RITE OF WELCOME.
The Catechumen is now expected to participate with the whole community in their Sunday celebrations. Through prayer and coming to know other Catholic Christians they discover the love and power of God in their lives and in the Church. This period leads to the Right of Election when the Archbishop or the Bishop will meet all the Catechumens from all RCIA programs. He w will enter their names in the Book of the Elect and invite them to go forward to receive the SACRAMENTS OF INITIATION.
THE PERIOD OF PURIFICATION & ENLIGHTENMENT:
This phase takes place during Lent after the Rite of Election. The newly Elect focus on conversion, scrutinise their lives in light of the Gospel, and celebrate the presentations of the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. These scrutinies coincide with the 3rd, 4th and 5th Sundays of Lent. In the Easter Vigil Mass the Elect are fully incorporated into Christ and the Church by receiving the SACRAMENTS OF INITIATION.
THE PERIOD OF MYSTAGOGY:
This is a period following the Sacraments of Initiation in which the newly received members of the Church (Neophytes) deepen their faith and make it part of their lives through meditation of the Gospel and sharing in the Eucharist. The formation and teaching continues. This stage may be the “formal” end of the RCIA process, but it is only the first stage of the rest of their lives as Catholic Christians.
At each of these Rites the Catechumens and Candidates affirm their intention to proceed to the next stage of the journey.