The RCIA is a sacramental journey; a process leading to initiation into the Roman Catholic Church. It is also a communal process and involves a number of stages (Precatechumenate; Catechumenate; Enlightenment and Purification; Mystagogy) punctuated by liturgical rites (Rite of Acceptance, Rite of Election; Celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation). The process is about developing (or deepening) a relationship over time with both God and the Catholic faith community. The RCIA process follows the ancient practice of the Early Church and was restored by the Second Vatican Council as the normative way to prepare adults for baptism.
1. What does RCIA stand for?
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.
2. Who needs to go through RCIA?
RCIA is the usual process adults go through in order to become a Catholic.
3. Do I need to be sure that I want to become a Catholic before I join RCIA?
No - the first several months of the RCIA process are called the "Inquiry Period", during which you become more familiar with the Catholic faith and church in order to make a more informed decision.
4. How long does RCIA take?
Usually a new group begins meeting weekly in September, and most of them will be fully initiated into the Catholic faith and community at Easter. RCIA continues for some weeks after Easter, so until sometime in May. Some people may withdraw part of the way through; others may choose to go through another whole round of RCIA before deciding or being initiated. There are many individual factors involved.
5. What does "being initiated" into the Catholic faith and church mean?
Through celebrating the 'Sacraments of Initiation' (that is, Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist) a person becomes fully a member of the Catholic faith and church.
If a person is already a baptized Christian (for example, through the Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, United, or one of many other Christian churches), they would not be baptised again in order to become Catholic. They would make a Profession of Faith and celebrate the sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist.
If a person has never been baptized, they would celebrate Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist at Easter.
If a person is a baptized Catholic, but their initiation is not complete (some people were baptized Catholic as infants but for whatever reason they have not been confirmed or celebrated Eucharist, and possibly not raised or educated in the Catholic faith), they would celebrate Confirmation or Eucharist or both at Easter.
Each RCIA year usually includes Inquirers from all of these backgrounds.
6. Can my husband or wife attend the RCIA evenings with me?Absolutely! In fact, this is strongly encouraged, for several reasons:
- it is a wonderful experience for spouses to share
- the RCIA group becomes close over the course of the year, and we wouldn't want your husband or wife to feel left out
- there will be many things that you will want to share with your spouse that will be very difficult to convey "secondhand"
- Catholic spouses and sponsors always find the process as interesting as those who are becoming Catholic, because most have not had the chance to really study or reflect upon their faith as adults.
If you have young children and childcare is difficult to arrange or afford, perhaps your spouse can try to come to the RCIA evenings at least once in a while.7. What is a Sponsor?
An RCIA Sponsor is a companion on the journey - someone to talk things over with, and to be a personal example to you of what a Catholic is. They are not perfect, they do not have all the answers - but they do care about you and are committed to sharing and supporting your growth in faith, understanding and community. They accompany you at the weekly meetings, and have a role in the celebrations that mark your progress throughout the year.
8. Who will be my Sponsor?
The parish can supply you with a Sponsor - we have a number of wonderful people, many of whom have come through RCIA themselves, who are ready to sponsor someone through this process. It is a big commitment of time and caring, but they want to do it. Or there may be someone you would like to ask to be your Sponsor - a Catholic who is a good model of faith and church for you. Your Catholic husband or wife can also be your Sponsor.
9. When do I need to have a Sponsor?
By November for sure - earlier if possible.
10. What if I change my mind about becoming Catholic?
RCIA is a discernment process - a searching out of God's Will for you at this time.
There are opportunities built into the year when each Inquirer is asked personally "Do you wish to take the next step in the process? Or do you feel you should step aside or take more time?"
11. Who leads the RCIA meetings?
There is an RCIA Team -- people who prepare and facilitate the meetings. Our parish priests also regularly participate.
12. What if I can't be at all the weekly meetings?
Occasional absences are inevitable, but it is important that you be present regularly and promptly. Each week builds on what has gone before. Your Sponsor can help fill you in if you do need to miss an evening. Save your Thursday evenings for RCIA this year, and make sure that you will be available for a few other key dates - the Rite of Welcome, the Rite of Election, and the Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Vigil). Mark your calendars because you don't want to miss those!
13. Although I am married to a Catholic, we were not married in the Catholic Church.Or, One of us was married before. Is this a problem?
You may need to get an annulment and have your marriage blessed. This is something you should talk to Father about as soon as possible.
14. Is there a way other than the RCIA process for me to become a Catholic?
RCIA is by far the fullest and best way, and it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience! In special circumstances, there are other options, but we hope you can and will come through RCIA - we wouldn't want you to miss it, and we wouldn't want to miss getting to know you!