Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA)

Bringing the “Good News” to the Modern World

RCIA is a process by which adults learn about the Roman Catholic Church and gradually become full members of the Catholic Church. Every year adults are welcomed into the Catholic Community through RCIA.

For the first time in its history, St. Anthony’s parish began the RCIA in October 2000. With a highly qualified team of seven members, the program was very successful for our four candidates who became full members of the Catholic Faith.

We welcome others who are interested in becoming members of the Catholic faith. Also, we welcome other Catholic parishioners to join our program as team members. If you wish more information on the RCIA, please click on the buttons to the left.

RCIA is a process of conversion and divided into four steps:

  1. First Step: Pre-Catechumenate. This is the time for inquirers to hear the Word of God. But, more importantly, it is a time for community members to listen to the inquirers and answer their questions.
  2. Second Step: Catechumenate. The inquirers are now called catechumens. They now move to being people who have already begun to live as Christians, even though they are not yet full members of the Church. At this time, sponsors from the community serve as guides, companions, models, and teachers of the faith for them.
  3. Third Step: Lenten Period before Initiation. “The Rite of Election” introduces this third step and marks the final Lent before the catechumens receive the Sacraments of Initiation. Beginning with the first Sunday of Lent, the catechumens enter into their “40-day retreat” to focus on deepening their awareness of God’s grace through prayer. The Church celebrates other rituals with the catechumens, called “Scutinies.” These are prayers of healing prayed by the community (on the third, fourth and fifth Sundays of Lent) that the catechumens will remain free from sin as they journey toward initiation, continued conversion and maturing faith.
  4. Fourth Step: Post-Initiation. This last part of the journey of faith is called “mystagogia,” from the word mystery. It is a time in the Easter Season when the community explains the mystery of the sacraments that the catechumens have experienced. In reality, this step continued for the rest of a Christian’s life. We are all constantly growing toward closer relationships and deeper understandings of the mysteries of faith.

History

In the earliest centuries of the Church, adult Baptism was the norm. Infants were baptized only when they were children of adults who converted to Christianity.

The early Church invited people who were interested in Christianity to join the community on a journey of faith. Those who accepted the invitation became the candidates for the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist). The candidates were called catechumens and entered into a step-by-step process toward full membership in the Church. This process, called the catechumenate, included a lengthy period of formation, instruction and testing, lasting one to three years or more. It was a time of serious discernment regarding whether or not the catechumens could break with their pagan background, and accept and live the Christian faith. It was also a time for newcomers to explore with the Christian community their responsibilities in carrying out the Church’s mission and ministry. Joining the Church in the early centuries was no easy matter. In an age of persecution, such a commitment was not to be taken lightly.

The entire Church would pray for and with the catechumens, instructing them in gospel values, sharing with them the faith-life of the Church and celebrating the stages of their faith journey with special rituals of welcoming and belonging. A person’s coming to faith was looked upon as a community responsibility and demanded total community involvement.

The final Lent before their initiation was a special time for catechumens. It was a time of prayer, fasting and other self-scrutiny as they prepared to accept the faith and be received into the Church that Easter. Initially, the purpose of Lent was totally related to Baptism. It was a time of final formation for those entering the Christian community and a time for the faithful (already initiated) to remember and renew their baptismal commitment.

The early Church joyfully recognized the culmination of the catechumens’ journey to faith and welcomed them into the saving reality of the Paschal Mystery by celebrating the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil, the great Paschal Feast the celebrates the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. The Sacraments of Initiation were celebrated only once a year, and only at the Easter Vigil. After their Baptism there was another period of instruction for the Christians, namely, one that led them into the deeper mysteries of faith.

With the conversion of Emperor Constantine in 313, Christianity became a fashionable rather a persecuted religion. Some entered the catechumenate for political reasons, with little intention of ever being baptized. The standards of the catechumenate were relaxed and people stopped joining it.

By the beginning of the fifth century, the catechumenate process itself had virtually disappeared. The Sacraments of Initiation became three separate sacraments celebrated at separated times. Soon adult Baptism declined, infant Baptism became the norm, and RCIA as practiced in the early Church became a lost art.

In the period following World War II, the Church began to experience a need for a fresh approach to the welcoming of new members. Church leaders began to reach into the Church’s rich heritage and began to apply the ancient catechumenate process to modern times.

The Second Vatican Council called for a study and restoration of the RCIA process. In 1972, the official text (Latin) for the RCIA was published. The Rite once again became an integral part of the Church’s sacramental system. The English version came in 1974.

(Text taken from Sandra DeGidio, OSM, “The RCIA: The Art of Making New Catholics,” Catholic Update, January 1986).