Register in early Fall for a process of education and faith formation in the Catholic Church that brings the person to initiation into the Church at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday Night with the celebration of the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist.
What is RCIA?
Have you ever heard the initials RCIA or noticed them in our weekly bulletin? They stand for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, the Roman Catholic Church’s official collection of rites for initiating adults and for receiving baptized candidates into the Church.
At Mass each week, we hear readings from both the Old and New Testaments. Some are from the letters St. Paul wrote to the communities he visited to bring the message of Christ to everyone he met. After leaving those communities, St. Paul often wrote them to clarify something that had not been understood well enough. The faith communities he founded were growing, and adults were being baptized into a new faith in Jesus Christ. Soon whole families wanted to be baptized, and, so, the baptism of infants became a part of the process of becoming a Christian. In those days, there were no classes or gatherings to explain the new faith to those who wanted to join. Instead, people walked the journey of faith with other faith-filled people. Newcomers were known as Catechumens, and the process by which they would become members of the faith community was called the Catechumenate.
For several hundred years, this process was how individuals and sometimes whole families became worshipping members of the new faith community. Centuries later, formal instruction before being received into the faith became the popular way of formation, and this instruction came to be known as “Convert Classes.” Sometimes, these would be large groups of people; at other times, it might have been just one person. But these kinds of lessons were what prepared individuals to be received into the Church.
After the Second Vatican Council, the Church decided to return to a process much closer to the one followed in its earliest days, and it re-introduced the Catechumenate. In 1974, the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship issued a document titled, “The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.” Over the next nine years, minor changes were made, and, on September 12, 1983, the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy approved the final version for use here in the U.S. It’s still in use today.
The RCIA is not a program. It is a process. It’s a process of formation in prayer, of receiving and discussing information about the Church’s teachings, and of transformation. All of it comes from a growing awareness of a need for a personal conversion toward Jesus Christ. And, all of it is done in the context of a faith community – a parish, such as ours here at St. Joseph. It’s no longer a process where a person comes to a parish alone for one-on-one sessions. Instead, interested and inquiring people come to a parish to be greeted by a community of believers – members of the parish who are willing to share their time and their faith to help receive them into full communion with the Church that they, themselves, are part of.
The people who join the RCIA process are often at different stages in their faith journeys – some Catechumens have never been baptized and want to be baptized in the Roman Catholic Church; some Catechumens have been baptized in another faith tradition, but want to be received into the Roman Catholic Church; and some Candidates have been baptized as Catholics but they never received Confirmation or the Eucharist. RCIA is the process for each of them.