The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (commonly known as the RCIA) is the normal way in which adults become full, active, participating members of the Catholic Church.


A very important part of preparation for this active participation is developing the desire and ability to reach out to others, inviting them to "come and see" (John 1:39) where the Lord is to be found, which is in the community of his disciples.


The most important thing to keep in mind about the RCIA is this: it is not merely a new way to prepare adults for Baptism, or for other Christians to become Catholics; Baptism and being received into the Catholic Church is only one of the final steps. The goal of the process is full communion, which means "full, conscious and active participation" in the Eucharist and in the whole life of the Catholic faith community.


Preparation for initiation is a preparation for full discipleship, including the mission to tell others about Christ and the Catholic Church. This is a very serious commitment, requiring much time for discernment with the help of others who walk beside the catechumens and candidates for full communion as Christian friends and teachers.


Many persons who want to join the Catholic Church have already been baptized in another Christian church. They follow a form of these four steps specially adapted to take account of the fact that they are already baptized.


The First Step: Period of Inquiry

At first, the adult inquirer may accept a Catholic friend's invitation to join him at the Sunday Eucharist. The inquirer's first attraction toward the Church may be deepened a little bit more by that first experience of prayer with Catholics. He is glad of the chance to stay and chat with the parishioners to whom he is introduced. In time, the inquirer will experience the fellowship of many Catholics, and will meet other adults who are also inquiring about the faith.
The inquirers meet on a weekly basis with the RCIA team (the RCIA director, catechists and sponsors) to ask questions and learn about our faith. After a suitable period of time, the inquirer proceeds to the second step: the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens and the Period of the Catechumenate.

The Second Step: Rite of Acceptance Into The Order of Catechumens and The Period of The Catechumenate

Some inquirers eventually decide that they would like to begin more formal study of the teachings and practices of the Catholic community. To be ready for this next step, the inquirer needs only to have a desire to seek initiation into the Church. They become aware of this desire in discussion with the RCIA team, and they are admitted into that higher level of preparation in a special ceremony in the Church, called the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens. For those inquirers that are already baptized, they are welcomed during the ceremony as candidates seeking full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. In this ceremony the Church symbolically claims the inquirers for Christ by signing them with the cross.
This is the first time that the inquirers declare their faith publicly before the parish community. No one likes to do something like that all on their own. Some moral support is needed and each inquirer is accompanied by a sponsor. Sponsors are people who have shared their faith with the inquirers, believe that they are ready to begin formal instruction, and are able and willing to stand up and say so in church.
After this church ceremony, the inquirers are called either catechumens (if they have never been baptized) or candidates (if they have already been baptized, but need confirmation and/or communion). These names mean that they are learning the teachings of the Church and beginning to live as Catholics do.
Although they are not yet allowed to receive the sacraments, the catechumens do enjoy other important privileges of Catholics. They have a right to receive all the help they need to grow in faith, by receiving instruction in the teachings of the Church and by assisting with apostolic works in the parish. They also have a right to be married in the Church, and to receive Christian burial.
During this time, the catechumens and candidates who have not yet received the Eucharist, gather at Sunday Mass to share with the community in the Liturgy of the Word. Since they cannot yet receive communion with us, they are dismissed along with their catechist, after the homily, to study more deeply the Sunday readings.
Just as with the time of inquiry, the time spent as catechumens and candidates can vary greatly from person to person. The Sponsors help in this process by being a Christian friend, especially by trying to grow more deeply in their own faith alongside the catechumens and candidates.

The Third Step: Rite of Election and The Period of Enlightenment and Purification

The period of the catechumenate ends when the catechumens and candidates discern, with the help of their sponsors and the parish RCIA team, that God is calling them to receive the sacraments of initiation at the next Easter Vigil. Before they can receive the sacraments, the catechumens and candidates must be called by the bishop. They must also join their fellow parishioners in their annual Lenten preparation for Easter.
For this reason, the catechumens and candidates are received and recognized by the bishop at a special ceremony called the Rite of Election, which is usually held on the First Sunday of Lent. This ceremony usually takes place in the diocesan cathedral.
The Rite of Election marks the end of the period of basic instruction and formation, so the catechumens are now called the elect. The elect share in the same Lenten discipline as the rest of the parishioners, because they all share the same goal — to prepare themselves to celebrate the resurrection of the Lord at Easter and to receive the sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist).
On the Sundays of Lent, the elect and candidates are prayed for to help them prepare more fully for the sacraments. These ceremonies are called scrutinies. Scrutinies help to strengthen the elect and candidates in these last few weeks of their preparation. In this very simple, yet powerful way, parishioners show that they care deeply for the elect and candidates as sisters and brothers in the Lord and they look forward to the day when they will be able to share the Eucharist together.

The Fourth Step: Initiation and Full Participation

Finally, the whole parish assembles for the Easter Vigil. The Church has always recognized that in baptism we die to sin in Christ's death so that we may rise to new life with him. The major celebration of the Lord's resurrection is therefore the most appropriate occasion for the elect and candidates to celebrate their Baptism, Confirmation and first Eucharist.
For the newly-initiated or neophytes, the time between Easter and Pentecost is a special opportunity to reflect on the commitment that they have made to the Lord, to his Church and to the local Christian community. The readings that we hear at Mass during the Easter season explain the meaning of the resurrection and of baptism, have special value for the neophytes.
The neophytes are encouraged to continue the apostolic activities that they began as catechumens and candidates, to undertake other ministries, or to share their talents and insights with the parish community in other ways. Through these ministries, the neophytes take their place in the Church as full, conscious and active members of our community.

Contact Us

Debbie Nunes, Coordinator







People journeying through the RCIA process need sponsors and community support to help them grow in faith. The RCIA team of sponsors help guide, support and instruct those discerning whether to become members of our Catholic community. Team members share their faith with inquiring adults who are seeking more information about the Catholic Church, many of whom seek to celebrate one or more of the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation.

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