Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA)
The RCIA, which stands for Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, is a process (RCIA Stages) through which non-baptized men and women enter the Catholic Church. (It is also for those baptized in a different faith tradition who wish to become Catholic, or baptized Catholic, but never confirmed.)
The program includes several stages marked by study, prayer and rites at Mass. Participants in the RCIA are known as catechumens. They undergo a process of conversion as they study the Gospel, profess faith in Jesus and the Catholic Church, and receive the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Holy Eucharist. The RCIA process follows the ancient practice of the Church and was restored by the Second Vatican Council as the normal way adults prepare for baptism. In 1974 the Rite for Christian Initiation for Adults was formally approved for use in the United States.
The rite of Christian initiation is designed for adults over the age of 18 who, after hearing the mystery of Christ proclaimed, consciously and freely seek the living God and enter the way of faith and conversion as the Holy Spirit opens their hearts. This rite includes the celebration of the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist and also all the rites belonging to the catechumenate. This initiation process includes: Rites for catechumens (unbaptized) and those who have been baptized but have little or no formation in the Catholic Faith. The R.C.I.A. also includes the reception of baptized Christians into the full communion of the Catholic Church with the celebration of Christian initiation at the Easter Vigil Mass.
The initiation of catechumens is a gradual process that takes place within the community of the faithful. By joining the catechumens in reflecting on the value of the paschal mystery, the life, death and resurrection or our Lord, Jesus Christ, and by renewing their own conversion, the faithful provide an example that will help the catechumens to respond to the Holy Spirit more generously.
The rite of initiation is suited to a spiritual journey of adults that varies according to the many forms of God's grace, the free cooperation of the individuals, the action of the Church, and the circumstances of time and place. The journey includes periods of making inquiry and for maturing formation in the catechumens' faith walk.
The whole initiation bears a markedly paschal character, since the initiation of Christians is the first sacramental sharing in Christ's dying and rising. A period of purification and enlightenment ordinarily coincides with Lent and the period of post-baptismal catechesis or mystagogy with the Easter season. All the resources of Lent are brought to bear as a more intense preparation of the elect and the Easter Vigil is regarded as the proper time for the sacraments of initiation.
A sponsor accompanies any candidate seeking admission as a catechumen. Sponsors are persons who have known and assisted the candidates and stand as witnesses to the candidates' moral character, faith, and intention.
Godparents are persons chosen by the candidates on the basis of example, good qualities, and friendship, delegated by the local Christian community, and approved by the priest. It is the responsibility of godparents to show candidates how to practice the Gospel in personal and social life, to sustain the candidates in moments of hesitancy and anxiety, to bear witness, and to guide the candidates' progress in the baptismal life. Godparents fulfill this office publicly from the day of the rite of election, when they give testimony to the community about the candidates.
To learn more about RCIA contact your pastor.