The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA)
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is the process by which one is initiated — baptized, confirmed and receives the Eucharist — in the Catholic Church. Those interested in joining the Catholic Church can contact the Office for Divine Worship.
From the Policies and Procedures of the Archdiocese of Chicago, Book IV: The Sanctifying Office of the Church, Section 100: The Sacraments of Initiation.
There is no greater joy for a parish community than to experience the initiation of new members at the Easter Vigil. On this night, the community encounters the risen Christ in the initiation of new members; they hear the Easter Gospel proclaimed anew as they see men and women rise with Christ to a new life of grace.
The font of baptism is like a tomb; in these waters, Christians imitate the death of Christ as they leave behind their old selves.
The font of baptism is like a womb; here new Christians, freed from the power of darkness, are chosen by God as sons and daughters, who claim eternal life as their promised inheritance.
This sacramental sharing in Christ's dying and rising becomes the pattern for the Christian's life1. Conversion of mind and heart, a sufficient acquaintance with Christian teaching, as well as a spirit of faith and charity2, obviously take time to achieve.
The formation envisioned in the order of initiation must be spread over a time frame that allows for a consistent hearing and reflection on the word of God, spiritual counsel or direction, a thorough catechesis, learning to pray with the Church, sharing in the Church's apostolic work and through association with the faithful learning from them the values, morals and spirit of the Catholic community.
The process of Christian initiation then is not just one more thing a parish is expected to provide. It lies at the heart of its vocation. The ministry of evangelization and initiation influences every area of parish life and indeed provides a theological and sacramental vision that holds all the rest together. The Office for Divine Worship supports the Ministry of Initiation of Adults with resources, counsel and programs.
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1212-1419
- RCIA #120
The Steps for Christian Initiation
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is a process of evangelization when one experiences an encounter with Jesus Christ and makes a conscious choice to explore the Christian faith. When this decision is made, the Rite of Acceptance is celebrated when the inquirer stands in front of the parish community and states that he or she wants to become a baptized member of the Catholic Church. The parish assembly affirms this desire and the inquirer becomes a Catechumen.
The Period of the Catechumenate, a time of reflection and education, varies based on how Catechumens grow in faith, and how God leads them through their journey as they consider God’s message in their own lives. Once the Catechumen and priest or parish team feels the Catechumen is ready, the request for baptism is made, seeking baptism and full initiation at the upcoming Easter vigil. On the first Sunday of Lent, the Catechumens again publicly express their desire for baptism to the diocesan bishop at the Rite of Election.
The days of Lent make up the final period leading to the Easter Vigil. Lent is a period of preparation marked by prayer and spiritual direction for the Elect, as well as prayers for them by the parish community. Finally, the Celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation takes place during the Easter Vigil Liturgy on Holy Saturday, when the Elect receive the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist. Now the person is fully initiated into the Catholic Church.
As a newly initiated Catholic, they continue their formation and education in the Period of Mystagogy, or Post Baptismal Catechesis, when the newly baptized reflect on their experiences and continue to learn more about the Scriptures, Sacraments and teachings of the Catholic Church. In addition, they reflect on how they will serve Christ and help in the Church's mission and outreach activities of the parish.