The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is the process by which adults come into full communion with the Catholic Church. Over two decades ago, the Church recognized that the method of bringing adults into the Church through private instruction with the local priest could be improved. To find a better way, she turned to history, particularly that of the early Church. In the first centuries following the crucifixion, becoming a Christian was a dangerous process, and one in which the prospective member needed to be thoroughly prepared. Consequently the catechumenate was lengthy and very oriented to establishing the catechumen in the Christian community.
By looking to the past, the Church has restored the process of the catechumenate with its defined stages of development, which echo the human journey of conversion. Each step draws the inquirer more deeply into a relationship with Christ, through stages of evangelization, stirrings of repentance, instruction, growth in faith, purification and enlightenment. During this period the RCIA process seeks to meet the needs of those for whom this is the first Christian instruction they have received, while at the same time respecting the background of those already participating in a Christian life, who are seeking full communion with the Catholic Church. The inquirer will encounter academic instruction in the Church traditions, spiritual formation springing from the good news of the Gospel, and a call to a deeper discipleship within our community of faith.
What is the time frame for RCIA
Periods of RCIA
Period of Evangelization and PreCatechumenate begins formally at St. Joseph during September, however the stirrings of the Holy Spirit may have touched one’s heart long before the process officially begins. This period allows for inquiry and introduction to Gospel values and the recognition of the grace of the Holy Spirit so that we may believe and be freely converted to the Lord. If already baptized, this period allows the faith we received in baptism to take root and grow in a new way. At the end of this period we participate in the Rite of Acceptance/Welcoming at the beginning of Advent.
Period of the Catechumenate normally runs from Advent (early December) until the beginning of Lent (early February), although, for some, this period may stretch out quite a bit longer . During this period, we begin to achieve a “profound sense of mystery of salvation.” We learn about the truths of Catholic doctrine and moral life, as well as become familiar with the Christian way of life. We participate in the Liturgy of the Word at Mass, and continue to grow in our faith, directing our hearts towards God. This period closes with the Rite of Election/Call to Continuing Conversion at the Cathedral in Rapid City.
Period of Purification and Enlightenment is our final preparation for baptism and confirmation. It is a time of spiritual recollection and interior reflection to purify our mind and heart as we search our own conscience. We are supported with the prayers of the community and blessings received during the Mass as we approach the Celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation at Easter Vigil.
Period of Mystagogy is a time of growth, when we are able to share in the Eucharist, and enter into a fuller understanding of the Gospel message and the sacraments which we have received. We observe this period with classes for five weeks after Easter in preparation of a life of Christian growth through worship, study, prayer and reception of the sacraments.
Who Comes to RCIA?
The RCIA process is designed for those who are hearing the Word of God for the first time in their lives, and are seeking entrance to the Church through the waters of Baptism, however it is well suited to be adapted to those who are already baptized as a Christian, and are seeking reception into full communion with the Catholic Church. We refer to those seeking baptism as Catechumen until the Rite of Election when they become the Elect. Those who are already baptized and seeking full communion are referred to as Candidates. We also welcome those who have been baptized into the Catholic Church, and have received first communion, who are seeking to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation, who are referred to as Adult Confirmation Candidates.
One of the most rewarding parts of the RCIA process is the wide variety of backgrounds with which inquirers enter the process. Some of us have just begun to feel the stirrings of the Holy Spirit, calling us to something we do not yet understand. Others reach RCIA after a long process of searching, often seeking God for years before He leads us to this place. Although many people fully intend to be confirmed into the Church, entering into the RCIA process is not a commitment. We welcome all who come with a sincere heart, seeking the Lord and His will. Sometimes the time is not right to enter into the Church, and we respect that God’s time is not always our own. Joining the Church is like a marriage, in that it is a life long commitment, to which we would not expect someone to agree until they have had a substantial period of time to get to know all of the faith. Just as the Bride and Groom are not committed until the wedding, so we are not committed to join the Church until the Sacraments of Initiation at Easter Vigil.
What is the role of the sponsor?
During the RCIA process you will be assigned a sponsor who will walk with you through the coming year. Your sponsor will attend all RCIA meetings, retreats, events, and rites with you, sharing in the experience. Ultimately, your sponsor will be your witness, should you decide to pursue the Sacraments of Initiation.
Often we find that our RCIA sponsor becomes a friend with whom we can pray, read Scripture, and attend mass. They will help to introduce us into the social and liturgical aspects of parish life, the organizations to which they belong, their friends and family. Through them we become to be a part of the parish we are investigating. We can look to them to share their experience as Catholics, the challenges they face and the fruits they have reaped from their faith. We encourage you to share your own challenges and rewards with your sponsor as you progress on your Christian walk. Your sponsor knows well the sensitivity of your confidences at this point, and will keep confidential things in confidence.
The Church requires that all sponsors be confirmed Catholics in good standing with the Church, who are over the age of 16. We also ask that sponsors be the same gender as Candidates and Catechumen. We encourage spouses or fiancés of inquirers to attend classes and retreats and often we are asked if a spouse can be a sponsor. Because much of a sponsors role it to introduce the candidate to new people and experiences, we suggest that if the spouse would like to be a sponsor, we seek to match them with a candidate of the same gender.
What are the classes like?
Components of the Class
Opening Prayer & Announcements will be said at the beginning of each class. We ask that all participants arrive promptly when their schedule allows, so that we may begin at 6:30 each night. If you arrive late, please sign in when you arrive, pick up any paperwork on the sign up table, and take a seat. We will video tape each class so if you miss a substantial portion of the class and would like to review it, you may check out the video.
Bible Stories will be told at each class. Because many of us come to RCIA with very little understanding or exposure to the bible, we have developed a very brief introduction to the major stories in salvation history. We hope to provide you with an outline with which to begin to fit in your other scripture reading, including the scripture you hear proclaimed at mass.
Topic Lecture will comprise the bulk of each class. We will begin by exploring the Creed which proclaims the basics of the beliefs of our faith, then the way in which we celebrate the mystery of our faith in the Sacraments, followed by the Ten Commandments by which we strive to live our faith, and finishing with Prayer. We attempt to provide a systematic overview of the faith, following this outline, and each component is important in its own right. Consequently, if you are unable to attend a class, we do ask that you check out the video to review, so that you do not lose the opportunity to be exposed to each aspect of the faith.
Breaking Open of the Word will begin in December (after the Rite of Acceptance into the Catechumenate & the Rite of Welcoming) and run until Easter. We will meet as a group at Sunday mass, and after the Liturgy of the Word, we will process out to further discuss the scriptures of the day. This is an important opportunity to grow in our understanding of God’s Living Word, individually and as a group. In addition, meeting as a group affords us the opportunity to share our joys and challenges, to pursue more deeply the understanding of how these Christian concepts may be applied to our day to day lives.
I am Catholic, but can I come to RCIA?
RCIA is for Catholics, too!
Over the last several years, we have had many people who are already Catholic come to RCIA. Sometimes they are practicing Catholics who want to know the faith beyond what they absorbed as children in CCD. Sometimes they have been away from the Church and are considering coming back to the Church. Often they accompany a friend or relative to RCIA. Whatever the reason, you are welcome!
Because RCIA is designed for those who are not baptized, we begin with an overview of the Catholic faith, starting with questions such as
- Who is God and how do we know Him?
- What does it mean when we say we believe in God?
- How has God revealed Himself to man?
From there, we progress to study the Profession of Faith, by examining the components of the Nicene Creed, the Celebration of Christian Mystery by learning about the Sacraments of the Church, our Life in Christ by studying the Church’s teachings regarding the Ten Commandments and Christian Prayer using the Lord’s Prayer as an example of the perfect prayer. This model of study is given to us by the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Those who attend RCIA as Catholics are invited to consider becoming a sponsor for one of our RCIA Candidates or Catechumen. Sharing your faith with someone coming into the Church often brings a deepening of one’s own faith and love of Christ. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 642-2306 ext. 107.