R.C.I.A. – Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, R.C.I.A., is the process adults go through to come into full communion with the Catholic Church. Those who have not yet been baptized are called catechumens and those who have been baptized in another church are called candidates. Each catechumen and candidate chooses a sponsor (an active, practicing Catholic) to walk with and support her/him on his/her faith journey.
The RCIA process is divided into several stages, or phases. Progression from one phase to the next is celebrated during Mass, amid the parish community.
Inquiry – This is the time when the inquirer asks questions, gathers information and any misunderstandings are corrected. It’s a time of exploration. The inquirer can learn more about the Catholic faith and decide if it is the right step for her/him. The inquiry phase has no set time frame. For some inquirers it might only last a few months, while others will need longer to prepare and decide whether to make that very important step along faith’s journey.
Catechumenate – If the inquirer feels ready to move on with the process, s/he will move to the catechumenate phase, which is a time for spiritual formation and to learn how to live as a Catholic Christian. The beginning of this phase is celebrated with the Rite of Acceptance (for catechumens) and Rite of Welcome (for candidates) during Mass where the community has the opportunity to welcome its future new members. After the Rite of Acceptance/Welcome, catechumens and candidates are dismissed each week during Mass after the Liturgy of the Word so they can reflect and “break open” the Word until they come into full communion and can celebrate with the parish community at the Eucharistic table.
Purification and Enlightenment – This phase begins on the first Sunday of Lent and is marked with the Rite of Election. The formerly known catechumens are now called the elect. The elect and the candidates celebrate three scrutinies publicly during Mass in preparation for full initiation into the Church.
Initiation – The elect come into full communion at the Easter Vigil with the celebration of baptism, confirmation and Eucharist. Candidates celebrate confirmation and Eucharist as they come into full communion with the Church. The elect always come through during the Easter Vigil, whereas candidates can come through at the same time or another time (like the Sunday after Easter) depending on the parish.
Mystagogy – This phase is a period of post baptismal catechesis and lasts through the Easter season, ending on Pentecost. Those newly initiated are now called neophytes. During this time neophytes reflect on the process of initiation and explore their new lives as Catholic Christians, and how they can share in the mission of Christ through various ministries and daily life.