The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is a journey toward becoming a full, participating member of the Catholic Church. This modern rite was restored in the late 1970s, in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, but is based on the ancient “Order of Catechumens,” which dates to the very earliest years of the church’s history
RCIA can be described as a faith formation process designed primarily for adults who have not been baptized in any faith and are intentionally seeking God in their lives. Additionally, it is for those baptized in other faiths, as well as those baptized Catholics who never completed their Sacraments of Initiation, Confirmation or the Eucharist.
By intentionally seeking God as an adult, an opportunity to foster a closer relationship with Him presents itself. RCIA is the process to develop that relationship and to discover great spiritual growth. Instructors teaching the fullness of the faith and relating the faith to Holy Scriptures, are the guides for your faith journey. Your development is accompanied by a personal sponsor and a community of individuals with the shared interest of seeking out and coming to know God more closely.
The RCIA program guides the candidate through four periods of development. RCIA instruction consists of prayer, educational presentations, and small group discussions. The basic fundamentals of faith are shared, starting with Genesis and answering basic questions like; Who is God? Who is Jesus Christ? What is the Church? As an individual progresses through each period of development, the instruction becomes more specific in terms of doctrine and teaching. The ultimate goal is to help people get a clearer sense of God, His son Jesus and The Holy Spirit, to understand the full deposit of faith given to us by Jesus and to equip them with the knowledge and means to live out their life as God would want us to.
“We know certainly that our God calls us to a holy life. We know that he gives us every grace, every abundant grace; and though we are so weak of ourselves, this grace is able to carry us through every obstacle and difficulty.”
— St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
What is a Sponsor?
The sponsor is friend, mentor, witness and guide for the catechumen or candidate and stands as a witness to the candidates’ moral character, faith, and intention.
Ideally a sponsor is someone who lives nearby the individual going through the RCIA journey. They should also be a member of the parish. The sponsor is a person who represents the worshiping community in your parish; your sponsor speaks on the behalf of those assembled at each Rite we celebrate. However the most important aspect of this relationship between you and your sponsor is that you can see it developing into a long-term commitment with each other. This is a person with whom you can share your faith, and other personal aspects of your life.
THEIR ACTIVITIES INCLUDE:
- Participate in gatherings, ask questions, encourage discussion.
- Invite and accompany catechumen or candidates to day liturgies and Parish activities.
- Invite catechumen or candidates for coffee and conversation.
- Encourage and affirm candidates’ growth in faith.
- Listen to candidates and pray with them about personal needs and concerns.
- Participate with candidates in some other parish ministry.
- Share their faith experience.
The sponsor is to be at least 16 years old, and a “practicing” Catholic. The qualities this person should possess are that this is someone you admire because of their faith, and their relationship with God. Also a parent can not be a sponsor or godparent.
RCIA Periods of Development
Period of Inquiry
A two to three month period of discernment, introduction the Bible and to gospel values.
First Step – Rite of Acceptance
A liturgical rite marking the beginning of the catechumenate proper, when candidates express and the church accepts their intentions to respond to God’s call to follow the way of Christ.
Period of the Catechumenate
A 3-month period for more intensive studying and nurturing in the Catholic faith.
Second Step – Rite of Election
A liturgical rite, typically the first Sunday of Lent, by which the Church affirms the catechumens’ readiness for the Sacraments of Initiation, and the catechumens express the willingness to receive those sacraments.
Period of Purification and Enlightenment
A time that immediately precedes the elects’ initiation, usually the 40 days of Lent, as a time of reflection, intensely centered on conversion.
Third Step – Celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation
Usually the Easter Vigil, by which the elect are initiated through baptism and/or confirmation, and the Eucharist.
Period of Mystagogy
A period of reflection on the Easter mysteries and discussions around how to actively live out your faith in every day life.