Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults

Quick-Click Guide
What is the Rite of Christian Initiation?
Who Participates in the RCIA?
How is the RCIA Organized?
How Does the RCIA Work?
What is the Role of Sponsors in the RCIA?
What You Should Expect in the RCIA?
About Marriage and the RCIA
What is the Role of Discernment in the RCIA?
Registration
Current RCIA Schedule
For More Information

“Under the movement of divine grace, the new convert sets out on a spiritual journey by means of which…he passes from the old man to the new man who has been made perfect in Christ. This transition, which involves a progressive change of outlook and morals, should be manifested in its social implications and effected gradually during the period of the catechumenate…. Then, having been delivered from the powers of darkness through the sacraments of Christian initiation, and having died, been buried and risen with Christ, they…celebrate with the whole people of God the memorial of the Lord’s death and resurrection.” —Second Vatican Council, Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity (1965), #13, 14.

What is the Rite of Christian Initiation?

 

The RCIA is an experience of personal formation and spiritual growth for individuals who are interested in becoming disciples of Jesus in the Catholic tradition. The RCIA experience incorporates prayer, study, reflection and discernment in a combination of public rituals and community preparation.

The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is modeled on the initiation ritual of the ancient Christian community and was revived in the Roman Catholic Church following the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. It is now the principle way that the Catholic community welcomes new members.

Who Participates in the RCIA?

The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults includes three types of individuals:

Catechumens
Catechumens are adult individuals who have never been baptized and have no religious tradition or church affiliation. Through the Rite of Christian Initiation, Catechumens prepare to celebrate the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and First Eucharist. We call these the Sacraments of Initiation.

Candidates
Candidates are adult individuals who have been previously baptized.

  • Some Candidates may have been baptized in a non-Catholic Christian tradition. Through the Rite of Christian Initiation, these Candidates prepare to make a ‘Profession of Faith,’ and to celebrate the sacraments of Confirmation and First Eucharist.
  • Other Candidates may have been baptized in the Catholic Church but were not fully catechized or did not complete their initiation in the Catholic Church. Through the Rite of Christian Initiation, these Candidates prepare to celebrate the sacraments of First Eucharist and/or Confirmation.

Baptized Catholics
Some individuals participating in the Rite of Christian Initiation may be adults who were baptized, fully initiated and catechized in the Catholic Church, but have not been active and/or want to learn more about their Catholic faith.

Some participants in the Rite of Christian Initiation may have decided that they wish to become Catholic; however, others may not be sure, and some may not want to become Catholic but are interested in learning more about the Catholic faith. Participation in the Rite of Christian Initiation does not assume that a participant will eventually choose to join the Catholic Church.

Many RCIA participants are married to a Catholic, or planning to marry a Catholic. Some have not been active in any religious tradition and have no church home. Others may have been active in another Christian tradition, but never been baptized or fully catechized in that tradition.

How is RCIA organized?

 

The RCIA is divided into four phases:

  • A period of inquiry and discussion, designed to help individuals decide if they are interested in considering fuller participation in the Catholic faith community. This period is called the Pre-Catechumenate.
  • A period of continuing discernment and formation, designed to help individuals understand the Catholic faith and practices of the Catholic community. This period is called the Catechumenate.
  • A period of final discernment and preparation, designed to help individuals finalize their decision and prepare to celebrate the sacraments of initiation. This period is called the Enlightenment or Purification.
  • A period of continuing reflection and formation following initiation, designed to help new Catholics understand their conversion experience and prepare to participate more fully in the life of the Catholic community. This period is called the Mystagogia.

How Does RCIA Work?

 

The Rite of Christian Initiation includes a combination of private prayer, reflection, and discernment; small group study and faith-sharing; and public rites or rituals designed to celebrate the Candidate’s progress toward initiation.

Catechetical Sessions

During the Pre-Catechumenate and Catechumenate phases, RCIA participants meet each week with RCIA participants from the other two Sandusky Catholic parishes. The catechetical sessions are designed to address the particular needs, questions and concerns of each participant. There is an opportunity for questions and discussion, often in small groups or one-on-one.

The process will always respect the privacy and personal comfort level of each participant. Issues and concerns which cannot be discussed in the general session can be addressed in private with a sponsor or a member of the parish staff.

Rituals or Rites of Initiation

Participants in the RCIA participate in the following public rituals or “rites”:

Rite of Acceptance

The Rite of Acceptance follows a period of Inquiry and precedes the Catechumenate.

Through the Rite of Acceptance, individuals declare their initial desire to seek initiation into the Catholic faith community. The faith community, in turn, declares its willingness to accept them as persons who intend to become its members. The local pastor is the normal presiding celebrant for the Rite of Election. (See Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, #41)

In order to celebrate the Rite of Acceptance, there should be evidence that the Candidate has experienced growth in spiritual life and has a preliminary understanding of Christian teaching. This evidence of “first faith” and initial conversion includes:

    • the “intention to change their lives;”
    • the “first stirrings of repentance;”
    • the beginning of a life of prayer;
    • a sense of Church, and
    • some experience of the faith community.

(See Rite of Christian Intitiation of Adults, #42.)

Rite of Election

The Rite of Election follows the Catechumenate and precedes the period of Enlightenment. It usually coincides with the beginning of the Lent.

In the Rite of Election, individuals declare their intention to advance toward the sacraments of initiation and full participation in the Catholic faith community. The community, in turn, expresses its acceptance (election) of the individuals and its confidence that they have been chosen and accepted by God. The bishop is the normal presiding celebrant for the Rite of Election. (See Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, #118, 119, 121.)

The Church assumes that individuals who seek to celebrate the Rite of Election have:

  • experienced a “conversion in mind and in action;”
  • developed “a sufficient understanding of Christian teaching;”
  • developed the intention to receive the sacraments of the Church
  • and display “a spirit of faith and charity.”

(See Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, #120.)

Scrutinies and Rites of Exorcism

The Scrutinies and Rites of Exorcism take place during the period of Enlightenment. They usually take place during the principle Sunday Mass on the third, fourth and fifth Sundays in Lent.

The Scrutinies and Rites of Exorcism coincide with the Catechumens’ and Candidates’ final preparation for the Rites of Initiation, which are usually celebrated at the Easter Vigil. They are designed to inspire in the Catechumens and Candidates (and in the assembly) a desire for purification and redemption made available to the Church through the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection. The local pastor is the normal celebrant for the Scrutinies and Rites of Exorcism.

The Scrutinies and Rites of Exorcism seek to uncover and heal what is weak, defective and sinful, while strengthening what is upright, strong and good. The community assumes that individuals who participate in the Scrutinies and Rites of Exorcism:

  • have grown in their appreciation for Jesus Christ as the living water, the light of the world, the resurrection and the life;
  • have a sincere intention to seek a deeper knowledge of Christ and his Church;
  • are progressing in their understanding of sin and their desire for salvation;
  • desire to continue growing in genuine self-knowledge through an examination of their lives and sincere repentance.

(See Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, #141-146.)

All of the public rites and rituals are conducted in such a way that no individual will be embarrassed or intimidated. Except for the final rites of Initiation, all of the preliminary rites are conducted as a group. The names of individual Catechumens and Candidates will be announced, and you may be addressed individually by the celebrant. Responses are ritual responses, which are the same for each person, and may be made as a group or as individuals. Participants will always be informed of the appropriate ritual responses, gestures and procedures in advance.

Breaking Open the Word

RCIA participants also participate in Breaking Open the Word, which takes place each week. Breaking Open the Word is a continuing opportunity to discuss the Sunday scripture readings and the Participants’ personal journey of faith.

What is the Role of Sponsors?

Sponsors play an important role in the initiation process. They remind us that we are participating in a process of conversion, which involves a personal experience of being welcomed into a faith community of human persons. RCIA sponsors represent the faith community; they ensure that no individual walks the journey of conversion on their own.

There are three types of sponsors or companions in the RCIA process, and each has a distinct role:

RCIA Sponsors

RCIA Sponsors serve as formal representatives of the Catholic faith community. They are active Catholics who represent the local parish community, and, by extension, the universal church. RCIA Sponsors may be personal friends or relatives of the Candidate (such as a spouse or fiance) if they are also members of the local parish community and are able and willing to assume responsibilities of the Sponsor.

The RCIA Sponsor accompanies the Candidate through the periods of Catechumenate, Enlightment and Mystagogia. He or she serves the candidate as a mentor, a companion, and a representative of the faith community.

  • As a mentor, the sponsor serves as a living example or role model of what it means to be a person of faith.
  • As a companion, the sponsor accompanies the Candidate to RCIA activities, is available to the Candidate outside of RCIA process, encourages and supports the Candidate in the discernment process, offers the Candidate guidance and understanding when the Candidate is doubtful or hesitant, and, if necessary, challenges the Candidate to be faithful to the discernment process.
  • As a representative of the faith community, the sponsor helps the Candidate feel welcome, introduces the Candidate to other members of the faith community, and invites the Candidate to participate in community activities.

RCIA Sponsors may serve as Sacramental Sponsors if they meet the criteria outlined below; however, Candidates do not have to choose their RCIA Sponsor as their Sacramental Sponsor.

Sacramental Sponsors

Every individual who celebrates a sacrament of initiation in the Catholic Church chooses a Sacramental Sponsor. In the case of individuals who are being baptized, these sponsors are called Baptism Sponsors (or “Godparents”); for individuals celebrating the Sacrament of Confirmation they are call Confirmation Sponsors. A Sacramental Sponsor is a representative of the Catholic faith community and a personal role model, confidant, and friend for the individual Candidate; they should be chosen by the Candidate in consultation with the parish Director of Initiation.

The Sacramental Sponsor accompanies the Candidate through the periods of Enlightenment and Mystagogia, and should continue to play an influential role in the Candidate’s life after completion of the initiation process.

RCIA Sponsors may serve as Sacramental Sponsors if they meet the criteria outlined below; however, Candidates do not have to choose their RCIA Sponsor as their Sacramental Sponsor.

Sacramental Sponsors must meet the following criteria:

  • Be at least 16 years old.
  • Be a baptized Catholic who has also celebrated the Sacrament of Confirmation.
  • Be participating as fully as possible in the spiritual and sacramental life of the Catholic church.
  • Be an individual the Candidate admires and respects as a good role model of Christian living. Sacramental Sponsors may:
  • Be of either gender.
  • Be a relative or friend, but not the Candidate’s birth parent.
  • Be the Candidate’s Baptism Sponsor (Godparent) if the Candidate was baptized as a Catholic.

Here are some questions a candidate might consider when choosing a sponsor or companion:

  • Is this a person of faith? Is he or she actively involved in the spiritual and sacramental life of the Catholic faith community?
  • Is this a person whose life is a good example of the Christian values and virtues which you will try to imitate?
  • Are prayer, service, and commitment a real part of this person’s everyday life?
  • Has this person grown in his or her own faith over the years? Has he or she struggled to understand the effort, maturity, commitment and doubt which an adult commitment to Jesus Christ entails?
  • Is this person able and willing to share his or her faith experience with me? Am I able and willing to share my faith experience with this person?
  • Is this person able and willing to help me feel welcome in the Catholic faith community and help me grow in my participation in the Catholic Church?
  • Is this person reliable and trustworthy? Can I depend on him or her to fulfil the responsibilities of a sponsor or companion and to respect my privacy and confidentiality?

What Should You Expect if You Participate in the RCIA?

If you participate in the RCIA process you should expect to grow in your understanding of the Catholic faith and to deepen your own personal spiritual life, even if you choose not to become Catholic.

You should also expect:

  • to be treated with respect, understanding and confidentiality.
  • to have your questions, concerns, doubts and fears respectfully considered and fully addressed.
  • to have any previous religious or spiritual experience carefully respected.
  • to never be surprised by any aspect of the RCIA process, and to be fully informed about expectations and opportunities for participation in the Catholic faith community.
  • to make your own free choice about participation in the RCIA and/or membership in the Catholic Church.
  • to be guided, encouraged and supported in discerning your decision, and explaining your choice to family and friends.
  • to be warmly and sincerely welcomed by members of the Catholic faith community.

About Marriage and the RCIA

According to Catholic teaching, an individual is not free to marry unless any previous marriage has been annulled. In most cases, this also applies to any previous marriage of a non-Catholic partner.

Individuals who have divorced and remarried may enter the RCIA process, but must have their previous marriage annulled and their second marriage validated before they celebrate initiation in the Catholic Church.

Individuals who have divorced but not remarried may enter the RCIA process and celebrate initiation in the Catholic Church. They must have their previous marriage annulled before entering a second marriage.

An “annulment” (or Declaration of Invalidity) by a church tribunal declares that a particular marriage did not meet the Church’s criteria for a full, permanent sacramental marriage because one or both partners were unable to understand or unwilling to fulfill the requirements for such a marriage relationship. You should clarify your marital status with the pastoral staff before you begin participation in the RCIA.

Click here for more information about a Decree of Invalidity.

What is the Role of Discernment in the RCIA?

Life is full of decisions. And there is never a guarantee that the decisions we make will for sure be the right decisions. However, we can be open to a posture of decision-making that reflects a God-focus. We can enter into a process of discernment, which is a particularly appropriate kind of decision-making for an individual participating in the Rite of Christian Initiation.

Discernment is not a foolproof set of directions one follows to come to the perfect solution. Rather, it is a surrender into a process of coming to fuller self-knowledge and responding out of that experience. While the practical judgment made is of definite value, it is the whole process of trust and surrender that is of definite value. We can never know if the decisions we make are “right” decisions because we see now “only as in a glass darkly.” However, we can know we make a “good” decision if we have been faithful to the demands of the discernment process.

What Discernment is Not

  • Discernment does not occur only through gut-level responses such as feelings or emotions. Affectivity, however integrated, cannot be the sole criterion for decision.
  • Discernment does not in essence happen through a systematic and logical process. It is more than decision-making. It is an adventure that faces the mystery of God’s stirrings.
  • Discernment usually does not occur through private revelations to an individual. Private revelations are prone to self-deception and therefore need the community’s confirmation.

Guidelines for Discernment

  • Discernment is the art of finding meaning in our daily lived lives, as it reflects God’s revelation. It is not about seeing new things, but seeing things in a new way.
  • Often we can discern the ways of God by using common sense supported by informed and prudent judgment, but sometimes we over-extend our competence, and therefore blind ourselves to the need for further investigation and consultation.
  • Discernment is a holistic process which involves the intellect, psychological state, affectivity, spiritual, volitional and physical. All elements of our embodied person can play a role in offering cues.
  • One can approach the process of discernment with confidence that God will guide us in our faithful searching. Such a level of trust presumes a developing relationship between us and God.
  • We must be comfortable with the possibility of a wrong decision, but if we are faithful to the process of discernment, we can rest in the certitude of a good decision, knowing that God will use whatever our falterings are to bring about good.
  • Discernment occurs in God’s time (kairos), the appointed time, the time that best serves the building of God’s reign. It is not calculated and cannot be measured, except in terms of fidelity. It takes trust to allow God’s time to emerge, to know the right moment and not to rush.
  • Discernment leads us to a sense of detachment — the ability to remove ourselves enough to be able to accept whatever is asked of us. Such detachment teaches us to make room to welcome whatever is given, to accept all as gift.
  • Discernment requires obedience and surrender. Obedience means truly listening to the words of life, and then responding. Surrender means turning over private expectations and desires for the greater gift that we can receive if we open our hearts to God.

Four steps or “movements” characterize the discernment process:

Deliberation

Deliberation includes acquiring the necessary information to make an informed decision, honestly assessing our current situation, and envisioning new possibilities. It requires exploring all sides, weighing the pros and cons, and considering all of the possibilities.

There are two forms of deliberation which are necessary for discernment: First, we need to consult with ourselves. We need to seriously consider our gifts and our limitations. Second, we need to consult with others. We need someone who is objective and leaves us free to make our own decisions, even if they are poor decisions.

During this stage of the discernment process, we should ask ourselves:

  • Am I open to consult other persons in this process?
  • Do I consult with legitimate authorities — people who know me well — for feedback and direction?
  • Do I make time for silence and solitude in this discernment process?
  • Do I make time to pray during this discernment process?

Reflection

There are also two types of reflection. The first type assumes certain expectations. We have already made up our minds, and have decided what we will discover. Such reflection does not lead to honest discernment. The second type of reflection opens us to the truth in whatever way it emerges. We do not protect ourselves from the uncomfortable. We allow the issues and ideas raised during deliberation to work from the inside out. We listen, slowly and respectfully. This kind of reflection requires a certain level of disinterested involvement — we give ourselves over to the process, without deciding ahead of time what the result will be.

During this stage of the discernment process, we should ask ourselves:

  • Where is God for me in all of this?
  • How does this relate to my life in my family, among friends, within my community or work?
  • In what ways will my decision promote Christian love and Christian values?
  • What is the most responsible course to take?

Insight

Insight emerges slowly and gradually, as we purge ourselves of the desire to “short-cut” the discernment process. When we give ourselves over to the discernment process, we open ourselves to whatever insights might emerge on a deeper level where images are being transformed, our experiences reinforced, and our awareness of ourselves is being clarified. Insight emerges through a birthing process; it is a gift of the Spirit.

During this stage of the discernment process, we should ask ourselves:

  • Have I made time to let all of this settle down and to seep into my being?
  • How do the insights which emerge relate to my lived experience and my relationship to God?
  • Is there a sense of inner peace and quiet with the choice which is emerging?
  • Can I honestly say that this decision “fits” with my true sense of myself?

Decision and Action

After prayerful reflection and consultation, we can come to a posture of liberation and hence a decision. This decision will affirm and promote the gifts we have been given for building up the reign of God. We should resolve to follow the decision which emerges through the process of discernment, until evidence presents itself that the decision needs to be reevaluated. We can trust the presence of the Spirit in the decision which emerges through our discernment when it leads to a fuller expression of the gifts of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (cf. Galatians 5:22-23).

[Adapted from Thomas H. Morris, The RCIA–Transforming the Church. ©1997 by Paulist Press.]

Registration

By phone: call (419) 625-3698

Current RCIA Schedule

Thursday Evenings: 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm

Starts: August
Concludes: May

Location: Sts. Peter and Paul Parish Gathering Space on Columbus Ave.

For More Information

We welcome your questions. Our pastor and Parish Staff are eager to discuss your interest in the Catholic Church and to answer any questions or concerns you may have about joining the Catholic Church. Please call the Parish Office at (419) 625-3698 to make an appointment.

A special word of thanks to Dave Cushing at Waterloo Catholic Parishes.