What is RCIA?
The Catholic Church welcomes non-Catholics who may be interested in learning about the Catholic faith or who may be interested in joining the Catholic Church. We provide a faith formation process to assist and support persons as they become Catholic Christian. RCIA is an acronym for this process: Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.
Who is RCIA For?
Children over age seven and adults, who are not baptized, or who were baptized in another Christian tradition. (An age-appropriate faith formation process is provided for children over age seven.)
Baptized Roman Catholic adults who have not yet celebrated both Confirmation and Eucharist.
Children over age seven
who are members of the Catholic Church prepare for First Communion and Confirmation through their parishs youth faith formation process rather than through the RCIA process.
Children under age seven
also do not participate in the RCIA. An un-baptized child under age seven may be baptized at the request of a Catholic parent who agrees to raise the child as a Catholic Christian. Similarly, a child under age seven who was baptized in another Christian tradition may be received into the Catholic Church at the request of a Catholic parent. When a parent of a child under age seven becomes Catholic through the RCIA process, her/his child can sometimes become Catholic at the same liturgy during which the parent becomes Catholic.
Catholic adults who have already celebrated First Communion but are not yet confirmed may prepare for Confirmation through a faith formation process designed especially for their needs.
The Four Stages of RCIA
The RCIA is experienced in four stages. Various liturgical rituals mark turning points between and within the stages. The four stages of the RCIA process are:
- Precatechumenate or Inquiry: This first stage of the RCIA provides inquirers with introductory information about and experience of the Catholic Church. Inquirers usually gather with a catechist for faith sharing and to have their questions about the Catholic faith addressed. Participating in the Precatechumenate does not require any commitment on the part of the inquirer in regard to becoming Catholic.
- Catechumenate: This second stage of the RCIA is for those who are no longer inquirers and have now made a commitment toward becoming a Catholic Christian. Their formation usually includes: weekly catechetical sessions about the teachings of the Church; participation in weekly worship; and involvement in the Churchs mission and community life.
- Purification and Enlightenment: This third stage of the RCIA usually coincides with the Lenten season. It is the final preparation for celebrating the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil. It is distinguished by increased periods of prayer and reflection. Under certain circumstances, individuals may celebrate the Sacraments of Initiation at times other than Easter.
- Mystagogy: In this final stage, new Catholic Christians are invited to reflect on their experience of becoming Catholic and its ramifications for their future. The formal aspects of Mystagogy usually extend from Easter to Pentecost. However, since Mystagogy refers to our ever-deepening relationship with Jesus in the Church, this stage is understood to be a life-long experience for all Catholic Christians.
- Catechumen: a person who has never been baptized. Catechumens celebrate all three Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil.
- Candidate for Full Communion: a person who is already validly baptized in another Christian tradition. They are not re-baptized; they become Catholic by a Profession of Faith and the celebration of Confirmation and First Communion. Those who were confirmed in the Eastern or Orthodox Churches are not re-confirmed; they celebrate First Communion when becoming a Catholic Christian.
- Candidate: a baptized Catholic who has not yet celebrated both Confirmation and First Communion. They complete their initiation by the celebration of these two Sacraments.
- Sponsor: an adult companion in faith for someone who is becoming Catholic. Sponsors must be practicing, fully-initiated Catholics. As far as is possible, they attend the weekly Catechumenate sessions. They also support, encourage, and pray for the person they sponsor. Finally, they are present at the Rites and Sacraments of Initiation.
- Catechist: a trained teacher of the faith. The catechist is responsible for teaching Catholic doctrine and helping RCIA participants understand Catholic faith and practices.
- Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. Catechumens, (i.e., those who are un-baptized), celebrate these three Sacraments together when they become Catholic. Persons who have already been validly baptized are not re-baptized. These persons complete their initiation as Catholics by celebrating Confirmation and Eucharist. Those who were confirmed in the Eastern or Orthodox Churches are not re-confirmed but celebrate Eucharist to complete their initiation when becoming Catholic.