The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) is the ordinary process of prayer, study, and discernment for those seeking to know and understand the teachings of the Catholic Church in order to become a member of the Church through baptism or through full communion if already validly baptized. Adult members of the Catholic Church in need of First Communion and/or confirmation also employ this process.
Self-Study Materials and Continuing Education
We invite you to visit the kiosk in the back of the church, which is stocked with CDs and books from Lighthouse Catholic Media. The CDs—audio recordings of inspiring talks on all aspects of Catholic life—make an uplifting listen for long commutes. You can purchase the CDs for $3.00 and the books for $5.00, and we encourage you to pass them along to family and friends as well. For more information about these materials, please contact the parish office by phone at (910) 692.6613.
We also urge you to check out our weekly bulletin to discover continuing education opportunities that may be taking place locally or throughout the Diocese of Raleigh.
Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults
What does R.C.I.A. (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) entail? Are you currently looking to improve your spiritual life and wanting to know more about the Catholic faith and build a solid spiritual foundation?
You may have questions about the faith, spiritual life, and what Jesus Christ has taught us. Some of them may be:
- What does the Catholic Church teach?
- Why do Catholics believe that?
- Why all the rituals and traditions?
- What are the symbols and what do they signify?
Do you know a family member or a friend who has asked these or similar questions? If so, then, maybe RCIA can help. RCIA provides instruction on Catholic beliefs, teachings, traditions, rituals, etc. It is not only for those who want to become Catholic, but also for anyone who wants to learn more about the Catholic faith.
RCIA is not only for non-Catholics. Catholics can enrich their own faith while, at the same time, sharing it with someone inquiring into the faith. You can do this by being a sponsor (someone who provides support, prayer, and encouragement for the individual inquirer).
Another way to share is by being a team member. Team members provide support for inquirers and sponsors in several ways. Team members minister by being involved in prayer, scripture, hospitality, logistics, and many other areas.
To inquire about the Catholic faith and our RCIA program, contact the parish office (910) 692.6613. For additional information about becoming a team member or sponsor, contact Deacon Pius Gabriel at (910) 818.6888 or email him and enter RCIA in the subject line.
What is RCIA?
RCIA, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, is a class for people who would like to know more about the Roman Catholic faith. It is also for those who desire to be received in full communion with the Catholic Church. This includes catechumens and candidates. Catechumens are people who have never been baptized by any Christian church. Candidates are individuals who have been baptized in any Christian church (including Roman Catholics) but have not been confirmed in the Catholic Church.
For anyone who wishes to become a Roman Catholic Christian, the RCIA process includes several steps (periods) that lead to your initiation into the “Catholic Christian” faith community.
Period of Evangelization and Pre-Catechumenate
None of us would deny that there are many longings within our own hearts and that from time to time some may even be fulfilled. But very often, despite all our efforts and life’s good fortune, we still feel disconnected. We continue to search for life’s true meaning. We struggle with loneliness. We want to feel that we belong. Our need for acceptance and friendship can be enormous. So we look around and begin to explore. We find ourselves making acquaintances. We talk with them and little by little we begin to reveal who we are. After a while, an acquaintance becomes our friend and then we know exactly with whom we want to spend our time. This natural and common human experience provides the setting for the first step of the RCIA process.
During the inquiry period, the parishioners of the Catholic family share their own faith stories as they listen to the journeys, questions, and hopes of those who have come to inquire about the Church. Through this exchange, the Church shares its life story – its traditions, people, and history. This sharing and exchange of personal experiences leads the inquirer to discover similarities between his or her own story and the story of Jesus and the Church. This first step of the RCIA which is a period of unhurried reflection and discovery. Each inquirer is a unique individual and must journey at his or her own pace.
All of us know that personal relationships don’t just happen. They usually grow out of informal and casual encounters. Maybe it’s the warm smile or the way our friend really listens that draws us together. Whatever it is, we find that we want to spend a lot of time with that person in order to share more about ourselves, and because we just plain feel better being around that person. A good example of this type of relationship becomes very apparent in the lives of a man and a woman who find attractive qualities in each other and begin dating. Their desire to know each other leads them to spend much time together. The day may come when their love leads them to tell others of their deepening commitment by announcing their engagement.
In a similar way, in the RCIA process, we may say that inquirers begin to discern in the Catholic tradition an experience of faith that is attractive and personally meaningful. When this happens, they begin to desire to belong formally to the family of Catholic believers. At this point, members of the RCIA team discern with the inquirers their readiness to enter the second step of the RCIA process in which they are called Catechumens.
Period of Catechumenate
The word “catechumen” comes from biblical Greek and literally means “one who sounds out something.” The second step of the RCIA process is known as the catechumenate. The purpose of this catechumenate period is to give the inquirer, who makes a decision to journey through to Christian initiation, a thoroughly supportive and encouraging environment. An inquirer becomes a catechumen through a formal Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumenate. During this ceremony, celebrated during a Mass with the parish community, the catechumen is given a special blessing and a bible, which they will use in the coming weeks to experience the living word of God along with their fellow catechumens and parishioners.
The catechumenate flows from the love of the parish family as it ministers to those who are choosing membership in the Church. The parish brings many resources together to create an ongoing process that will assist the catechumen every step of the way.
As this step begins, the parish offers specific encouragement and witness to the inquirers through the assistance of individual Catholics called sponsors. A sponsor becomes a companion to an individual inquirer. The sponsor personally encourages the inquirer in every way possible. He or she prays for and with the inquirer, invites and accompanies the individual to parish celebrations and shares personal stories of what it means to be a Catholic.
Throughout the catechumenate, the catechumens join with parishioners at each Sunday Mass to listen to the biblical readings and the homily. The Old and New Testament scriptures read at each Sunday Mass are the focal point and basis for the theological and spiritual reflections that lead catechumens and parishioners through the RCIA process. After the homily, catechumens are formally dismissed from the celebration of the Mass. They gather together with their sponsors and catechists (teachers) to study the word of God and to examine how their lives are touched by its power.
The catechumenate is on a spiritual journey of moving the catechumens toward specific goals, accompanied by sponsors, catechists, a pastoral team, and the parish community. The entire experience is designed to lead catechumens to discover their unique Christian vocation while they deepen their spiritual lives both personally and within the community. In the catechumenate, participants gather to explore the directions in which their faith journeys are leading them. Through spiritual counseling and instruction provided by the parish team, catechumens are guided in their quest for a deeper experience of faith and community within the Catholic Church. Essential to process is the catechumens’ participation in various forms of community worship and active commitment to works of Christian charity and service.
This period of adult formation involves many members of the parish family all supporting one another. In fact, the parish may discover the ongoing presentation and celebration of the catechumenate has become a major focus of enthusiasm and vitality for the whole parish community.
Catholics believe that the Spirit invites a particular person to respond to God’s call. How the Spirit chooses to lead those who are journeying is always unique to each person. A time will come, however, when the pastoral team and the catechumen together will discover the Holy Spirit is indeed leading the catechumen to the life - giving waters of baptism or profession of faith for those already baptized.
Whenever any of us opens our hearts fully to another person, we become vulnerable. At the same time, however, we also become intimately lovable. Only through many encounters of patient sharing and gentle forgiving can a human relationship continue over a lifetime. And just as an engaged couple learns to accept, affirm, and forgive one another, so do the persons journeying in the RCIA look to the Church to help them deepen their commitments and purify their hearts.
Period of Purification and Enlightenment
The third step of the RCIA is a time for spiritual purification and enlightenment. It spans the season of Lent and culminates at the Easter Vigil when those to be initiated are baptized, confirmed, and share in the Eucharist for the first time. Lent is an especially appropriate time for this final step of reflection and examination of one’s motivation. The season of Lent is like a spiritual retreat, calling all of us to a renewal of heart and recommitment to our baptismal promises. Once again we pledge ourselves to a gospel way of living, to discipleship of Jesus Christ, and to witnessing his message to all whom we meet.
Lent literally means “lengthening of days,” or the “coming of springtime.” How deeply the hearts of contemporary men and women long for a springtime of new hope and possibility amidst the world’s many disappointments and broken promises. And each of us knows of our own inner brokenness and of places in our hearts that need conversion and healing.
Year after year, the Church wisely offers a specific time for purifying our innermost desires – a time for journeying from darkness to light. Just as light and new life return to the earth every springtime, so during Lent does the Christian family return to its original vision of life and rebirth through prayer, fasting, almsgiving – all with special attention to the word of God.
Parishioners begin their journey through Lent to Easter by receiving ashes rubbed on their foreheads in the sign of a cross – a reminder of the cross we are all called to live and embrace. Once again the parish enters its season of repentance, renewal, and recommitment to spread the Gospel message to a world that needs to hear the hopeful, healing word of God.
On the First Sunday of Lent, the parish and diocesan community confirm the catechumen’s readiness for initiation. In a ceremony called Rite of Election, the pastor comes and blesses the catechumens and candidates. Then, in the name of all the people of God, he calls them by name and invites them to proceed to the Easter sacraments of initiation. From this moment on, those chosen to be initiated are called the elect. Their names are written in the Book of the Elect. With prayer and support from the entire congregation, the elect now begin the last and most intensive weeks of their journey to baptism. The bishop comes to meet the elect during lent and witness the Book of the Elect.
On the Sundays of Lent as they join with the parishioners for Sunday worship, the Elect sit in a special place of honor within the congregation. During Lent, the parish community will present to each of the elect two of its ancient living statements of faith and worship: the Creed and The Lord’s Prayer. These treasures of our Christian heritage, recited at every Sunday Eucharist, proclaim the core of our Christian beliefs of our relationship with God who cares for us like a loving parent. On the third, fourth, and fifth Sundays of Lent, the RCIA offers special rites called scrutinies during Sunday Masses. In each scrutiny the community prays that the elect be enlightened and purified and any evil influences within their hearts will be removed by the grace of God as the Gospel stories promise.
The Gospels proclaimed on these three Sundays tell of dramatic events reminding both the elect and all of us that the journey from sin and death to everlasting life is the promise of Jesus Christ and the vocation of every Christian. In the Gospel of the third Sunday, Jesus meets the woman at the well. Like this woman who, in the presence of Jesus, faced all of the falsehood about herself, the elect and all the faithful are reminded that they must never put too much trust in themselves or in their own fragile abilities.
In the Gospel of the fourth Sunday, Jesus heals the man born blind. Like this man, the elect and each of us are challenged to open our eyes and to begin to see with our hearts.
The Gospel of the fifth Sunday announces the ultimate promise of Jesus Christ as savior. Jesus raises his friend Lazarus from the tomb. The message is clear. Whatever entombs any one of us, wherever we are spiritually dead, that’s exactly where Jesus calls us forth to new freedom through our dying and rising with him on the day of our baptism.
Celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation
During the time of their engagement, a couple reassures one another that the loving commitment they offer is unconditional and freely given. With the joyous encouragement of their relatives and friends, they approach the celebration of their wedding day. Similarly, for those who journey through the RCIA, their time of celebration begins at Easter, the culmination of Holy Week.
Holy Week, the most sacred week of the Christian year, commences with Palm Sunday (also called Passion Sunday). The elect join in procession, carrying palm branches while recalling Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Soon the festive mood turns solemn as the Gospel account of Jesus’ passion and death is read. On this day all of us must ask ourselves why we sometimes abandon Jesus as did his first and most intimate disciples.
The final days of preparation for Christian initiation are celebrated during the last three days of week, called the Triduum, from the Latin word for “three days”. On Holy Thursday, the elect are reminded of their call to a life of Christian charity and service as they remember Jesus’ washing the feet of his disciples.
On Good Friday, the elect, together with the congregation, meditate on the self-sacrificing love of Jesus whose heart and body were broken so that ours might be made whole.
Holy Saturday becomes for the elect, their sponsors, and Catholic friends, a day of prayerful waiting, anticipation, fasting, and thanksgiving.
Finally, on Holy Saturday evening, the congregation gathers in darkness and the vigil of Easter begins. A flame pierces the darkness as a large ceremonial candle, symbol of Christ, is carried in procession into the church. The presider and the faithful sing of “Christ, the light of the World,” and Old and New Testament passages are read, which recount the sacred stories of salvation. Now the journey of the elect to the fullness of Christian initiation is completed. Following a litany of praise to the saints and a solemn blessing of the baptismal water, the pastor invites those to be baptized to come forward. With a sponsor’s hand placed on his or her right shoulder, each of the elect enters and emerges from the water, a sign of dying to self and rebirth in Jesus Christ. Immediately, the newly baptized is clothed in a white garment and receives a lighted candle – images of the radiance of new life and faith.
Next, the pastor and his delegated priest confirm the newly received and baptized Christians by laying his hands on each person and anointing each of them with chrism oil. He prays with the community that they will be sealed with the Holy Spirit who is both our helper and guide.
Now at last, the newly initiated are invited to remain with the faithful to share in the Lord’s Supper. Now, for the first time, they may approach the table of the Lord and receive the body and blood of Christ. Surrounded by their Catholic sisters and brothers, they have journeyed to their true home.
Those who wish to enter the Catholic Church but are already baptized in another denomination may also complete their journey at Easter time with adequate preparation determined by the pastor. They, too, are formally welcomed into full membership in the Catholic Church and receive sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist.
Persons who are already baptized as Catholic and who participated in the RCIA process to gain a new awareness of their faith join with the parish community in renewing baptismal promises and celebrating Easter Eucharist.
Period of Mystagogy/Post-Initiation Catechesis
The celebration of a couple’s love on the day of their wedding leads naturally to many days of personal rejoicing as they begin to live together as husband and wife. The days of their honeymoon give them time to look back in appreciation for all that brought them together and to experience and reflect on their first days of married love. Similarly in the RCIA, the newly initiated begin to experience the blessings of their first days and weeks as fully initiated Catholics. Like a newly married couple, they continue to need the support of relatives and friends as they journey onward and begin discerning their own call to be sent in Jesus’ name to witness to the Gospel.
The seven weeks of Easter time, from Easter Sunday to Pentecost, form the fourth and final step in the RCIA process. This step is titled mystagogy. The name comes from the Greek and refers to the profound and joyous “mystery” of living life fully aware that Jesus is Lord. The newly initiated are called neophytes (from the Greek for “new believers”).
On each of the Sundays of Easter time, the Church presents scriptures which tell the wondrous stories of how the disciples were convinced of their call and power to proclaim the victory of Jesus. From the experience of Pentecost onward, they traveled forth announcing the good news of Christ’s presence in every step of life’s journey. It is this sense of “mission ” that culminates the RCIA process. Having become a follower of Jesus, the newly baptized Christian is called to spread the good news of Christ’s life and message.
During the days of Easter time, new Catholics are invited to share the joys of their Easter faith with the parish family. During this time, sponsors, catechists, and parishioners offer assistance to the new Catholics as each one continues his or her formation in the Christian life. For a year following Pentecost, the neophytes meet monthly in their parishes. In this way they can support one another as they deepen their faith commitment. In the years ahead as parishes throughout the world wholeheartedly embrace the four steps of the RCIA journey, the newly baptized as well as those Catholics who are longtime members of the Church will discover within their hearts an ever increasing desire to truly live and proclaim the Gospel message. As this happens, the lives of these twentieth century disciples will speak boldly and lovingly the truth of Jesus’ promise of healing and hope for all the world.