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RCIA: What It Is. What It Does.

Easter Vigil - Flickr Image by: Catholic Church England

RCIA is the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. It is the process by which the unbaptized adult may enter the Church.

The sacraments covered by the RCIA are Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.

Our chapel parish runs the RCIA programme during the school year. This is a short programme compared to other parishes which run it over two or even three years. Not everyone will be ready to receive the sacraments at a given time. They can remain in the programme until they are ready.

The sacraments for RCIA are usually conferred during the Easter Vigil Mass. This Mass is culmination of the Rite.

Our chapel parish, like others, has to be efficient in how we teach RCIA. It is true that the ritual is intended for the unbaptized, but because of small numbers of both catechists and candidates, we also instruct people who have been baptized in another Christian church and wish to become Catholic, and occasionally people who have been baptized into the Catholic Church but were never confirmed.

The programme we are running this year is a combination of the book Making Disciples by M. Jane Carew (Our Sunday Visitor) and the RCIA Participant's Book (ACM).

The first phase of the programme is Evangelism. During this time the basics of the Catholic faith are taught. During this period the Inquirer is introduced to God, and Jesus Christ. This period ends, usually at the First Sunday in Advent, with the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens.

During the next stage, the Catechumenate, catechumens are shown how to be a faithful Catholic. It is a lengthy period of formation of both the mind and the heart of each person. This is not expected to be a finite period, but a habit that will lead to lifelong conversion.

The third stage is heralded by the Rite of Election. This rite is usually held on the First Sunday of Lent. After this point, the Elect enter a stage of purification and enlightenment. The Scrutinies are another liturgical occasion, normally done on the third, fourth and fifth Sundays of Lent.

All of these liturgical events are done in the presence of the entire congregation, who should be supporting the catechumens and candidates in prayer. Their sponsors will be taking a more active role by attending meetings with the candidates and helping them integrate into life as Catholics.

RCIA is a systematic process which should give the catechumens and candidates the language of faith, as well as showing them the right practice of faith. Done well, those who enter the Church through the RCIA process are often better formed than those born to it. This speaks strongly to the need for good catechesis for ALL Catholics.

If you have never experienced RCIA, please consider becoming part of the team in your parish. They can probably use your help and you will likely come out of the process a stronger, better informed Catholic.