RCIA Stands for Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults
What are the steps of RCIA? (usccb.org)
Prior to beginning the RCIA process, an individual comes to some knowledge of Jesus Christ, considers his or her relationship with Jesus Christ and is usually attracted in some way to the Catholic Church. This period is known as the Period of Evangelization and Precatechumenate. For some, this process involves a long period of searching; for others, a shorter time. Often, contact with people of faith and a personal faith experience lead people to inquire about the Catholic Church. After a conversation with a priest, or RCIA director, the person, known as an “inquirer,” may seek acceptance into the Order of Catechumens, through the Rite of Acceptance. During this Rite, the inquirer stands amidst the parish community and states that he or she wants to become a baptized member of the Catholic Church. The parish assembly affirms this desire and the inquirer becomes a “catechumen.”
The period of the catechumenate can last for as long as several years or for a shorter time. It depends on how the person is growing in faith, what questions they encounter along the way, and how God leads them on this journey. During this time, the catechumens consider what God is saying to them in the Scriptures, what changes in their life they need to make to respond to God’s inspiration, and what Baptism in the Catholic Church means. When a catechumen and the priest and the parish team working with him or her believes the person is ready to make a faith commitment to Jesus in the Catholic Church, the next step is the request for baptism and the celebration of the Rite of Election. Even before the catechumens are baptized, they have a special relationship to the Church.
The Rite of Election includes the enrollment of names of all those seeking baptism at the coming Easter Vigil. Typically, on the first Sunday of Lent, the catechumens, their sponsors and families gather at the cathedral church. The catechumens publicly express their desire for baptism to the diocesan bishop. Their names are recorded in a book and they are called “the elect.”
The days of Lent are the final period of purification and enlightenment leading up to the Easter Vigil. Lent is a period of preparation marked by prayer, study, and spiritual direction for the elect, and prayers for them by the parish communities. The Celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation takes place during the Easter Vigil Liturgy on Holy Saturday when the catechumen receives the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist. Now the person is fully initiated into the Catholic Church.
After the person is initiated, formation and education continue in the period of the post-baptismal catechesis, which is called “mystagogy.” This period continues at least until Pentecost. During the period the newly baptized members reflect on their experiences at the Easter Vigil and continue to learn more about the Scriptures, the Sacraments, and the teachings of the Catholic Church. In addition, they reflect on how they will serve Christ and help in the Church’s mission and outreach activities.
Who is it for?
The RCIA process is designed for adults who are unbaptized or those who were baptized as infants but had little experience with regular church attendance. Individuals baptized in another Christian tradition who have little experience with the Roman Catholic tradition often find this process to be helpful in their discernment of becoming Roman Catholic.
If you are an adult who was baptized and active in another Christian tradition and have more than a year of experience within the Roman Catholic tradition, you may want to discuss this process and any other available alternatives with a member of the RCIA Team.
Role of the Sponsor
The Role of the Sponsor
A sponsor for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) process is a companion for someone walking the journey to initiation. They are not a catechist, so do not worry if you “don’t know a ton” about the Catholic Faith.
Sponsors represent the parish community to the catechumen/candidate as well as stand on behalf of the catechumen/candidate to the parish. The sponsor should be someone who really strives to live out their Catholic faith in a rich, joyful, and dedicated way.
From the Rites of Acceptance and Welcome their role is:
- To be a bridge between the catechumen or candidate and the parish community
- To share with the catechumen or candidate the practices, traditions, and prayers of our Catholic Faith
- To assist the parish initiation team in the formation process
Who Can Be A Sponsor
- Must be a fully initiated Catholic (Baptism, Confirmation, 1st Holy Communion)
- A sponsor must lead a life in harmony with the nature of the ministry of a sponsor (regular attendance of Mass, reception of the Eucharist)
- A sponsor must attend the few required sessions to the best of his/her ability
A Note On Spouses
Spouses can be sponsors, but it is not encouraged. The sponsor must be objective in discerning the individual’s desire and readiness to be fully initiated into the Church. Spouses may not be able to provide this objectivity, though exceptions can be made.
Thank you for deciding to be a sponsor. The responsibilities are few, but crucial, to the RCIA process.
- Email, phone call, or invite out for coffee your candidate a few times a month to “check in” on their process of discernment
- Attend the liturgical rites (dates listed below). If you cannot attend, we will enlist a proxy to stand in for you.
- Always invited, but not required, to attend Thursday evening class (6:30-8 PM)
- Attend Mass with RCIA student at the 11:30 AM Mass once a month
- Invite them to parish events, like Fish Fries or the Fall Festival, so they experience the community life of the parish, not just the sacramental