What is the Catechumenate and RCIA?
The Catechumenate, also known simply as RCIA, is offered to those who have never been baptised, as well as to those who have been baptised.
How long will it take?
Becoming a Catholic is a big step; it is literally a life changing experience, and one which shouldn’t be entered into lightly, nor should anyone ever feel pushed or coerced into becoming a Catholic because their fiancÃ©e is Catholic, or their in-laws expect it, or because it is easier to enrol children into Catholic schools. Like any family, it is always exciting and a great privilege to have new members arriving! There is no doubt that you are welcome, but this needs to be something that you believe God is calling you to, and should also be something that you desire for yourself as well.
First Period: The Pre-Catechumenate
First Ritual Step:
Once initial conversion is experienced, and the unbaptised inquirer is interested in making a more formal commitment to systematically learning about the Catholic faith, then the inquirer is accepted in to the Church as a catechumen. This is done through a public rite called Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens. The inquirer expresses the interest and the Church accepts their intention to respond to Godâ€™s call to follow the way of Christ.
Second Period: The Catechumenate
This phase is meant to be one not only of intellectual and faith formation, but also one of great delight and opportunity to contribute to and benefit from the parish community. The focus clearly is on a conversion of heart, through prayer and good works, but also of conversion of the mind, in which we start to see through the eyes of God, to think, perceive and act as Christ desires. During this time, catechumens receive annointings, participate in prayers of exorcism and blessings, which assists this conversion.
Second Ritual Step:
The Rite of Election is an acknowledgment on behalf of the priest, the RCIA team, and the sponsors, that the catechumen is adequately formed and ready to receive the Sacraments of Initiation. It is a formal acceptance on behalf of the Church.The catechumen too, formally declares that he / she has believed and accepted all that was presented to them during the Catechumenate. This is a formal declaration that it is their desire to become a fully active participant within the Catholic faith community. This Rite takes place during the first Sunday of Lent and from this time, until they are baptised, the catechumens are called the elect.
Third Period: Purification & Enlightenment
Third Ritual Step:
This is the most important of all transitional Rites because it is when the elect are fully incorporated into Christ and the Church by Baptism, Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist at the Easter Vigil. The elect become full members of the Body of Christ, the Church. From this time until the end of the period of mystagogy, they are known as neophytes, “new sprouts.”
Fourth Period: Post-baptismal catechesis (Mystagogy) & Neophyte Year
It is important to note that the fourth stage may be the end or final stage of the RCIA process, but it is only the first stage of the rest of their lives as a fully active and participating member of the Catholic Church.
Who will accompany you on the Journey?
The Archbishop as part of his overall pastoral care of the diocese, personally and actively promotes the Catechumenate and normally welcomes the new members himself by presiding at the Rite of Election and at a Mass of Thanksgiving after Easter.
The priest plays a special role in ministering to the pastoral and spiritual care of those on the journey and those accompanying them.
A team of catechists is responsible for guiding the formation process of the members of the group. As those in formation share their experience of God in their own lives, catechists guide them to a deeper reflection on the Word of God and greater understanding of the faith of the Church.
Sponsors are delegated by the parish family to take an active and supportive role as companions, witnesses and guides for those seeking to join the Catholic Church.
During your time of faith formation in the RCIA, it is important to have a godparent who will be there for you as you continue your new life as a Catholic. Godparents alsoÂ play a special role in the ritual steps of the RCIA journey.