Rite of Christian Initiation (RCIA)
The Catholic Faith community of Sandwich and Sagamore, MA welcomes you! We hope these pages help you find answers and insights into our parish's RCIA program.
What is the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults?
The RCIA provides support and welcome for individuals as they consider formal conversion to the Catholic Church. It is both a ministry and a sacramental process, and is available to any adult who is not baptized, was baptized into other denominations, or who received a Catholic baptism but never received First Holy Communion or Confirmation.
Is RCIA just about conversion?
To describe RCIA simply as the Church's conversion process gives no sense for how RCIA helps people understand the Catholic Church, the role of the community in the process, and God's call in their own lives to join it. No one can "convert" anyone else. Conversion is and exercise of a person's free will; it is a response they have to a stirring they feel; it is fueled by their increasing discernment; and it is a continual process.
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults recognizes that God stirs each of us in a unique way and that we recognize this stirring at our own pace. It supports the personal and sometimes delicate nature of each person's journey towards understanding their relationship with God and their Church. The RCIA process provides each participant with opportunities to experience the richness of the Church and then, through discussion and exploration, helps them to better understand God's call in their life and the ways they can respond to it. Along the entire way they are supported by sponsors, RCIA team members, other parish ministries, and the entire parish and diocesan community.
Four steps to full communion:
RCIA is organized into four distinct steps, each intended to give the candidate growing exposure to the Church and parish community's beliefs and culture and to help them better understand God's personal call in their own life. The first step, called "Inquiry" or "Precatechumenate", is about story telling and getting comfortable. The group meets casually, often in a team member's home, and while there are many opportunities to discuss and learn about the Catholic faith the focus of these Inquiry sessions is on helping people relax and get comfortable with the process.
Those who have been active in the Inquiry process can take the second step in their journey by formally declaring their desire to join the Church. This takes place in a beautiful ceremony highlighted by the Rites of Welcoming and Acceptance. These are the first of several rites that will mark their journey in the months ahead. The Rites of Welcoming and Acceptance also mark the beginning of a more formal education and formation process - the Catechumenate.
The Catechumenate meets at least weekly in association with the parish Mass. Its goal is to create an environment where the individuals can tune into the stirring that brought them to the RCIA process in the first place. It accomplishes this in several ways - reading and discussion of the scriptures, sharing of faith and life experiences, exploration of Catholic tradition, ritual and prayer, and stewardship. As the individuals open themselves to the RCIA experience they often find themselves growing in unexpected ways. Old ideas and priorities are reevaluated and things that didn't seem important at first take on dazzling new meaning.
As Lent and Easter approach each member of the Catechumenate has the opportunity to take the third step in the RCIA process. This step begins with a celebration - the parish and the diocese celebrate God's choice of the catechumens to become members of His Church. First, at the Rite of Sending the parish celebrates and gives testimony to the Catechumenate's intentions, and later on that same day at the diocese cathedral in Fall River they celebrate with the Bishop the Rite of Election (for the unbaptized) and Call to Continuing Conversion (for the baptized). This period in the RCIA process is one of purification and enlightenment that coincides perfectly with the season of Lent and the great joy of Easter. Back at the parish, the weekly group sessions continue but with added richness and insight as each person is drawn closer to the Easter Vigil and its significance. Finally, on that great Easter evening all the pieces are brought together and the individual is drawn into the eternal community of God by the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and first Holy Communion.
Easter represents many new beginnings, and for the new members of the Church it is the begining of a new life in a new community. The "Neophytes", as they are called, probably have many questions still unanswered, and their sense of self and their new relationship with God is still forming. The final step of the RCIA process, called "Mystagogy", helps provide a "soft landing" from the heights of their Easter experience. It gives them a comfortable setting, now among friends and fellow church-members, to discuss the experience and consider "What Next". The RCIA and the entire Church community remain there to provide support and encouragement as the new members assume their new life in Christ and his Catholic Church.