The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is a process developed by the Catholic Church for prospective converts to Catholicism who are above the age of infant baptism. Candidates are gradually introduced to aspects of Catholic beliefs and practices.
Director: Liz Gregorius
Phone: (334) 324-1320
The Catholic Church warmly welcomes new members and tries to provide appropriate spiritual formation according to each person’s needs. Often, people who are interested in becoming Catholic fall into categories: people who, whether baptized or unbaptized, have had little or no affiliation with or religious training in the Christian faith; and baptized people who have been active members in other Christian denominations.
Many adults who wish to join the Catholic Church have never been baptized. The church offers unbaptized adults a process of formation in the Catholic Christian faith and way of life called Christian initiation or catechumenate. Christian initiation is a gradual process. It begins somewhat informally with an inquiry period. After the interested person contacts Holy Spirit Parish, he or she will be invited to meet with other people who are exploring the possibility of becoming Catholic. These people have the opportunity to ask questions about the church and to hear about the message of Jesus Christ and how it is lived out in the Catholic Church. A person may continue to participate in these sessions as long as he or she wishes. No commitments are made or expected during this time.
If the person decides to pursue the process of becoming Catholic, he or she enters the catechumenate; unbaptized persons in the catechumenate are called catechumens. The catechumenate provides a structure for the proclamation of the gospel, catechesis (the passing on of the teachings of the church), public and private prayer, spiritual devotion, the observance of the feasts, fasts, Sundays and seasons of the church calendar, direct contact with the members of the parish community and participation in the work of the church for justice and peace. During this time, each catechumen is paired with a sponsor who can serve as a spiritual companion offering support and encouragement.
Through the various rites of the catechumenate, the church marks a person's journey to full membership. These rites reflect his or her spiritual growth and the community's loving concern. The climax of the catechumenate process is the celebration of the Sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist, usually at the Easter Vigil, followed by a period for reflection on the sacraments and for integration into the life and mission of the church. From the time an unbaptized person becomes a catechumen until that person celebrates the sacraments of initiation approximately nine months. Baptized adults who have never been formed in the Christian life also participate in the catechumenate process. As they prepare for acceptance into the Catholic Church, they are known as candidates rather than catechumens. Even though the process is the same, the Catholic church takes care to respect the fact that these people truly are baptized. Only when there is good reason to doubt that the person's baptism took place or was celebrated validly will such a person be baptized before entering the Catholic church. Baptized persons are received into the Catholic church, when they are ready, by making a profession of faith, receiving the sacrament of confirmation and sharing in the Eucharist.
Children who have reached school age, whether they are baptized or unbaptized, will participate in the catechumenate process adapted according to their age.
Period of inquiry. This is a time of introduction to the gospel of Jesus Christ and a time of reflection on one's own life in light of the values of the reign of God. It is an unstructured time of no fixed duration for questions and an opportunity for the beginnings of Christian faith to form.
Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens. In this liturgical rite, those who wish to become catechumens publicly express their desire to follow the way of Jesus. The church accepts their intention and welcomes them into the household of faith as catechumens.
Period of the Catechumenate. Along with the whole community, catechumens celebrate the liturgy of the word at Mass each Sunday. After the homily, the catechumens and their catechists (teachers) continue to study and ponder the scriptures and the teachings of the church. During this time, catechumens receive anointings, participate in prayers of exorcism and blessing, and take part in the mission of the church in the world. Through prayer, learning and coming to know other Catholic Christians, catechumens discover the love and power of God in their lives and in the church.
Election or Enrollment of Names. At this liturgical rite, usually celebrated on the First Sunday of Lent in the cathedral of the diocese, the bishop formally acknowledges the readiness of the catechumens and calls them to the sacraments of initiation. The catechumens respond by expressing their desire for these sacraments. From this time, until they are baptized, they are called the elect.
Period of Purification and Enlightenment. This time of intense preparation for initiation usually coincides with Lent. During this period, the elect and the parish community together focus on conversion, scrutinize their lives in light of the gospel and celebrate the presentations of the Creed and the Lord's Prayer.
Sacraments of Initiation. The elect become full members of the Body of Christ, the church, through the celebration of the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and the Eucharist, usually at the Easter Vigil. From this time until the end of the period of the mystagogy, they are known as neophytes, "new sprouts."
Period of Mystagogy. During the fifty-day season of Easter, neophytes ponder the experience and meaning of the sacraments and participate with the faithful in the Eucharistic life of the church and its mission for justice and peace. Formation and teaching continue for one year to help the neophytes become incorporated into the full life of the Christian community.
Classes are held each Sunday morning in the Holy Spirit Elementary School after the 8:00am Mass, approx. 9:15 a.m., starting the first Sunday after Labor Day each September. If you would like to participate with no obligation to join, please contact Liz Gregorius-contact information listed above.