What Is The RCIA?
R.C.I.A. (Rites of Christian Initiation of Adults) is the process through which one becomes a full member of the Roman Catholic Church. Full membership in the Catholic Church involves a whole formation process, which includes reception of the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and the Most Holy Eucharist. While coming to know Jesus and His invitation to become a disciple, the R.C.I.A. process involves the journey of faith and conversion. A person is introduced to the beliefs, life, liturgy, and apostolic work of the Catholic Church.
Who Is RCIA For?
R.C.I.A. is designed primarily for those desiring Baptism – the beginning of the life of a Christian. For those who have already been baptized Christians, we will evaluate their needs and appropriately involve them in our programming. For those that are already baptized, please refer to the section titled, “Ministry to the Baptized.”
The Five Main Stages of R.C.I.A.
- The Period of Inquiry (Length of Time Specific to the Individual)
The Period of Inquiry is a time to become acquainted with the Catholic Church and to hear the good news of salvation from Jesus Christ, our Savior. It is a time to look within one’s life story and see connections to our needs for the Gospel. This reflective process becomes a continuing, on-going method during the entire journey. During this reflective process, one should ask questions, discern, and learn about a life of faith in Christ and the Catholic Church.
During this period, some may decide that this is not the right time for them to consider membership in the Catholic Church. It is entirely up to the individual’s free will, and no pressure will be exerted against this decision.
2. The Period of Catechumenate (4 months)
The Period of Catechumenate embodies the first stages of commitment leading to full membership. To enter into this phase, one must already have come to faith in Jesus Christ as one’s Lord and Savior and sincerely desire to become members of the Catholic Church. The catechumens now gather with the Catholic community on Sunday’s for Liturgy of the Word. They then are dismissed after the homily for Breaking Open the Word, where one will encounter Scripture in one’s own life and discuss it amongst one’s group.
During this period, the initial conversion is deepened and appropriated more deeply into the lives of the catechumens.
3. The Period of Purification & Illumination (6 weeks)
The Period of Purification & Illumination corresponds to the Catholic Church’s time as “Lent,” which is the six-weeks of preparation before Easter. This period becomes a prayerful time for catechumens, who are now known as the “Elect,” as they prepare for the moment they enter into Full Communion with the Catholic Church in the Sacraments of Initiation. This period is begun by the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion, which is celebrated at the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, under the headship of the Bishop. By this rite, they are accepted as candidates for the sacraments by the Bishop, representing the fact that this decision is not theirs alone.
Throughout Lent, special prayers are offered at Sunday Masses for the elect and candidates – these are called “scrutinies.” These prayers are for one’s strengthening in grace and virtue and for purification from all past evil and any bonds that hinder them from experiencing God’s love. Throughout this period, the elect are invited to join with the whole Church in a deeper practice of charity works and the practice of fasting.
During this Period, Breaking Open the Word continues, and Lent’s readings were chosen with the themes of continuing conversion in mind. Toward the end of the period, the Church continues the custom of “handing over” to the Elect the Creed (the summary of our faith) and the Lord’s Prayer (which represents its practice of continuing prayer after the command of Jesus who taught us to pray).
4. The Celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation (One night)
The Sacraments of Initiation are celebrated at the Easter Vigil, an extended night-watch of prayer, singing, and hearing God’s Word in anticipation of Christ’s resurrection at Easter.
Through the waters of baptism, a person passes into the new life of grace and becomes a member of the Body of Christ. By anointing the person with the Sacred Chrism, one is sealed by the power of the Holy Spirit and is then called to full participation at the Eucharistic Table, which marks full membership in the Catholic Church.
5. The Period of Mystagogy (50 days)
The Period of Mystagogy lasts from Easter Sunday until the completion of the Easter Season at Pentecost. At the end of mystagogy, one reaches the end of the Rites of Christian Initiation. Those who have just shared in the Sacraments of Initiation are now called “neophytes,” and during this period of Easter joy, they reflect on what they have just gone through and look to the future as to how they can now share in the mission of Christ who came to bring salvation and life to the whole world. This time period reminds the whole church that life in Christ constantly calls us to grow and to look for new ways to live the life of grace both personally and together. This final period reminds the neophytes that the initiation process is just that: initiation, not graduation, and this means a commitment to a lifelong journey of conversion.
Ministry To The Baptized
For those who have already been baptized into another Christian faith, St. Tom’s welcomes you in your discernment of the Catholic Faith. Respectful of and tailored to one’s particular needs, this process will help lead an already baptized person into Full Communion with the Catholic Church through the sacraments of Confirmation and the Most Holy Eucharist. To start the journey, an initial interview is essential to discern what might be appropriate for each individual. To schedule that interview, please contact John Strong, the Director of Adult Faith Formation, whose contact information can be found at the bottom of this page.
How Long Does RCIA Take?
The R.C.I.A. process at St. Thomas Aquinas: The Catholic Center at Purdue is geared toward the Purdue community, as breaks line-up with Fall Break, Christmas Break, Spring Break, and Summer Break. During the academic year, sessions are held weekly from 7:00 – 9:00 p.m. on Wednesdays, beginning the first week of September.
Those who have not yet been baptized will be fully initiated into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil after participating in the R.C.I.A. process for at least one academic year.
Those who have been baptized into a non-Catholic Christian tradition will be received into Full Communion with the Catholic Church after completing their formation, respective of their particular needs. As such, this time-frame varies depending on the person.
What About Bringing A Friend Or A “Sponsor”?
Each participant must have a sponsor to walk with him or her through each step of the process. You may choose your sponsor with our approval, or we will provide you with a community sponsor. The sponsor must be at least 16 years of age, a confirmed, practicing Catholic, and not a parent.
Tips to Help you as you Begin this Journey
St. Tom’s is here to help you grow in your relationship to Jesus Christ, and the whole R.C.I.A. process is about growing in union with God. To start the process, you should: (1) begin learning prayers and building a habit of daily prayer; (2) be open to the fullness of Catholic teaching and life; and (3) begin to live according to the fullness of Catholic life even now (e.g., regarding doctrine and living the moral life).