What is RCIA? Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults

RCIA - Welcome to the Catholic Church

There are 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide, filling more than 221,700 parishes. Each year, many adults are called to join the Catholic faith. How does someone join the Catholic Church? Through a process called the RCIA.

RCiA - Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults

Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is the process in which adults become full, participating members of the Catholic Church. Participants, known as catechumens go through a process of studying the Gospel, nurturing their relationship with God, becoming familiar with the Catholic teachings and practices, professing their faith in Jesus and the Church, and receiving the sacraments of initiation: Baptism, Communion, and Confirmation

"I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me." (Proverbs 8:17)

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Let’s take a closer look at the process of RCIA and answer some FAQs about this important journey.

Who can join?

The Church extends an invitation to all who wish to become members of the Catholic faith. Those who go through the RCIA process fall under one of the following categories:

  • Someone who is of another faith and wishes to convert to Catholicism
  • An individual who was baptized in another Christian denomination and wishes to become a member of the Catholic faith
  • Someone who was baptized in the Catholic Church, but never received the sacraments of First Holy Communion and Confirmation

What does the process entail?

There are four steps in the RCIA process.

1. Period of Evangelization or Inquiry

Period of Evangelization or Inquiry

This is the first step in the process where individuals, known as inquirers, first consider joining the Catholic faith. Perhaps they heard a co-worker or friend discussing the tenets of Catholicism and their interest was sparked; or maybe they are in a serious relationship with someone who is a Catholic and want to convert.

Whatever the reason, they’ll have plenty of questions and will be looking for answers. Reaching out to a priest for guidance is a helpful first step. This time is spent searching, asking, praying, and learning if this is something they want to pursue.

2. Rite of Acceptance

Rite of Acceptance RCIA

Inquirers are publicly welcomed by the church community during a special mass when they declare their intent in embarking on the journey to becoming full members of the Catholic Church. At this point, the individuals are known as catechumens, the Greek word meaning, “one being instructed.”

During this step, the catechumens go through an extended period of studying and learning about the Catholic way of life. They’ll study the Scriptures and learn about the doctrines of the Church. They’ll regularly attend mass and reflect on the different readings each week. Once they’ve experienced a true conversion to the Catholic way of life (usually one year) they’ll go onto the third step in the process.

3. Rite of Election

Ash on forehead

This step takes place on the first Sunday of Lent. The catechumens formally sign the Book of the Elect declaring before the community, their family, and the bishop of their diocese that they are called by God to receive sacraments. They are now known as the elect.

Throughout the season of Lent, the elect go through the final step of intense prayer, purification, and enlightenment in preparation for receiving the sacraments at the Easter Vigil.

Initiation and Mystagogia.

Easter Vigil Mass

The elect are fully initiated into the Church when they receive the sacraments during the Easter Vigil Mass on Holy Saturday. What better way to celebrate being fully initiated into the Church than when we celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord. 

For the newly initiated, the period between Easter and Pentecost (known as mystagogia and lasting 50 days) is a meaningful time spent on reflecting further on the sacraments they just received as well as the commitment they made to the Lord and to their community.

Must-Have Tools

There are many tools available—from books to prayer cards—that can help enrich and inspire you and your loved ones on the journey to being full, active members of the Catholic Church.

Gifts to continue the journey

Once someone becomes a member of the church, their journey doesn’t end there. The journey of faith lasts a lifetime. The following are some meaningful gift ideas to give someone to remind them of their spiritual milestone.

Are you considering joining the Catholic Church?

Do you know someone who is currently undergoing the RCIA process? 

  • Janna says:

    If an individual completes RCIA can they receive the bread if they are married by a justice of the peace?

    • Hampton Scott Tonk says:

      If it is mere bread, yes. But if it is the consecrated Bread of the Eucharist, which is the Body of Christ, the answer is “No.” You may not receive Holy Communion in the Catholic Church unless you are in full Eucharistic Communion with the Catholic Church. However, if you are a catechumen, you are considered part of the Catholic community, and you certainly would be welcome to go up to the Priest with your arms folded across your chest and receive God’s blessing.

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