The RCIA, or Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, is the journey by which someone enters into the Catholic Church. This journey is unique as the person taking it, but it has several main components.
The Period of Inquiry
The Period of Inquiry is the first step of the journey. To use a marital analogy, this is where an adult would be dating the Catholic Church. In this step of the relationship, you are spending time with the Church’s teachings, asking questions, and trying to figure out if you want to make a greater commitment.
The Period of Inquiry is the least structured part of the RCIA, and carried no ongoing commitment. If you would like to learn more about the Catholic Church, please utilize the links to the side, come to our next Catholic Discovery event, or fill out the form at the bottom of this page.
Once someone is ready to make a formal commitment to the journey of entering the Catholic Church, they would go through the Rite of Acceptance (if they have not been baptized) or the Rite of Welcome (if they have). Those who are unbaptized are then called catechumens, while those who are already baptized are called candidates for full communion.
The Period of the Catechumenate
The Period of the Catechumenate is the longer step of the journey, and is the “steady dating” part of one’s relationship with the Church. While there is some level of commitment (even a deep level sometimes), a catechumen or candidate must spend time getting to deeply know Jesus Christ and His Church. During this time, there are sessions wherein the doctrines of the Catholic Church are explained, prayer and liturgical rites to help us worship God, and individual care given by a sponsor, a member of the parish who walks with each catechumen and candidate to meet their unique needs and situation.
Once sufficient time has passed, a catechumen or candidate may make the final decision to enter the Church and begin the final period of preparation. If that is the case, they would go through the Rite of Election (catechumens) or the Call to Continuing Conversion (candidates). Typically, this happens during the First Sunday of Lent. After this rite, catechumens are now called the elect (candidates remain the same).
The Period of Purification and Enlightenment
After the Rite of Election or Call to Continuing Conversion, the elect and the candidates begin their final preparations for entering the Church. This period is like being “engaged” to the Church – a serious commitment and intent to complete the process is present. These final preparations center around the elect or candidate’s spiritual life, and typically correspond with the weeks of Lent.
At the end of Lent, those who are ready receive the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist) for the first time at the Easter Vigil (candidates are received into the Church but not baptized). Here they are “married” to Christ by becoming part of His bride, the Church.
The Period of Mystagogy
After their reception into the Church, the neophytes (new Catholics) are not merely left to fend for themselves. Just like the fruit of a marriage is new life, these neophytes have new life in Christ and His Church. Also like babies, they are often in need to further help as they learn how to navigate this new life. For this reason, a further period of formation happens for them. This period focuses on looking at the same teachings and experiences from the catechumenate, but through the new lens of the Faith they have now received.