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Becoming Catholic - The R.C.I.A Process

Most members of the Roman Catholic Church are baptized as infants. They grow up in Catholic homes, receive some form of religious education and gradually come to share in the full sacramental life of the church. Others -- those who were previously baptized in other Christian traditions -- become Catholics after making a solemn profession of faith, receiving communion and sharing Eucharist with the Catholic community. And still others -- those who were not previously baptized - enter into a process that includes all three of the sacraments of Initiation.

The process by which these persons prepare to receive the sacraments is called the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, or the RCIA. The RCIA is the liturgical and formational process of Christian initiation. It was revised and restored in 1972 in accordance with the actions of the Second Vatican Council and by decree of Pope Paul VI. The U.S. statutes were approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1986 and mandated for use in 1988. Prior to the establishment of the Rite of Christian initiation of Adults, we usually referred to those to be received in to the Church as "converts." That word is rarely used today because it is so inadequate to describe what takes place in the lives of the catechumens.

With great commitments of time, energy and prayer, our catechumens have now come to the Rite of Election as persons committed publicly to Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church.

The introduction of the RCIA process restored a vision of Christian community which was embraced by the early church. The church recognized again that faith cannot be artificially induced, that motives must be questioned and evaluated, and that the whole community needs to be renewed. RCIA is not a program nor part of a Religious Education instructional course of study. It is a gradual process that takes place within the community of the faithful.

"From the time of the apostles, becoming a Christian has been accomplished by a journey and initiation in several stages. This journey can be covered rapidly or slowly, but certain essential elements will always have to be present: proclamation of the Word, acceptance of the Gospel entailing conversion, profession of faith, Baptism itself, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and admission to Eucharistic communion. This initiation has varied greatly through the centuries according to circumstances. In the first centuries of the Church, Christian initiation saw considerable development. A long period of catechumenate included a series of preparatory rites, which were liturgical landmarks along the path of catechumenal preparation and culminated in the celebration of the sacraments of Christian initiation." (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1229, 1230)



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