The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults

Are you interested in becoming a Catholic? St. Monica Catholic Church welcomes you to join our RCIA!
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (commonly known as RCIA) is the normal way in which adults become full, active, participating members of the Catholic Church.

The RCIA is not just a "convert class" with a new name. It looks different, too. Special rites are celebrated during the Sunday liturgies at various times throughout the year. Adults involved in RCIA may be dismissed each week after the homily to go and reflect on the scriptures they have just heard. RCIA involves the whole community - in prayer as the rites are celebrated, in hospitality as new members are welcomed and in ministries like sponsor, team member, or dismissal leader.

The most important thing to keep in mind about RCIA is this: it is not merely a new way to prepare adults for baptism; baptism is only one step. The goal of the process is full communion which means "full, conscious and active participation" in the Eucharist and in the whole life of the Catholic faith community.

RCIA helps adults to grow in their relationship with God, become familiar with Catholic teachings and practices, get acquainted with people in the community and get involved in service within the community.
Many persons who want to join the Catholic Church have already been baptized in another Christian Church. They will not be rebaptized. They will follow a form of these four steps adapted to the particular needs and concerns of Christians from another faith tradition.

First Step: Period of Inquiry
How someone comes to consider joining the Catholic Church is unique to each individual. Years of marriage to a Catholic spouse, conversations with a Catholic friend or co-worker or even something written or viewed in the media can move an adult toward membership in the Catholic Church. Informally, this can go on for years!

At some point, the person may contact a Catholic parish or community and begin to meet with other adults who are also inquiring about the Catholic faith. These adults, with members of the RCIA team, will take time to tell their own stories and connect them with the faith stories found in scripture.

Second Step: Rite of Acceptance into The Order of Catechumens and the Period of the Catechumenate
Some of the inquirers become firm in their desire for initiation and decide that they would like to begin more formal study of the teachings and practices of the Catholic Church. They are admitted into the next step through a special ceremony called the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens. In this ritual the Church symbolically claims these men and women for Christ by signing them with the cross.

This is the first time that the inquirers publicly declare their faith before the community. Because no one likes to do something like that on his/her own, each inquirer is accompanied by a sponsor. Sponsors may be chosen by the individual or provided by the community. Sponsors provide support and companionship for the rest of the RCIA process.

After this rite, the inquirers are called catechumens. This name indicates that they are learning the teachings of the Church and beginning to accept the Catholic tradition and practices.

Even though they are not yet permitted to receive the sacraments, the catechumens do enjoy other important rights. They have a right to assistance as they grow in faith by learning about the teachings of the Church and participating in works of service in the community. They also have a right to be married in the Church and to receive Christian burial.

Third Step: Rite of Election and the Period of Purification and Enlightenment
The period of the catechumenate ends when the catechumens discern, with the help of their sponsors and the parish RCIA team, that God is calling them to receive the sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and First Eucharist) at the next Easter Vigil. Before they can be initiated, they must be officially called to the sacraments by the bishop or someone designated by him. This Rite of Election is often celebrated on the First Sunday of Lent in the diocesan cathedral.

The Rite of Election marks the end of formal study of the teachings and practices of the Church. The catechumens are now called the elect. The weeks of Lent are a time of intense prayer as the elect prepare themselves to celebrate the resurrection of the Lord at Easter and to receive the sacraments of initiation.

On the Sundays of Lent, the elect are prayed for in a special way to help them prepare more fully for the sacraments. The sponsors continue to accompany the elect in church and support them in their Lenten preparations.

Fourth Step: Initiation and Mystagogia
On Holy Saturday, the community assembles for the Easter Vigil. The Church has always recognized that in baptism, we die to sin in Christ's death so that we may rise to new life with him. The Easter Vigil is the primary celebration of the Lord's Resurrection and is, therefore, the most appropriate occasion for the elect to celebrate their Baptism, Confirmation and the First Eucharist.

For the newly initiated, now called the neophytes, the time between Easter and Pentecost is a special opportunity to reflect on the commitment which they have made to the lord, to the Church and to the local Catholic community. This time of unfolding the meaning of the initiation sacraments is called mystagogia. The Sunday scripture readings, which explain the meaning of the resurrection and of baptism, have special meaning for these new Catholics.

The Journey of faith lasts a lifetime. The weeks after Easter are a time for new Catholics to seek out their place in the community. Other community members can reach out to welcome them, helping them to get involved and feel at home. The neophytes are encouraged to join a Small Christian Community to help them get to know other Catholics, to continue to share their faith, and continue to have the support of others.

What is RCIA?
The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) is the process by which adults are initiated into the Catholic Church. Under the guidance of our Pastor and RCIA Director at St. Monica, Palatka, Florida, the RCIA process is conducted by a team of lay church members and clergy over a nine-month period which begins each September and culminates around the celebration of the Ascension.

RCIA is not a program or a class in Catholicism. The RCIA process follows an ancient practice of the Church and was restored by the Second Vatican Council as the normal way adults prepare for baptism. In 1974, the Rite for Christian Initiation for Adults was formally approved for use in the United States.

Is there a shorter version of the RCIA?
Insights into a nationwide survey conducted around 1999 by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) Office for Evangelization revealed that the length of the current “program” is "about right".

It seems reasonable that catechumens or uncatechized candidates experience the yearly calendar of Catholic practice at least one time around in order to make an informed decision.

What are all the steps to becoming Catholic?
The RCIA journey is divided into four periods (Inquiry, Catechumenate, Purification & Enlightenment, and Mystagogy) that respect the individual's journey of faith. The community celebrates a special ritual at the conclusion of each period of Christian formation and moves the participants into the next step.

Who can participate?
The RCIA process is open to all those individuals who are unbaptized and who express a desire to study Catholic Christian beliefs and practices.
The program is also open to those individuals who have been baptized in another Christian denomination and who wish to explore membership in the Catholic Church.

Finally, the RCIA is open to Catholics who have been baptized but who have not received the other entry sacraments of Confirmation and/or Holy Eucharist.

What can I expect?
Individuals who go through the RCIA process should expect to find themselves in a much deeper relationship with God and possessing a better understanding of current Catholic teaching and practices.

As part of the conversion process, they study the Gospel, profess faith in Jesus and the Catholic Church, and receive the sacraments of baptism, confirmation and Holy Eucharist. In addition, one prized aspect of the RCIA experience cited by previous participants are the feelings of community, friendship and acceptance that it produces.

Is there any cost to participate in RCIA?
No, none whatsoever.

Am I obligated to become Catholic?
There is no obligation on participants to become members of the Catholic Church. Anyone seeking information about the Catholic faith is welcome to attend our sessions.

Participants will be encouraged to ask questions and dialogue with the material. There are times during the RCIA process for you to explore your intentions and continue to discern God's call. Everything shared during the sessions will be treated with confidentiality and respect.

What if I was baptized but not as a Catholic?
You will be glad to know that the Catholic Church universally recognizes most Christian baptisms. You are welcome to explore the Catholic faith with us, and if and when you so choose, you can prepare to join the Catholic faith through the RCIA process. Prayer, discernment and reflection are part of the RCIA experience.

What is expected of Me?
All that is needed is a sincere desire to grow and learn. Attendance is expected at the 9:00 am Mass on Sundays and meetings after Mass until 11:30 a.m..

Attendance is expected at the Rite of Election in St. Augustine, Florida, and at the Easter Vigil. Each member of the RCIA is encouraged to spend some time each week in prayer and to read the reflection materials that are given out on Sundays.
The Sunday morning sessions are opportunities to raise questions and dialogue with the material. People who feel comfortable sharing questions and reactions are encouraged to do so.

How long will the Sunday sessions take?
Sunday sessions go from September through April. We meet for the 9 am Mass. We are dismissed halfway through the Mass and then we go directly to the Parish Life Center where we break open the scriptures until around 10:00 am. We break for breakfast in the church hall and then meet until 11:30 a.m..

I understand that I need a sponsor, is this true?
Yes, each RCIA candidate needs a sponsor. As Jesus taught his disciples the importance of community, it is significant that we walk this faith journey with companions, who participate in the process with you and help you find the resources and answers that you may have on your journey. If you don’t have a sponsor, we can find one for you by matching you with a lay volunteer and member of the parish.

What is a sponsor?
A sponsor is a practicing Catholic, either friend or family member, who is a spiritual companion and support on the journey, and serves as a mentor in the Christian life.

What do sponsors do?
Sponsors actively participate in our meetings and celebration of the Sacraments. They converse regularly about the participant ongoing process of faith development. Their promise is to be good listeners and to help participants to know where God is leading them without pushing them in any direction.

What materials are needed?
All needed materials will be given to you.

Do other Catholic churches have a similar program?
Yes. Most parishes have RCIA programs. They may differ slightly in approach, but all have a similar format and time frame

I just have a feeling of not knowing enough about the church to feel comfortable yet.
That’s okay. The RCIA is a time of exploration, where people can ask questions and learn about the church. People coming from other faith groups may have many questions about Catholicism, and areas where they don’t feel comfortable. Don’t worry. Each person is given the space to question, to think for themselves, and to take all the time they need to make a decision about joining the Church.

There is no obligation. Certainly even Catholics don’t know everything about the Church. It is a lifetime process, and each person is encouraged to make the journey at their own pace.

Is it common to feel unsure about my relationship with the Church and Catholicism?
Yes. Many people are unsure, even many Catholics! Many people go through uncertainty and questions. That is normal. That is healthy. It is a sign that you are taking your spiritual growth seriously.

RCIA is there to help you grow in your relationship with God first, whether or not you join the church is secondary. You will not be expected to agree with everything the church says. This is simply a time of exploration.

What if we have doubts about converting?
Follow your heart. Go where you feel most at home. If it is the Catholic church great, if not, that is fine too. We would simply suggest that you explore, ask questions and listen to where you feel God is leading you. Pray for guidance, and you will be led to the right place, wherever it may be.

I haven’t felt God much in my life. What if I still haven’t really found God in my life?
The fact that you are asking the question says that you are moving toward God, and God is working in your life. The desire for a relationship with God is in itself a sign of God’s presence. Keep listening and praying. Ask God to open your heart and amazing things will happen.

I am engaged to a Catholic. Can I become Catholic in time for the wedding?
That depends on when the wedding is. The RCIA process takes around 9 months, so it is good to plan accordingly. In some cases you may be able to expedite the process and be received into the Church prior to the Easter vigil, though it is not the recommended way to do it.

Why does the RCIA process take such a long time?
Faith is something that takes time to grow, like a flower takes time to grow from a seed and bloom. RCIA is a process by which the seed of faith is nurtured, and it takes different amounts of time for different people. Someone who is wanting to become Catholic must learn about the faith before they can make a decision, and that learning takes time.

Like any relationship, a person's relationship with God develops, and it can’t be rushed. Everyone has their own pace, and their own particular needs and questions. The good news is that the process is fun, too! Most people who have come through the process say at the end: "I wish it had been longer.”

I am engaged to a Catholic. Does it mean I have to join RCIA?
No. You don’t have to be Catholic to get married in the Church. The decision to join the RCIA is one that you should make for yourself, because it is something you want to do, not because you feel you have to.

Do I need an annulment before I can join St. Monica? If “yes” what is the criteria?
No, you don’t need an annulment before you can attend St. Monica. The only time it becomes an issue is if you are divorced and plan on getting remarried in the Church. The annulment process takes approximately 6 months to a year. You start by consulting with a priest and starting the paperwork. You fill out certain forms discussing the reasons that your marriage didn’t work out, and those forms are sent to the tribunal in Jacksonville, who then makes a decision. It is advisable if you are planning on getting married in the Church to do this as soon as possible, to avoid the frustration of having to do that while planning your wedding.

If I was confirmed in another denomination, do I need to be re-confirmed in the Catholic Church?
When someone has been baptized in another denomination, they are not re-baptized. People who have already been confirmed are re-confirmed and receive Communion as part of being brought into the Church at the Easter Vigil.

We invite you to get closer to God through RCIA at St. Monica.

Learn More

Contact: Cheryl Meis