The journey of faith and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults

ABOUT BECOMING A CATHOLIC

The decision to change our religion is a big one! This is especially true for adults  - but it may well be the right decision for you! Becoming a Catholic is best described as a journey, which sometimes lasts many years. It has formal and informal elements, meetings, discussions and celebrations, both individually and in the company of others. The Parish's role is to assist and guide on this journey, supporting you with prayer and practical help.
The programme of becoming a member of the Catholic Church is called the “Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults” or RCIA for short. In some parishes, even this is felt to be something of a mouthful, so they call their programme ABC - “About Becoming Catholic”. It is also sometimes referred to as “Journey in Faith”.

Whatever the name or the abbreviation, what is involved is a journey - a journey of learning, thinking, praying, understanding, questioning: at the beginning of the journey you are known as an “Inquirer” - someone who is looking for something. By the end of the journey you will be a member of the Church - which doesn’t mean that all the questions are answered or that everything suddenly gets easier! But it does mean that you will belong - belong to God in a new way, and belong to the family of the Church.

In the Journey of Initiation you will learn many new things, but the focus is NOT on learning! You will be given an opportunity to experience the Catholic Faith: you may sometimes find this challenging, sometimes reassuring, and sometimes baffling! Throughout the programme, you will be encouraged to ask any questions you have about the Church.
There will be a strong focus on prayer - learning why this is part of our Catholic lives, as well as looking at techniques and styles of prayer.

An important part of the programme is your participation in Sunday worship: you will be expected to attend Mass regularly as part of the journey, since the Sunday gathering of the community at prayer is the principal expression of what it is to be the Church of God. We hope that this is the place where you will find your spiritual home.

It may be that as we journey along you find yourself thinking that maybe the Catholic Church isn’t right for you. Don’t panic: talk to someone, keep listening and thinking. At this stage it is important to remember that we are on a journey!

Please make sure you have a Catholic to be your sponsor—they will be a great help to you as you go through this journey. If you do not know any Catholics, please speak to the priest about this.

 How does the programme work?
The initiation of adults is in four stages:

1: INQUIRY
This is a very vague and open-ended period, where a person “tests the waters”, seeing if the Catholic faith is really something they are drawn to: a person may have been doing this for several years already. During this stage, you will meet the priest to discuss your individual situation.

2: PRE-CATECHUMENATE
In this period—normally lasting about four or five months, a candidate will come to a series of meetings, which will give them information about practising the Catholic Faith. They will also be attending Sunday Mass each week.

3: CATECHUMENATE
In October each year candidates who are ready will be admitted as catechumens, an ancient word describing someone preparing to be baptised. From then until the following Easter, they will meet every fortnight for instruction and prayer, as well as attending Mass every week. The climax of the programme is Initiation at the Easter Vigil (the Saturday night before Easter Sunday), when adults are baptised or received into the Church, and receive the Sacraments of Confirmation and First Holy Communion to make them full members of the Church.

4: MYSTAGOGY
After Easter we continue to meet for a month or so, to help the new Catholics settle into their new faith.
 Will I need to be baptised?
This depends on what has happened already: some people have already been baptised in another Christian Church - in these cases we do not baptise you again, but the sacraments of Confirmation and Communion will welcome you into the Church. If you have never been baptised then your becoming a Catholic will happen through your Baptism, Confirmation and First Communion. “Initiation” - these sacraments whereby you become a Catholic - is always celebrated at Easter.
Apart from attendance at meetings and celebrations, the only thing that will be needed is a Sponsor - a practising Catholic who can befriend you and help you on this journey.