A Look at the Christian Initiation Process
In the early Church those who desired to be baptized and become followers of Jesus engaged in a lengthy period of preparation and instruction. They were called “catechumens” and their process of initiation formed them in the ways of discipleship, incorporated them into the Christian community, and culminated in the sacraments of initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist (Holy Communion). In recent years, the Catholic Church has reclaimed this process now called the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, often referred to as the RCIA process.
Initiation is a journey of conversion that is gradual and suited to individual needs. It is a process rather than an educational program and this process takes place within the community of the faithful, the local Church.
First Period: Inquiry or Pre-Catechumenate
“Come and See!” This is a time to share personal stories, hear the stories of the Catholic faith, ask your questions, be introduced into parish life, and foster initial conversion.
Celebration of the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens and the Rite of Welcoming Baptized Adults.
Second Period: Catechumenate
This period provides time to deepen faith/initial conversion within the living community through:
Catechesis based on the Liturgy of the Word
The richness of the Catholic tradition
The life of the community
Prayer and worship
Introduction to the apostolic life
Celebration of the Rite of Election and of the Call to Continuing Conversion of Candidates Who Are Preparing for Confirmation and Eucharist or Reception into the Full Communion of the Catholic Church.
Third Period: Purification and Enlightment
The Elect (unbaptized) and Candidates (baptized) take time during this Lenten season for deeper prayer and reflection, a Lenten retreat day, and final preparation for the celebration of the initiation sacraments.
Celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation (Easter Vigil) and of the Rite of Reception into the Full communion of the Catholic Church.
Fourth Period: Post Baptismal Instruction or Mystagogy
This period allows for the deepening of sacramental life with emphasis on Gospel, Eucharist, and Mission.