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The RCIA is the process in the church by which adults become fully initiated as Catholic. The process originated in the early church and was restored in the late 80s as the normative way adults were admitted to the Catholic religion. Becoming Catholic is a journey in faith which can be described in the following manner:
INQUIRY: People are searching for a way to respond to God’s goodness in their lives by finding a religion with which they feel comfortable. They are invited to participate in periodic gatherings to share their stories, ask questions, and pray with members of the faith community. There is no commitment on the part of the participant at this time. This is just a time for getting to know each other.
RITE OF WELCOMING/ACCEPTANCE: When a person feels comfortable with his or her experience of the Church, the person is invited to a Sunday Mass where he/she is welcomed by the whole community into a time of learning Christ. This is also the time when a sponsor, a faithful member of the parish, agrees to accompany the person through the journey of faith. Part of the mystery of life involves dying to self and rising to new life in Christ. A sponsor is a living witness of how to live a life of Christ.
This Rite signifies a commitment on the part of the church community to support the person and a commitment on the part of the person to participate at Sunday Mass, weekly sessions based on the Gospel, prayer, and doing the good works of the community.
CATECHUMENATE: Once the person has committed in the Rite of Welcoming/Acceptance he/she enters into the time of the catechumenate. This word is derived from a Greek word that means “echo.” During the time of the catechumenate the person learns Christ, not only by the instruction, but by the witness of the parish community.
RITE OF SENDING: Each year as Lent approaches, individuals who have been engaged in the catechumenate discern, along with the sponsor and church community, whether they are ready to receive the sacraments of initiation at the coming Easter Vigil. Those who are ready are presented to the pastor at Mass. Their sponsors attest to their readiness and the pastor blesses the people and assures them of the prayers of the parish as they begin the next period of their faith journey.
RITE OF ELECTION: All those who have participated in the Rite of Sending are invited to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis King of France (The Old Cathedral) on the First Sunday of Lent to be welcomed by Archbishop Robert Carlson.
PERIOD OF ENLIGHTENMENT: The time of Lent becomes a time of deeply spiritual preparation for the celebration of the Easter sacraments. Each week the parish community prays over those preparing for the sacraments of initiation so that they may be ready as humanly possible to be baptized or make a profession of faith, be confirmed, and receive first Eucharist.
CELEBRATION OF THE SACRAMENTS OF INITIATION: The night before Easter is the time that the sacraments of initiation: baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist are celebrated. Those people who have already been baptized into a mainline Christian faith do not need to be baptized again, but will make a profession of faith into the Catholic Church. All are then confirmed in their faith, and as Mass continues, they make their First Communion. The new Catholics are then sent forth with the rest of the parish community to love and serve the Lord and one another.
MYSTAGOGY: The journey of faith is not over at the Easter celebration of the sacraments of initiation. The newest Parish community members continue to meet together to share their stories of initiation and discern ways that they can best use their gifts to contribute to the life of the Church. This is a joyful time as the newly received into the Church give thanks to God for the gift that has been given to them.