Each year on Holy Saturday during the Easter Vigil, thousands are baptized into the Catholic Church in the United States. Parishes welcome these new Catholics through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).
RCIA is a ritual book which provides a process of formation and rituals for those seeking to become Catholic Christian. The book describes the process for adults [7 years and older] who have never been baptized and are seeking to become Catholic. It also provides the process for adults who are already baptized in a different ecclesial community who are seeking to come into full communion with the Catholic Church.
The following are several questions and answers outlined by the United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB.org). For more information and Q&As, please visit their Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) page.
What are the steps in the RCIA for a person who is not baptized?
Prior to beginning the process described in the RCIA, an individual comes to some knowledge of Jesus Christ, considers his or her relationship with Jesus Christ, and is usually attracted in some way to the Catholic Church. This period is known as the Period of Evangelization and Pre-catechumenate. For some, this process involves a long period of searching; for others, a shorter time. Often, contact with people of faith and a personal faith experience lead people to inquire about the Catholic Church. After a conversation with a priest or RCIA director, the person, known as an “inquirer,” may seek acceptance into the Order of Catechumens through the Rite of Acceptance. During this Rite, the inquirer stands amidst the parish community and states that he or she wants to become a baptized member of the Catholic Church. The parish assembly affirms this desire and the inquirer becomes a Catechumen.
The Period of the Catechumenate lasts at least one year or can last for as long as several years. It depends on how the person is growing in faith, what questions they encounter along the way, and how God leads them on this journey. During this time, the Catechumens consider what God is saying to them in the Scriptures, what changes in their lives they need to make to respond to God’s inspiration, and what Baptism in the Catholic Church means. When a Catechumen, the priest, and the parish team working with him or her believes the person is ready to make a faith commitment to Jesus in the Catholic Church, the next step is the request for baptism and the celebration of the Rite of Election. Even before the Catechumens are baptized, they have a special relationship to the Church.
The Rite of Election includes the enrollment of names of all the Catechumens seeking baptism at the upcoming Easter Vigil. Typically, on the first Sunday of Lent, the Catechumens, their sponsors, and families gather at the cathedral church. The Catechumens publicly express their desire for baptism to the diocesan bishop. Their names are recorded in a book and they are called the Elect.
The days of Lent are the final Period of Purification and Enlightenment leading up to the Easter Vigil. Lent is a period of preparation marked by prayer, study, and spiritual direction for the Elect and prayers for them by the parish communities. The Celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation takes place during the Easter Vigil Liturgy on Holy Saturday when the Elect receives the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Eucharist. Now the person is fully initiated into the Catholic Church.
As a newly initiated Catholic, they continue their formation and education continue in the Period of the Post Baptismal Catechesis, which is also called Mystagogy. This period continues at least until Pentecost. During the period the newly baptized members reflect on their experiences at the Easter Vigil and continue to learn more about the Scriptures, the Sacraments, and the teachings of the Catholic Church. In addition they reflect on how they will serve Christ and help in the Church’s mission and outreach activities.
What is meant by coming into full communion with the Church?
Coming into full communion with the Catholic Church describes the process for entrance into the Catholic Church for already baptized Christians. In most cases, these individuals make a profession of faith but are not baptized again. To prepare for this reception, the people, who are called Candidates, usually participate in a formation program to help them understand and experience the teachings and practices of the Catholic Church. The church states that “no greater burden than necessary is required for the establishment and unity.” The reception into full communion takes place at the Sunday Eucharist when they are ready. “It is preferable that reception into full communion not take place at the Easter Vigil.”
What is the role of a godparent for an adult being baptized?
Prior to the Rite of Election, the Catechumen may choose one or two godparents, who will accompany the Catechumen on the day of Election, at the celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation, and during the Period of Mystagogy. They are called to show the Catechumens good example of the Christian life, sustain them in moments of hesitancy and anxiety, bear witness, and guide their progress in the baptismal life.
Is there a ceremony or preparation for Catholics who never or seldom have practiced the faith?
For Catholics who have been baptized, confirmed, and made First Communion but then drifted from the faith, the way they return is through the Sacrament of Penance. Catholics who were baptized but never received Confirmation and/or Eucharist also participate in a period of formation.
For adults who have never been baptized (or not baptized in the Catholic faith), please contact Father James Tharakan at 407-876-2211 or email Father James.
For adult who were baptized in a different ecclesial community and are seeking full communion with the Catholic Church, please contact the parish office 407-876-2211 or email parish office.
For children and youth [around the age of 7] who have not been baptized or not baptized Catholic, please contact the Coordinator of Evangelization Nora Carbone at 407-876-2211 x265 or email Nora.