How does one become a Catholic?
Our profession of faith begins with God, for God is the First and the Last, the beginning and the end of everything. The Credo begins with God the Father, for the Father is the first divine person of the Most Holy Trinity; our Creed begins with the creation of heaven and earth, for creation is the beginning and the foundation of all God's works.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH, 198
Some are welcomed into the church as infants. Each year, however, on Holy Saturday during the Easter Vigil, thousands of older children and adults are baptized into the Catholic Church in the United States. Parishes welcome these new Catholics through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) or the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults adapted for children when needed.
Period of Evangelization
Prior to beginning the RCIA process, 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 Precatechumenate. 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.
Period of the Catechumenate
The Period of the Catechumenate can last for as long as several years or for a shorter time. 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 life they need to make to respond to God's inspiration, and what Baptism in the Catholic Church means. When a Catechumen and 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.
Rite of Election
The Rite of Election includes the enrollment of names of all the Catechumens seeking baptism at the coming 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.
Period of Purification and Enlightenment & Sacraments of Initiation
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.
RCIA at St. Martin
At its core, RCIA is a program for people who would like to know more about the Roman Catholic faith.
Its most obvious application is for those who desire to be received into full communion with the Catholic Church. RCIA is the process by which interested people learn about, participate in, and eventually become fully initiated members of the Catholic Church. We believe it should be a period of reflection, prayer, instruction, discernment, and formation.
Yet, even the most robust, well-structured and successful RCIA program is not simply a one-time experience in catechetical instruction; rather, it is truly the beginning of a life-long conversion process.
We hope to serve RCIA aspirants as well as the entire parish, and provide additional resources for information on the Catholic faith for those seeking to walk ever closer to Christ. We fellow Catholics realize that Christ’s call to follow Him involves a journey of life-long conversion.