What is the Catechumenate (RCIA)?
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is the official ritual text of the Church which directs, supports and sustains the way of faith and conversion by which adults (and children who have reached the age of reason) are initiated into the Catholic Church. Although many Catholics are not familiar with it, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults was restored to the Church in 1972 at the request of the Second Vatican Council as the normative way by which adults (and children who have reached the age of reason) are to be initiated into the Catholic Church.
The rite is called: The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults
The process is called: The Catechumenate
In 1988, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States of America published the ritual text we now use.
The RCIA is normative for the Christian initiation of adults and children of catechetical age. The initiation of catechumens is a gradual process that takes place within the community of the faithful.
How do I become a Catholic?
Liturgy Training Publications offers a short, free video on the (RCIA) Christian Initiation Process.
“The initiation of catechumens is a gradual process that takes place within the community of the faithful. By joining the catechumens in reflecting on the value of the paschal mystery and by renewing their own conversion, the faithful provide an example that will help the catechumens to obey the Holy Spirit more generously.” (RCIA # 4)
“As a general rule, parish priests (pastors) should make use of the rite of initiation in such a way that the sacraments themselves are celebrated at the Easter Vigil and the rite of election takes place on the First Sunday of Lent.” (RCIA #17)
“At the conclusion of the period of the catechumenate, a rite of sending the catechumens to their rite of election by the bishop may be celebrated in parishes…” (RCIA #106)
“Before the rite of election is celebrated, the catechumens are expected to have undergone a conversion in mind and in action and to have developed a sufficient acquaintance with Christian teaching as well as a spirit of faith and charity.” (RCIA #120)
“The election, marked with a rite of such solemnity, is the focal point of the Church’s concern for the catechumens. Admission to election there belongs to the bishop, and the presiding celebrant for the rite of election is the bishop himself.” (RCIA #121)
“The period of purification and enlightenment, which the rite of election begins, customarily coincides with Lent.” (RCIA #138) This is a period of more intense spiritual preparation, consisting more in interior reflection than in catechetical instruction, and is intended to purify the minds and hearts of the elect as they search their own consciences and do penance.” (RCIA #139)
History of the Roman Catholic Christian Initiation Process
Early Church Small communities that took individuals into their company and introduced them to their way of life. Religious persecution prevailed and so a strong faith was demanded in the face of possible martyrdom.
100 – 200 AD
Initiation began to take on formal shape and requirements – the beginnings of a “Catechumenate” as we know it. The conversion of Gentiles called for a more comprehensive formation in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
Third – Fourth Centuries
Most developed structure (at least 3-year process). The peace of Constantine in 315 AD made Christianity legal; now there were large numbers of candidates, but poor quality control. Although this was the time of the most developed structure, during this period there were a variety of models of Christian initiation developed in the various local communities.
Disintegration of the catechumenate occurred because large numbers of people were being baptized and the practice of infant baptism became normative. In the West, confirmation and Eucharist were separated from Baptism.
Catechumenate no longer existed. Elements of its transition into religious community formation and seminary training existed during the intervening centuries.
Dominicans and Augustinians tried to counteract the mass baptisms. In 1538 an Episcopal conference urged pastors to return to missionary principles of Alcuin and establish a catechumenate.
Revival of catechumenal structures in Africa and France. In France great problems arose because of the large numbers of non-practicing Catholics. In Africa, the “White Fathers” recognized the need to build the Church from the grass roots.
VATICAN COUNCIL 2
Called for reinstating the CATECHUMENATE. Bishops’ vote on restoration of the catechumenate.
POST VATICAN COUNCIL 2
1966 – provisional ritual distributed
1969 – second draft distributed for experimentation
1972 – PROMULGATION of the order of Christian Initiation of Adults
1974 – Provisional English translation available titled: RITE OF CHRISTIAN INITIATION OF ADULTS (RCIA)
1986 – U.S. Bishops approved U.S. additions to the RCIA and The National Statutes and a national plan for implementation
1987 – Canadian Bishops published the RCIA for use in Canada.
1988 – U.S. Bishops MANDATE IMPLEMENTATION of final translation of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA)
The RCIA at a Glance: Below are two charts that offer an overview of the different periods of formation with their aims, contents, and time frames for the Catechumenate process / the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults:
- The Order of the Catechumenate (RCIA) for the Unbaptized Adult & Child (Ages 7+)
- The Order of the Catechumenate (RCIA) for the Baptized Adult (14+)
Words to Know for those who minister in the Catechumenate (RCIA):
Catechumen: One who is not baptized and is preparing for full initiation at the Easter Vigil through baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist.
Candidate: One who is already baptized either in the Catholic Church or another Christian faith and who is preparing to complete his/her Christian initiation through confirmation and Eucharist.
Catechumenate: Second period of formal formation in the process of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults . This period involves intense preparation in word, worship, community life and apostolic works.
Elect: The name given to the catechumens who celebrate the Rite of Election on the first Sunday of Lent with the bishop, signifying their being chosen for the initiation sacraments at Easter.
Godparent: The Godparent serves as a companion for the Christian life for the elect. The Godparent helps the elect integrate into the Catholic community by offering ongoing support, care and the sharing of faith. They participate in the Rite of Election and the celebration of the sacraments of Christian initiation at the Easter Vigil Mass.
Catechumenate Sponsor: A Catechumenate Sponsor is appointed by the parish to accompany any catechumen or candidate through the catechumenate period. Sponsors are persons who get to know their catechumens or candidates and can stand as witnesses to the catechumens’ or candidates’ moral character, faith and intention for the Rite of Election or Rite of Calling the Candidates.
Rite of Election: This is the rite that is celebrated by the bishop, which proclaims the catechumens readiness for their celebration of the sacraments of initiation at Easter. This is usually celebrated on the first Sunday of Lent at the cathedral by the bishop.
Rite of Calling the Candidates to Continuing Conversion: This is the parish rite that proclaims the candidates readiness for their completion of the sacraments of Christian initiation. This is usually celebrated on the first Sunday of Lent at the local parish by the local pastor.
New York Catholic Center,
Office of Adult Faith Formation
1011 First Avenue – 13th Floor
New York, NY 10022
Mr. Oscar Cruz
Director of the Catechumenate (RCIA)
Ms. Liliana Cruz
Administrative Assistant to the Director of the Catechumenate (RCIA)