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RCIA History

History of the Roman Catholic Christian Initiation Process

In the early Church, small Christian communities took individuals into their company and introduced them to the Christian way of life. Religious persecution prevailed and so a strong faith was demanded in the face of possible martyrdom.

100 – 200 AD
Christian initiation began to take on a formal shape with serious requirements. The beginnings of a “Catechumenate” as we know it, was developing.  The conversion of Gentiles called for a more comprehensive formation in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Third – Fourth Centuries
This was the time of a more developed structure (at least 3-year process) for Christian initiation. 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.

Fifth Century
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.

Twelfth Century
The Catechumenate no longer existed. Elements of its transition into religious community formation and seminary training existed during the intervening centuries.

Sixteenth Century
Dominicans and Augustinians tried to counteract the “mass baptisms”. In 1538 an Episcopal conference urged pastors to return to the missionary principles of Alcuin and establish a catechumenate.

Twentieth Century
We see the 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.

This Ecumenical Council called for reinstating the Catechumenate for the whole Church. Bishops’ voted on and approved the restoration of the Catechumenate for the universal Church.

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)