What is RCIA?
RCIA stands for Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. It’s the special way (rite) by which persons are initiated, that is, prepared to receive the sacraments of initiation (baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist) and become Roman Catholic Christians.
Why do people become interested in RCIA?
The decision to join the Catholic Church is personal for everyone. Many people choose to join the Church because of a desire for Christ and His Sacraments. Some become interested in RCIA when they approach a milestone in their life, such as planning a wedding to a Catholic. They would like to start their marriage with both partners being of the same faith. Some, who are already married, find that they would like to be a family that “prays together.” A non-Catholic parent may find his interest in Catholicism growing on the occasion of his child’s First Holy Communion. Others have had a personal experience of faith leading them to find out more. Some are baptized Catholics who never received religious instruction in their youth and would like to share fully in the sacramental life of the Church.
What kind of people are part of the RCIA process?
Any and all people who are interested in or curious about Catholicism can come to the RCIA sessions. Those who wish to be fully initiated into the Catholic Church may choose to do so after the initial period inquiry.
What are the religious backgrounds of those who become part of the RCIA?
All religious backgrounds are welcome. No formal religious education is required prior to joining RCIA.
I was already baptized in a non-Catholic church. Do I have to be baptized again?
As Catholics, we confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. So generally, a person would not be “re-baptized”. Most Christian baptisms done with water and the Trinitarian formula are considered valid in the Catholic Church. Therefore, those candidates would make a Profession of Faith in order to become a Catholic. A copy of the Baptismal certificate is required.
What happens at RCIA?
The RCIA process, coordinated by a team of parishioners, involves participants in weekly sessions. The format includes praying, reading from texts and listening to presentations, the questioning and sharing of information – especially material from the Bible and from Catholic tradition and teaching. There are various experiences in class and in church, at Mass.
What if I’m not sure I want to become Catholic?
For any decision in life, it’s best to be informed about the choices available. What better way than to be part of a group discussing aspects of Catholicism? There is never any pressure to join the Catholic Church at RCIA.
Do I need to come to every meeting?
It is important for participants to attend regularly. Obviously, there will be times when people must miss a meeting due to illness, travel, business, or other emergencies. But it is important to remember that this is a commitment. When participants must be absent, they should let the director know.
What is a sponsor?
A sponsor should be a practicing Catholic whom the candidate can consider as a model or mentor. It should be someone with whom the candidate feels comfortable discussing matters of faith and sharing his/her faith journey.
What are godparents?
Godparents are practicing Catholics who are willing to model and share their Catholic faith with those who are not yet baptized. The godparent –like the sponsor– lends support, provides direction and answers questions. In addition, the godparent is a mentor who is willing to continue the relationship after the baptism to bolster the new Catholic on his/her continuing faith journey.
What if I don’t know any Catholics well enough to ask the person to be my sponsor or godparent?
Members of our community are available as sponsors and godparents. This should not discourage anyone from participating. Pairing candidates with a suitable sponsor, if necessary, is one of the jobs of the RCIA team.
Who are the RCIA team members?
The RCIA team is largely comprised of parishioners who are practicing Catholics with the desire and knowledge to convey the teachings of the Church to the candidates. These individuals make the commitment to come to the sessions, facilitate small group discussions and provide direction to the candidates. They are mentors who provide instruction, answer questions, and interview the candidates at various stages of the program. They also provide input for the RCIA program with the director and clergy.
Why does the RCIA process take so long?
It is important for people to know and understand the doctrines and beliefs of the Catholic Church, to participate in liturgy, to develop a prayer life and to learn how to live the gospel. Making this faith journey and discerning whether this is the right path for you should not be rushed.
What if I don’t understand the material?
Team members, clergy, the director and sponsors are available to explain whatever you don’t understand. Any question you might have should be asked. It is likely that someone else has the same question, but has been reluctant to ask it.
Do people ever come into the Church at other times of the year?
Sometimes, individuals who have done a great deal of study and discernment are ready to come into the Church earlier than Easter. Some people must wait to be brought into the Church until they have received an annulment, and they will join at times other than Easter.
Why does having a previous marriage prevent people from coming into the Church? Why is an annulment of the marriage necessary?
Catholics must be free to marry in the Catholic Church. If a previous marriage ended in divorce but no annulment was obtained, then the person cannot remarry in the Catholic Church. An annulment does not mean that the marriage did not exist, but that it was not sacramentally valid in the eyes of the Church. There are a variety of circumstances that could cause a marriage to be invalid, but people in these circumstances should contact one of the deacons or priests here at St. Peter to discuss their particular situation and decide whether or not to seek an annulment.
What is convalidation and who needs it?
Convalidation is the sacramentalizing of a marriage. A Catholic is required to marry in a Catholic ceremony or to receive a dispensation to marry in another church. If a Catholic marries in the church of another Christian faith without applying to the Catholic Church for approval prior to the wedding, then the marriage needs to be convalidated. With convalidation, the couple will have the marriage sanctified–made a sacrament, which bestows many blessing and graces.