Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Rite of Christian Initation of Adults (R.C.I.A.)


The RCIA is the process through which adults are fully initiated into the Catholic faith community. The RCIA was restored to the Church by the Second Vatican Council as the normal process of initiation into the Catholic Church.

Involvement of the Whole Parish Community

One of the distinctive features of the RCIA which sets it apart from other religious education and formation programme is that the entire parish community must take responsibility for the formation of adults who wish to join the community. This is based on the principle that we become a member of a community by truly experiencing the life, the self-understanding, and the activities of the community itself.

This essential factor in the journey of faith calls forth the gifts and talents of the community. The community is called to be a ‘ministering’ community. It is exercised through hospitality, faith sharing, catechesis, prayer support, sponsorship etc. The challenge of mission is extended to the entire parish community, for to live and act as disciples witnesses of the risen Christ applies equally to all, and calls all to mission.

Process not a Programme

Most inquirers and even Catholics are shocked to learn it takes months before one can receive the Sacraments of Initation (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist). Why does it take so long? Perhaps, this is the wrong question to ask.

It is important to remember that the RCIA process must always be seen as a process, not a programme. The call to journey, the conversion experience, comes in the Lord’s way and time. We share, but we do not attempt to convert – that is the Lord’s doing. We respond and help others hear and respond to the call, but we remember always that it is the Lord’s call.Therefore, growth in the Spirit, conversion and transformation is a life-long process. It is not something which can be completed in any single programme, not even one which may take almost a year to finish.

As a process, the journey of faith is divided into four periods:

Precatechumenate: a time of initial questions and shared life stories.

Catechumenate: a time of faith formation

Election: a time of strengthening and healing through prayerful reflection on the Word of God during the great community retreat – Lent

Mystagogia: a time of deepening baptismal commitment supported by ministry and flowing into mission.

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