How Does One Become Catholic
The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults
Parishes welcome new members into the Catholic Church through a process of education, faith sharing, and rituals known as the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). This process includes several stages marked by prayer, study, and discussion.
The RCIA process is structured over a period of learning and a series of ceremonial steps. One may take as much time as he or she needs in the initiation process before becoming ready for full initiation through the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. Initiation within the Church is a journey of conversion that is gradual and ongoing and suited to individual needs. It is a process rather than an educational program.
Who Can Begin the RCIA Journey?
All people who are open to learning more about the Catholic Church are welcome to begin the RCIA process. All that is truly required is a sincere desire to learn, to grow, and to develop one’s relationship with God. The RCIA process can be applied to the following 3 groups:
Unbaptized persons (age 7+ years) who have never been baptized are weclome to join the RCIA journey.
Baptized in Another Christian Church. Those who were baptized into another Christian denomination and wish to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church are welcome to join the RCIA journey.
- Baptized but uncatechized Catholic Adults who were baptized as infants and not given any religious instruction in the Catholic Faith are welcome to join the RCIA journey. These adults will be prepared to celebrate the Sacraments of Penance, Confirmation and First Holy Communion.
In the case of children who have reached the age of reason (age 7), the pastor of the Cathedral should be consulted for information about Baptism and the other Sacraments of Initiation. Adult Catholics who were baptized and received their First Eucharist in the Catholic Church and are interested in the Sacrament of Confirmation should contact the parish office.
The Steps of the Journey
The Rite of Christian Initiation is based on the principle that the process of conversion proceeds gradually, in stages. Progress from one stage to the next is marked by a liturgical celebration in the midst of the parish community. There are four periods of formation which are marked by rituals that celebrate what has been completed and that call a person into the next phase.
Period of Evangelization and Precatechumenate
The first stage is called the period of inquiry (or the precatechumenate). This is when the individual first expresses an interest in becoming a Catholic. There is no liturgical rite to mark the beginning of this stage nor a time limit or constraints placed on this period. This stage is completed when the inquirer feels ready to move forward or decides against continuing in this direction. During this period of time individuals, who are called inquirers, are introduced to the person, the life, and the ministry of Jesus Christ. It is a time for building communion and for listening, learning, sharing, and asking questions. It is a time of initial conversation and conversion.
Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens
Once the inquirer decides to continue the journey, he or she seeks acceptance into the Order of Catechumens. This is a liturgical rite in which the inquirer states publicly in the midst of the parish community that he or she wants to become a baptized member of the Church. The Church, through the local parish community, affirms this desire by accepting the person and his or her intention to follow God’s call. Included in this rite are the renunciation of false worship, giving of a new name, and the presentation of a cross. The candidate is now affirmed by the local community and strengthened to continue the journey. For candidates who have already been baptized and are seeking full communion with the Catholic Church, this step is called the Rite of Welcoming the Candidate.
Period of the Catechumenate
The second stage is called the Catechumenate and is an extended period which normally lasts one year or longer. Catechumens learn about Catholic teachings and values, what it means to be a member of the Catholic community, prayer and worship, and are also introduced to the apostolic life. This is also a time for the catechumen or candidate to learn how to live as a Catholic Christian through their faith journey and the support of their parish community. This period is marked by rites such as the Dismissal Rite, Blessings, and Anointing of Catechumens. This period ends when the catechumens and candidates express their desire to receive the Sacraments of Initiation and the parish community acknowledges their readiness. The catechumen then becomes an “elect,” which is marked by the Rite of Election during the next stage.
Rite of Election
The Rite of Election coincides with the beginning of Lent and is celebrated by the Bishop. The Rite includes the official enrollment of names of all those seeking baptism at the Easter Vigil. At this Rite the catechumens publicly request baptism and declare their desire to make a faith commitment to Jesus in the Catholic Church. Parishes normally celebrate the Rite of Sending prior to the Rite of Election. Godparents and catechists testify to the readiness of the catechumens for the Sacraments of Initiation.
Period of Purification and Enlightenment
The third stage is the Period of Purification and Enlightenment. It coincides with the liturgical season of Lent. It is a time of reflection, prayer, and spiritual direction rather than a time of catechetical instruction. This period is intended to enlighten the minds and hearts of the elect with a deeper personal knowledge of Christ. During this time, the elect and the candidates enter into a period of intense spiritual preparation and prayer which includes the three public celebrations of the scrutinies (for catechumens) and is marked by the presentations of the Creed and the Lord's Prayer. The Rite of Election (for catechumens) and the Call to Continuing Conversion (for candidates) are celebrated at the beginning of this stage. This period ends with the celebration of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist at the Easter Vigil.
Celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation
At the Easter Vigil, the catechumen receives the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist. Now the person is a fully initiated member of the Catholic Church and will continue to live out his or her response to God as a member of this faith community.
Period of Mystagogy
The fourth stage is the period of post baptismal catechesis or mystagogy. At this time, the newly initiated explore their experience of being fully initiated through participation with all the faithful at Sunday Eucharist and through appropriate catechesis. Emphasis is placed on the study of the Gospel, the reception of the Eucharist, and actively living a life of charity, service, and love. The period formally lasts through the Easter season. It is a time of growth, during which one’s understanding of the Faith matures so that he or she can participate more fully in the Mass and in the life of the Church.
Companions for the Journey
Jesus recognized the importance of community and teamwork in spreading the Gospel, as displayed by the fact that He called a group of apostles and often sent His apostles out two by two.
The Church recognizes the importance of support as one progresses through the RCIA process. Candidates journey, not alone, but together with other adults who are learning about the Catholic Church, and also with a team of dedicated people from the parish community who meets with the group regularly to offer assistance and support. The Church also gives the inquiring person a sponsor who will share the journey and accompany you at RCIA sessions and other special events. This sponsor, who normally comes from the parish community, is called a godparent for those who have not yet been baptized and a mentor for those who have already been baptized. They are truly companions for the journey of faith and walk with each candidate through each step of the process. The sponsor also connects the candidate to the local parish community. Finally, since the RCIA process takes place within a parish community, the prayers from this community are essential for the journey. Moreover, the prayers of the universal Church are with each candidate, providing spiritual support for the journey and connection to the Church community.
Beginning the Journey
For many people interested in becoming Catholic or entering into full communion with the Catholic Church, the process can be somewhat confusing or intimidating. After all, this is a major decision in one’s life. The decision to join the Church is exciting and will lead to a deepening of personal faith and relationship to God, others, and self. No matter what has brought you here, the fact that you are interested in taking the next step shows your openness to God and God’s call in your life. Many people have come through the RCIA program and are living lives of service, faith, and love. Perhaps you are asking where to begin the journey. The answer is that you have already begun! Welcome to your faith journey!
Frequently Asked Questions
Who Can Begin the RCIA Journey?
When does the RCIA Journey Begin?
When does RCIA Meet?
What if I’m baptized Catholic and need to be Confirmed?
How do I sign-up for RCIA?
Parish Office Hours
1621 Dilworth Road East
Charlotte, NC 28203
Phone: (704) 334-2283
Fax: (704) 377-6403