RCIA - Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults

The Catholic Church welcomes all people who are seeking to deepen their life with God in a community of like-minded believers. This site provides resources, activities, experiences and learning opportunities for which an RCIA team or catechist takes responsibility – either deliberately or by default.

It is managed by the New Zealand RCIA Network for the Church in New Zealand, drawing on the very best local, national and international resources available.

The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is the normative way of initiating adults and children into the community of the Catholic Church.

It is our hope that the resources here will help foster implementation and best practice of the RCIA throughout Aotearoa New Zealand.

Haere Mai! Welcome!

There are people to help you.

Click on the resources icon below for the weekly TeamRCIA newsletter. This can also be found at the bottom of this page.

To access the survey for RCIA in your parish, click on the resources icon below.

There is an RCIA desk in each Diocese. Feel free to contact any one of us directly.

Meet us in our videos below.

Dunedin

Sr Noreen McGrath

03 489 8120
Email

 

Christchurch

Marianne Daly

03 353 0758
Email

 

Wellington

Joe Green

04 297 3134
Email

 

Palmerston North

Kate Bell

06 357 2891
Email

 

 

Hamilton

Appointment pending

Auckland

Sian Owen RSJ

09 360 3056
Email

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome from the Bishops

1. Welcoming new members is one of the most wonderful experiences in the life of the Church. It brings new life and vigour not only to the newly baptised but to the whole Church community.

2. In the early Church, people seeking baptism spent a long time in formation. As more people were baptised as infants, this process, known as the catechumenate, almost disappeared.

3. When the bishops of the Second Vatican Council were considering effective ways to spread the Good News to the world in the twentieth century and to enrich the life of the Church with new members, they decided to restore the adult catechumenate.

4. Introduced in 1972 and presented in final form in 1986, the Church's Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is now the norm for all who desire to become Catholic.
Children of catechetical age should be initiated in the same manner as adults (RCIA 3).

5. So the rite is not optional: it is the normative way that the Catholic Church welcomes new members.

6. To people who grew up with the notion of Church as a place where the priest did all the important things, the RCIA presents a vision of the Church that is vastly different. The RCIA involves everyone – all Catholics, laity and ordained alike, share the work of responding to those who desire to follow Christ with us, as members of the Catholic Church.

7. What happens in the liturgical rites of the RCIA journey is powerful and important. The catechumens and candidates learn to 'turn more readily to God in prayer' as they pray with the community. They walk with catechists and sponsors to come 'to a profound sense of the mystery of salvation', and learn 'how to work actively with others to spread the Gospel and build up the Church' (RCIA 75).

8. The Rite tells us that, as well as initiating people into the teachings of the Church, we are initiating them into a community of believers who express their belief in the liturgy they celebrate together and in the lives they lead.

9. The RCIA challenges us, as a community, to be:

  • people of the Word
  • people of the Eucharist
  • people of hospitality
  • people of the story of salvation history
  • people of conversion
  • people of mission.

10. The role of this community, beautifully expressed in the words of the Rite itself, is 'to surround the Elect with prayer, so that the entire Church will accompany and lead them to encounter Chirst' (RCIA 108).

11. The implementation of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults in parishes is to be in accord with the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference Policy Welcoming New Members.

+ John Dew
Archbishop of Wellington
President of NZCBC

+ Denis Browne
Bishop of Hamilton

+ Charles Drennan
Bishop of Palmerston North

+ Peter Cullinane
Bishop Emeritus 
of Palmerston North

+ Patrick Dunn

Bishop of Auckland
Secretary NZCBC

+ Colin Campbell
Bishop of Dunedin

+ Barry Jones
Bishop of Christchurch

Taken from the National Policy for the RCIA, published in 8 July 2012.

seeking

 

Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me.
Jeremiah 29:12-14

 

What's in the name "RCIA"?

The name, the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is given to the official liturgical process for initiating adults into the Catholic Church, and in its adapted form for children who have reached the age of reason [CCL 913, 914]. This process is set down in a Vatican document called the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. To avoid confusion, the title of the document, whether in full or abbreviated, is normally written in italics as the RCIA. The process set out in the RCIA document is always written in ordinary type as The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults or RCIA. It may also be referred to as the RCIA process. It's the way adults become Catholic.

Who is the RCIA for?

  • Adults and young people who are unbaptised
  • Adults and young people who are already baptised in another Christian Church
  • Catholics who have been baptised but have not completed their initiation into the Catholic church

Other terminology that is used throughout this process can be found in the Glossary below. For example:

Discernment: this is the process by which the church community measures the conversion of the enquirer, catechumen and candidate. For example, before someone may be accepted for baptism, the community must make a judgement about his or her readiness

(RCIA 112).

Becoming Catholic – Ko te Hīkoi ki te Hāhi Katorika

Becoming Catholic - he Hīkoi Taumano is about experiencing God in a community of believers who open their hearts and minds to the experience of Jesus Christ in the scriptures, express their belief in the liturgy they celebrate together and in the lives they lead.

The journey towards becoming Catholic is a gradual process. The length of time it takes varies for each person (RCIA 4-5 and 75). Each step of the journey leads adults towards Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist (Holy Communion) in the company of the Catholic community.

But the journey does not end there – becoming Catholic is a lifelong transformative journey of faith for all who belong to the Catholic community.

What does this journey involve?

The Order of Christian Initiation of Adults, which can be likened to a spiritual journey, moves through four times and steps: 

(i) the initial time of evangelisation or enquiry leads to the celebration of the Rite of Acceptance

(ii) the time of the catechumenate or formation in Christian Life and deepening commitment to the Jesus Christ and the Christian way of life leads to the celebration of The Rite of Election

(iii) the time of purification and enlightenment in Lent is a time of intense preparation and prayer for receiving the Sacraments of Initiation. Scrutinies and other Blessings and Rituals are celebrated throughout the weeks that lead towards Easter and the celebration of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. 

(iv) 'Initiation' is the beginning of something new - the time of Mystagogia that follows the Easter ceremonies of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist provides the opportunity to reflect and deepen the experience of living with the sacraments and the community of the faithful. But the journey does not end here…

Initiation marks the beginning of a lifelong transformative journey of faith.

... the rite is not optional; it is the normative way that the Catholic Church welcomes new members.
RCIA Policy 5

Ministries in the RCIA begin with the assembly

The primary minister of the RCIA is the community of the faithful. Its ministry is exercised through concern for others, hospitality to newcomers and, above all, through wholehearted participation in the liturgy.

The local bishop is always the ordinary minister of Christian initiation, with special concern for the preparation and baptism of adults. In practice, the bishop usually delegates the responsibilities for this process, and the celebration of the sacraments of initiation, to parish priests.

Within the ministering assembly are those who are particularly responsible for the process of preparation. In addition to the priest or lay leader, these may include:

  • a coordinator
  • catechists
  • ministers of hospitality
  • sponsors and godparents
  • deacons.

Taken from the National Policy for the RCIA (articles 13, 14, and 15), published in 8 July 2012. 

... as well as initiating people into the teachings of the Church, we are initiating them into a community of believers ...

RCIA Policy 8

welcoming

1. A Welcoming Parish

Does your parish provide an environment that allows those entering into the RCIA process to grow in their faith?

  • Is the pastoral leadership in the parish supportive of the RCIA?
  • Does the parish offer a welcoming social, spiritual and physical environment? What would it take to make it even more welcoming?
  • Has there been a history of an RCIA ministry in the parish in the past? When, who was involved, what happened?
  • What is available in the parish in terms of resources?

A parish needs:

  • To have an understanding of the process of RCIA and be able to support those who are part of the Catechumenate.
  • To be outward looking in its vision, with genuine concern for their neighbour.
  • To be able to provide people who can talk about their faith journey and share their beliefs.
  • To be invitational.
  • To be hospitable and genuinely welcoming.
  • To have people who are skilled in the practice of Christian discernment.

Above all, will those who are seeking the living God and who wish to "enter the way of faith and conversion" find themselves in the midst of a people who are also on that journey? (RCIA #1)

Find resources that may help you answer these questions, by clicking on the book icon above.

priscilla du preez 234138 sml

2. Forming an RCIA Team

 

...in their diversity, all bear witness to the admirable unity of the Body of Christ.

1 Corinthians 12: 11

 

OCIA Team Members

Who are they?

Invitations are made to a variety of people to fulfill some or all of the following roles, depending on the size and needs of the catechumenate:

  • The Pastor,
  • RCIA Team Leader/s
  • Catechists
  • Ministers of Hospitality
  • Sponsor Coordinators
  • Sponsors 
  • Liturgy and Prayer leaders
  • Representatives from the parish assembly
  • Pray-ers

What do they do?

Each member of the team has a specific role to fulfill, designated by the 'name' of their ministry. (further information about key ministries are available on other pages).
In small parishes the team members may consist of the parish assembly, the pastor and the team leader.

In a medium sized parish or pastoral area the team leader may be able to engage a few more people, at different stages on the RCIA journey, to assist with ongoing needs and ministries.

In large parishes and pastoral areas the pastor and team leader need a larger team of ministers to support the RCIA journey. A Core Team may be set in place to oversee the whole process.

Core Team

Who are they?

Core leaders are a group of three or four people who are drawn from the full parish team:

  • RCIA Coordinator
  • Parish Priest
  • Deacon
  • Catechist
  • Pastoral Associate
  • other key people involved in the RCIA process.

What do they do?

  • Long term planning
  • Oversee the whole process and dynamics of the RCIA Group
  • Trouble shoot e.g. watch for burnout among Team Members
  • Involve the general parish community
  • Recognise and encourage the use of 'gifts' offered by different team members
  • Provide theological expertise and resources

Why is a core team important?

1. The core team helps to fulfill a central principle laid down in RCIA n.4, “the initiation of catechumens is a gradual process that takes place within the community of the faithful”. The catechumens are being welcomed into the Catholic community and the process should provide an experience of community. Their preparation for initiation is not meant to be carried out through a series of private one-on-one meetings with the catechist, priest, pastoral worker or whoever. The catechumens are entitled to an exposure to a range of the variety of people who make up the parish community.

2. More practically, it helps to share the load. The RCIA process should be a constant feature of parish or pastoral area life, year in and year out, in the same way as sessions for the preparation of children for the sacraments of Reconciliation and first Holy Communion. One reason why the RCIA has not always been implemented as intended is that it has been perceived as too time-consuming or demanding – as it can be for one person to run year after year. If, on the other hand, a team is formed, responsibilities can be shared and it is far less likely that people will face discouragement and burn-out.

3. The core team is drawn from a wider team of ministers, whose roles are described in the following pages.

What formation is needed?

  • Begin by meeting with each other, as well as the rest of your team, and studying the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults together.
  • Sign your team up for a Certificate in Parish Service for RCIA Catechists (Auckland only) or other relevant TCI courses.
  • Do the formation sessions in 'RCIA: Forming Your Parish Team' that are offered by Team RCIA
  • Arrange a number of apprenticeship visits for your team members to a parish where there is a well established RCIA team.
  • Seek the support of your Diocesan RCIA support person.

Resources:

  • Practical advice on forming a team may be found on p.84 ff in Nick Wagner's book, The Way of Faith (see related resources above)
  • Inquirer Information Forms: Discernment plays an important part in determining with seekers how the process of RCIA will unfold in their lives.  The forms that are offered below are a guide to help the priest or pastoral team member gather important information through an in depth conversation with each Inquirer, so together you can discover the invitation of God towards each seeker and work out how best to respond.  This information is confidential and may be gathered over a period of time as the journey continues.
    What is Discernment?
    Inquirer Information Form - Adult
    Inquirer Information Form - Youth
    Inquirer Information Form - Child
  • Baptisms recognised by the Catholic Church
  • Apprentices in Faith is an online RCIA resource for both adults and youth. It is lectionary based but also has topic sessions. An annual license is purchased and the user may download as much or as little of the resource as they wish. The license can begin any time, ending one year later. There are excellent sample pages available on their website.

16992195 1267100189992383 4057515538731694969 o

3. Parish Priest

 

Parish priests and clergy play a special role in ministering to the pastoral and spiritual care of those on the OCIA journey and those accompanying them. Although the parish priest has overall responsibility for the initiation process in the parish, he usually delegates a great deal of the work to the RCIA Team Leader and other members of the RCIA team.

The role of the parish priest is to:

  • Convince all members of the parish that they are vitally involved in the preparation and celebration of the sacraments of initiation of both children and adults.
  • Work collaboratively with the RCIA team leader
  • Offer wisdom and assistance in choosing sponsors, catechists and members of all other ministries required.
  • Ensure the parish allocates the right resources.
  • Provide ongoing formation of all those who are involved in the process.
  • Provide wisdom and guidance for the theological, sacramental and ecclesial dimensions of the process.
  • Add experience to those responsible for discerning and guiding the spiritual growth of the catechumens and of the members of the team.
  • Get to know the catechumens and candidates and listen to their stories so that they feel welcomed, encouraged and affirmed on their journey towards Christ.
  • Preach and break open the Word of God in such a way that it sets hearts on fire.
  • Preside over the celebrations of the RCIA rites with solemnity, dignity and sensitivity.
  • Be available for members of the RCIA team when they encounter difficulties or their enthusiasm begins to wane.

Adapted from the Summit, Vol 28. No 4, December 2001, Melbourne. Elio Capra SDB.

Resources:

  • Celebrating Initiation: A Guide for Priests by Paul Turner - Offers practical suggestions for priests in understanding and celebrating the Rite. Also provides historical context on elements of the Rite that aid in selecting options for the celebration.

16487547 1243323952370007 2925021857593310496 o

4. Catechists

 

"And this is the job of the catechist: constantly to go forth to others out of love to bear witness and to talk about Jesus, to proclaim Jesus. This is important because the Lord does it; it is the Lord that impels us to go forth."
- Pope Francis

 

Catechists can be from any background and age group. What is important is that they love Christ and are eager to share their faith.

Who are they?

Catechists are active members of the parish who:

  • know and love the Word of God
  • actively live out their Catholic faith
  • are able to share their own experience of faith
  • have knowledge and love of the Church
  • have an understanding of adult learning.

What do they do?

Catechists are willing to:

  • prepare and present catechesis and teaching based on the Scriptures and the life of the Church
  • help catechumens and candidates to develop a love of the Word and the desire to live it
  • pray and share personal experience with the catechumens and candidates and encourage them to pray.
  • If possible, there should be more than one catechist in a parish for the RCIA process. This would allow for flexibility and support and also is a way of showing that it is the Church as a community that transmits the faith.

Find related resources by clicking on the book icon above.

16602478 1252692208099848 6416330458268683356 o

5. Ministers of Hospitality

 

Who are they?

Ministers of Hospitality are members of the parish who:

  • enjoy meeting new people
  • have a welcoming and inclusive attitude
  • know the parish and parishioners well and enjoy networking
  • familiar with the history and development of the parish

What do they do?

  • they ensure everyone feels welcome and comfortable
  • they listen to stories and pray for the people they meet
  • they take responsibility for offering simple refreshments - a very important part of the meeting when people are able to talk in small groups and interact in a more personal way.

 

6. Catechumens or Candidates?

 

Catechumens

The RCIA is primarily intended for unbaptised adults, young adults or children 'who, after hearing the mystery of Christ proclaimed, consciously and freely seek the living God and enter the way of faith and conversion as the Holy Spirit opens their hearts' (RCIA #1). Their initiation is not only a matter of intellectual assent to the Church's teachings but also incorporation into a living community of faith. This is a gradual and often lengthy process. The Easter Vigil is the normative time for the celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. Therefore, initiation outside of the Easter season requires the permission of the Bishop.

Candidates

Adults, young people or children who have already been baptised in other Christian churches are known as candidates. Some candidates may be baptised but never received any instruction in the Christian way, the liturgy or the Scriptures. These candidates may be included in many parts of the catechumenal formation process and its rites, so long as due recognition is given to their baptismal status.

Other candidates, however, may have received substantial formation, are often confirmed members of their baptismal churches, and are still, or were formerly, active members. In this case they do not need to follow the full process of the catechumenate. The length of their formation will vary and reception into full communion may be celebrated at an ordinary Sunday Mass, often in a very short time from making their request to belong to the Catholic church.

When catechised active Catholics seek to complete their Initiation through the sacrament of confirmation, their place is not with the RCIA. They do however require sacramental preparation. Separate resources are available.

  • Confirming Adult Catholics, Mary Birmingham World Library Publications - a resource for catechised active Catholics seeking to complete their Initiation.

Ministry

Catechumens and Candidates share in the ministry of the RCIA. As they participate in the gatherings, liturgy and life of the community to which they belong, they give witness to the many forms of God's grace in their lives. We see the deepening of their Christian experience and signs of their spiritual growth as they enter more fully into the life and unity of the community (RCIA # 5-7). In turn, their response calls the community of the faithful to renew their commitment to Christ in the church and to respond more generously to the Holy Spirit in their lives and their worship (RCIA #4).

Children of Catechetical Age

Children and young people who have reached the age of reason and are of catechetical age may be directed by their parents or guardians, or, with parental permission, ask to become members of the Catholic Church on their own initiative (#242). Their journey of faith "depends on the help and example of their companions and on the influence of their parents. Both these factors need to be taken into account"(RCIA #244) .

Teachers, catechists and parish sacramental teams have the responsibility and privilege of preparing children and young adults for initiation, based on the same models and principles of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA #3), but adapted to suit the age and faith development of the young people participating.

"The Christian initiation of children (and youth) requires both a conversion that is personal and somewhat developed, in proportion to their age, and must be adapted both to their spiritual progress, that is, to the children's growth in faith, and to the catechetical instruction they receive" (#243).

Canon law articles 1323-1324 define a young person as a "minor" until they have 'completed the age of 16 years'.

Resources:

  • Valid Baptisms
  • Discerning the appropriate process for people wanting to become Catholic. See table below for guidelines:
Who? Norm
Unbaptised with no Christian formation or affiliation  Extended process
Unbaptised but exhibits Christian practice  Shorter process, depending on formation level 
Baptised Christian uncatechised (little or no previous Christian formation)  Extended process, except for Rite of Baptism 
Baptised Christian with significant Christian formation  Simple process 
Baptised Catholic (little or no previous religious formation)  Extended process, except for Rite of Baptism 
Baptised Catholic who has celebrated First Communion and is practicing the faith, but missed Confirmation  Specific process: Rite of Confirmation
  • The Heart of Faith [A Field Guide for Catechumens & Candidates] Nick Wagner Twenty Third Publications

baptism rcia

7. Sponsors and Godparents

 

The ministry of a sponsor and godparent is one of companionship, encouragement and witness.

Who are they?

Sponsors and godparents are members of the parish who:

  • are active participants in the mission and the sacraments of the Church
  • are prepared to befriend and support catechumens and candidates.

What do they do?

  • They accompany the catechumens and candidates on their faith journeys
  • They share their own faith experience 
  • They introduce to them the life of the parish
  • They listen to difficulties and give personal support
  • They stand as a witness to the progress and growth of the catechumens and candidates

The sponsor may become the godparent from the Rite of Election onwards, otherwise a different person may be chosen.

An RCIA Structure for Aotearoa New Zealand

The Second Vatican Council prescribed the revision of the rite of baptism for adults and decreed that the catechumenate for adults, divided into several steps and accompanied by certain rituals should be restored. This Rite, first published in 1972, is rooted in the riches of the tradition of the Catholic church, informed by its finest liturgical scholars and remains alert to the pastoral needs of those people who seek to belong to the Catholic community.

In its wisdom, the Church allows for local conferences of bishops to provide local adaptations that correspond to any special needs. Therefore the Bishops of New Zealand have approved a national policy and a model calendar to assist us in celebrating this Rite In New Zealand.

National Policy Document for the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults

What is catechesis?

The ‘how’ as well as the ‘what’ of catechesis has great importance.

Generally speaking, the catechesis of adults is likely to be most effective when methods are used which recognize the importance of engaging the life experience of the catechumens within the community of the Catholic Church: in particular by paying attention to the scriptures, the worship and the witness of its members to living the Christian way of life. Catechumens are not to be regarded merely as passive, empty vessels to be filled with various Church teachings, but rather as participants in a community where they can discern and share their experience of growth in relationship with Jesus Christ within the community of the Church, in a manner that is ‘suited to their needs. (RCIA n.16).

Different types of catechesis can be identified, e.g.:

  1. Liturgical catechesis – uses the Sunday Liturgy as a basis for catechesis
  2. Lectionary based or biblical catechesis – reflection on the Sunday Scriptures
  3. Systematic catechesis – uses articles of the Creed or Catechism topics as a basis for catechesis
  4. Catechesis on prayer and ways of praying – introduces participants to different ways of praying e.g. lectio divina, meditation, contemplation, the Rosary.
  5. Mystagogical catechesis – is reflection based on the communal celebration of the sacraments of initiation.

See all book recommendations in related resources, by clicking on the 'book icon' above.

Having done their best to adopt appropriate methods, catechists can take comfort from the following words from the General Directory for Catechesis:

The effectiveness of catechesis is and always will be a gift of God, through the operation of the Spirit of the Father and the Son. St Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, confirms this total dependence on the intervention of God when he writes: "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth"

(1 Corinthians 3:6-7)


Neither catechesis nor evangelization is possible without the action of God working through his Spirit (332). In catechetical praxis neither the most advanced pedagogical techniques nor the most talented catechist can ever replace the silent and unseen action of the Holy Spirit (333). "It is he who is in truth the protagonist of all the Church's mission"; (334) it is he who is the principal catechist; it is he who is "the interior teacher" of those who grow in the Lord (335). He is, in fact, "the principle inspiring all catechetical work and all who do this work" (336). (Congregation for the Clergy (1997) General Directory for Catechesis (288).)

This being so, it is vital that all catechetical activity should be permeated with prayer; before, during and after each session.

RCIA

Content and Outline of RCIA Sessions

The early Christian Church faced the task of making Christians in the cosmopolitan and sometimes hostile Roman Empire. To assist with this task the Church identified five important touchstones of the Christian life. They were:

  • Kerygma – an understanding of the basic message of the Good News of salvation through the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  • Evangelia – an acceptance of the responsibility of sharing in the spreading of the Gospel.
  • Koinonia – a willingness to begin to see the Christian community as their family and to love their brothers and sisters with whom they make up the body of Christ.
  • Liturgia – a willingness to worship God with the community, especially in the Sunday celebration of the Eucharist.
  • Diakonia – a willingness to serve others, especially the poor and needy.

These five criteria remain foundational for the Church today and hence for all involved in the RCIA process.

What do candidates need to know and experience? An adequate answer to this question needs to take into account the three dimensions of faith: faith as believing, as trusting and as acting. We believe certain things about God and the Church – the knowledge dimension of faith. We strive to develop a personal relationship with the persons of the Holy Trinity – the trust dimension of faith. We try to love our neighbour as ourselves – the action dimension of faith. Simply put then, faith is a matter of head, heart and hands. 

As emphasized above, it is very important that the life-experience of enquirers or catechumens is taken into account in catechesis. It is also important that the various dimensions of faith are addressed.

remi walle 86579 sml

1. Exploring the Word of God

First the heart or trust dimension. Through involvement in reflection on the Sunday Scripture readings and in prayer, enquirers and catechumens can be helped to develop their trust in God through Christ and the Holy Spirit.

2. Sharing the Tradition

Second the head or knowledge dimension. In the past the knowledge or intellectual dimension may have been emphasised by some to the neglect of the other two dimensions. This does not mean that it should be neglected today. As is so often the case with Catholicism, it is not a question of either/or but rather both/and. We are a Church that holds certain beliefs, such as those outlined in the Creed prayed during Mass each Sunday, as well as other beliefs, such as; the inspiration of the Scriptures, the importance of prayer, and of tradition in providing guidance in matters of faith, morality and social justice. Those seeking to espouse the Catholic faith have a right to be informed of such doctrines in a way that facilitates their understanding. Catechists and sponsors have a role in promoting such understanding.

It should be noted here that this is an area where the distinction between catechumens and candidates can be significant. Many beliefs held by Catholics are also held by other Christians. If a candidate has been well catechised during membership of another mainstream Christian church there is no need to repeat catechesis on these shared beliefs. Candidates may simply need to know more about some distinctively Catholic beliefs, for example, the role of the Pope or understanding the Sacraments of Eucharist and Penance.

3. Living the Word

As for the ‘hands on’ or action dimension of faith, the catechumenate is a valuable time for introducing its members to some of the many forms of service and ministry available in the parish and beyond.

Later, as new Catholics who reflect upon their journey to date and consider the life of faith that lies ahead, they can be encouraged to offer their participation to some form of service and ministry that has captured their heart and makes use of their talents.

The following sections do not aim to provide a detailed prescription of the content of sessions for the RCIA. Rather they provide suggestions and examples that may be used or adapted according to local needs. 

Period 1 – The Precatechumenate

The emphasis of the Period of Evangelisation and Precatechumenate or the Enquiry Period is on welcoming the enquirers, seeking to answer any questions they have, helping them to recognise the call of God in their lives and giving them a taste of what it is to be part of the Catholic Church.

It is important to keep in mind that this Period of Evangelisation may extend outside of your planned programme. Here is a short video that offers a few easy ways you can evangelise during this period or even perhaps before your planned sessions begin.

 

6 Sessions

The sessions outlined below are intended as one helpful model. They do not need to be slavishly followed. Depending on the needs of the enquirers you may choose to have less or more 6 sessions. The emphasis should be on using this time to answer any questions the enquirers have.

These sessions are based on those in the book, 'Come and See', by Elio Capra SDB.

  1. Welcome to the RCIA/An Exploration of the Inquiry Period/This is a Time for Questions/A Tour around the Church
  2. Come and See – What Our Community Believes/Images of God/Catholicism in perspective
  3. Come and See – How Our Community Lives/ Being Catholic Today
  4. Come and See – How Our Community Prays/ Ways of Praying/Seasons of the Church.
  5. Come and See – How Our Community Serves and Ministers/Some examples.
  6. Are you ready to Move On? An Exploration of the Period of the Catechumenate, and of The Rite of Acceptance.

Nick Wagner, from Team RCIA presents five important questions to ask your enquirers sometime during this Precatechumenate process. You may need to adapt them slightly to suit your enquirers.

How do you discern whether the inquirer is ready for the Rite of Acceptance and entry into the catechumenate?

What do you ask of God's Church?

Period 2 - The Catechumenate

It must be emphasised that catechists should strive in each session to achieve the balance between the head, heart and hand dimensions of faith. In practice this means that input on the topic by the catechist should be limited to ten or fifteen minutes of an hour-long session. The rest of the time should include prayer, reflection on scripture, faith sharing and discussion of any questions raised.

The following topics will be covered at some stage during the process, not necessarily in the order given, but as far as possible ordered by the focus of the Sunday readings and the teaching points that emerge from there.

32 Sessions

(First 12 sessions are on articles of the Apostles Creed)

  1. I believe [faith]
  2. in God, the Father almighty, Creator of heaven and earth,
  3. and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
  4. who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary
  5. suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell;
  6. on the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;
  7. from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
  8. I believe in the Holy Spirit,
  9. the holy catholic Church,
  10. the Communion of saints,
  11. the forgiveness of sins,
  12. the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
  13. Mary (under her various titles) 
  14. Saints
  15. The Old Testament (a Catholic perspective)
  16. The New Testament (a Catholic perspective)
  17. Prayer (What, why, how, when and where)
  18. Prayer (continued) 
  19. Sacraments and sacramentality (a general explanation)
  20. The Sacrament of Baptism 
  21. The Sacrament of Confirmation
  22. The Sacrament of the Eucharist (brief history and form of the Mass)
  23. Eucharist (the meaning and significance)
  24. The Sacrament of Penance/Reconciliation
  25. The Sacrament of Holy Orders
  26. The Sacrament of Matrimony
  27. The Sacrament of the Sick
  28. The Church (as a mystery, the sacrament of Christ, People of God etc.)
  29. The Church (brief history and structure)
  30. The Moral Life
  31. Social and Environmental Justice
  32. Preparation for the Rite of Election

Period 3 - The Enlightenment

‘This is a period of more intense spiritual preparation, consisting more in interior reflection than in catechetical instruction ...’

(RCIA n.126).

Accordingly the sessions in this period are based on reflection on the gospels for the Sundays in Lent – Year A, and preparation for; the various Scrutinies, the presentation of the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, and the Sacraments of Initiation.

It is common for RCIA teams to organise a brief retreat for participants towards the end of Lent e.g. on Palm Sunday or Easter Saturday. 

6 Sessions

  • Temptation of Jesus (Matthew 4: 1-11)
  • The Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9)
  • The Woman at the Well (John 4: 4-4) First Scrutiny [for the Elect i.e. unbaptised] and Presentation of Creed at Sunday Mass
  • The Man Born Blind (John 9: 1-41) Second Scrutiny
  • The Raising of Lazarus (11: 1-45) Third Scrutiny and Presentation of the Lord’s Prayer
  • Passion Sunday – Preparation for Holy Week: Passion Sunday, Chrism Mass, Holy Thursday – Mass of the Last Supper, Good Friday, Saturday – the Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday.

Here are short reflections from TeamRCIA for each day of Holy Week:
Spy Wednesday
Holy Thursday
Good Friday
Holy Saturday
The Easter Vigil

Easter Vigil

Celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation for the Elect and/or Celebration of the Rite of Reception of Baptised Christians into the Full Communion of the Catholic Church for those already baptised, followed by the sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist.

Period 4 - The Mystagogia

The sessions in this period are built around reflection on the Scripture readings of the Season, reflection on the new Catholics’ journey so far, in particular their experience of celebrating the rites of Easter, and consideration of opportunities for service and ministry.

Once again the needs of the participants may require a different pattern of sessions e.g. monthly meetings extending to December.

6 Sessions

  • Jesus appears to his disciples (Jn. 20: 10-31)
  • The road to Emmaus (Luke 24: 13-35)
  • The Good Shepherd (Jn 10:1-10)
  • The Last Supper (Jn 14: 1-12)
  • The Advocate – the Holy Spirit (Jn 14: 15-21)
  • The Prayer of Jesus (Jn 17: 1-11a)

In addition to the reflection on the Scriptures, each week someone from one of the following parish or diocesan groups or organizations may be invited to speak to the new Catholics, if they have not already done so: St. Vincent de Paul, soup kitchen, musicians, Scripture Readers, Eucharistic Ministers, Refugee and Migrant services, prison visitors, Caritas, Catholic Social Services, Prayer group etc. (These are just examples. Adapt to suit your local circumstances).

Glossary

If you wish to understand computers or biology there are certain precise terms (jargon), such as ‘megabytes’ or ‘genes’, with which you need to become familiar. The same applies to the RCIA. Accordingly some of the more important terms are listed below.

Candidate: a baptised Christian who is preparing to enter the Catholic Church. Candidates must be distinguished from catechumens (see below). Note that the Rite document uses the term candidate to refer to those participating in one of the rites celebrated during the process (such as the Rite of Acceptance). This may include enquirers, catechumens or baptised Christians.

Catechesis: this is the art of helping people to mature in faith. It is defined in the General Directory for Catechesis (1997) as ‘nothing other than the process of transmitting the Gospel, as the Christian community has received it, understands it, celebrates it, lives it, and communicates it in many ways’ (GDC n. 105).

Catechist: one engaged in catechesis (see above).

Catechumen: an unbaptised person who has been received into the Catholic community through the Rite of Acceptance and who is preparing for the sacraments of initiation.

Discernment: this is the process by which the church community measures the conversion of the enquirer, catechumen and candidate. For example, before someone may be accepted for baptism, the community must make a judgement about his or her readiness (RCIA 112).

The Dismissal: this is the term for the ritual following the Liturgy of the Word at the Sunday Mass by which catechumens, with their catechists and sponsors, are sent forth to reflect on the Scriptures and further explore the life of faith.

The Elect: term for catechumens who have celebrated a Rite of Election and are pursuing a time of reflection and spiritual preparation (normally during Lent) prior to receiving the sacraments of initiation.

Enquirer: someone exploring the Catholic faith prior to making a decision to seek to join the Catholic Church. An enquirer may also be called a ‘pre-catechumen’.

Neophyte: a newly initiated person.

The Period of Enquiry: the first phase of the RCIA during which potential catechumens or candidates are encouraged to ask questions about the Catholic faith.

The Period of Evangelisation and Pre-Catechumenate: another name for Enquiry Phase (see above).

The Period of the Catechumenate: the second phase of the RCIA process following the Rite of Acceptance. During this period catechumens, with the help of catechists and sponsors, strive to deepen their faith as they prepare for the Rite of Election.

The Period of Purification and Enlightenment: the name for the third phase of the RCIA. Usually during the Lenten period, it is a time of reflection in preparation for the celebration of initiation at the Easter Vigil.

The Period of the Mystagogia: the fourth and final phase of the RCIA process. It follows the celebration of initiation and usually occupies the time between Easter and Pentecost. During this Easter season the new Catholics reflect through mystagogical catechesis on their faith journey and prepare for its continuation in the midst of the People of God.

The Rite of Acceptance: is the liturgical celebration by which those who have completed the Enquiry phase declare their intention to become members of the Church, and thus is the first public rite for those becoming Catholic. It marks the transition from inquiry period to catechumenate period. Through this rite, the catechumens and candidates enter into the Catechumenate phase, where they strive to deepen their faith.

The Rite of Election: is usually celebrated in the presence of the bishop on the First Sunday of Lent. This liturgical rite marks the journey from the Period of the Catechumenate to the period of Purification and Enlightenment.

The Order of Christian Initiation: celebrates the completion of the journey of preparation. The Elect are baptised, confirmed and welcomed to the Table of the Eucharist for the first time. The Candidates (who have already been baptised) are welcomed into full communion with the Catholic Church through a formal profession of faith; they are confirmed (if this has not already happened) and are welcomed to the Table of the Eucharist.

Scrutinies: these rites are usually held on the Third, Fourth and Fifth Sundays of Lent using the Cycle A Readings. They are for the Elect (unbaptised) only and are intended to help and strengthen them in their spiritual preparation as they travel towards Easter and the sacraments of initiation.

Weekly Newsletter - TeamRCIA

Weekly, we will provide a link to the TeamRCIA newsletter.