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.