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Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA)
Every year during the magnificent Easter Vigil liturgy, St. John the Evangelist and parishes throughout the world welcome adults into full communion with Christ and his Church. Through a process of discernment, prayer, education, and sharing with others on the journey, these adults prepare to become Catholics and the entire SJE parish community rejoices with them.
Please pray for St. John's newest Catholics who came into full communion with Christ and His church at the Easter Vigil Mass in 2016: Salmatou Ngoutane, Erin Fohouo, Robyn Fohouo, Diana Huerta, Jennifer Benzie, Jennifer Treminio, Lisa Villalona, Kyle Gorden, Matthew Lilley, and Nicholas Lilley.
Known as the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), this process is intended for adults who:
• are not baptized Christians and would like to be fully initiated and welcomed into the Catholic Church through the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. These adults are known as “catechumens”.
• were baptized as Christians in another Christian community. Seeking full communion with the Catholic Church, these adults receive the sacraments of Confirmation and the Eucharist. These adults are known as “candidates”.
• were baptized as Catholics in infancy or childhood but who have not received the sacraments of Eucharist or Confirmation. These adults are known as “candidates”.
Those adults who were baptized as Catholics or as Christians in another tradition must provide proof of their baptism via a certificate or a letter from the church of baptism.
Each catechumen and candidate is assigned an individual sponsor who serves as a mentor and friend in faith and prayer. By sharing his or her own faith and building an individual relationship with the catechumen or candidate, the sponsor is able to affirm the readiness of the sponsored adult to enter into full communion with Christ and his Church. Each sponsor must have received all the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Eucharist, and Confirmation) and must be a practicing Catholic who is at least sixteen years old. We recommend that sponsors be members of SJE, but this is not required. Catechumens and candidates can request that a friend or colleague be their sponsor, but parents may not serve in this role. For those who are baptized at Easter, the sponsor becomes the godparent. Sponsors are chosen and assigned early in the process and should attend the Rite of Acceptance, Rite of Election, and the Easter Vigil (see below) with their catechumen or candidate. Sponsors should also be present at RCIA meetings and Sunday Mass as often as possible.
The Phases of RCIA
Becoming a Catholic through the RCIA process is something to be savored, lingered over, and loved. It is a beautiful time of encounter with Jesus, allowing Him to nurture the seeds of faith into a plant as mighty as the mustard tree (hyperlink to Mark 4: 30-32). Therefore, the process usually requires a year for candidates and catechumens to complete. The RCIA program is a four-phase process, with special ceremonies marking the transition between one phase and the next. Typically, catechumens and candidates participate in all four phases.
The first phase is called the “Precatechumenate” (pre-cat-a-cume-men-et). During this phase, those who have decided to become Catholic Christians or those who want to complete the Sacraments of Initiation within the Catholic Church meet weekly with Sr. Roberta to learn about and discuss the “basics” – topics include prayer, worship, and doctrine and how these are expressed in everyday life as a Catholic.
After the precatechumenate phase, there is a special ceremony called “Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens” or “Rite of Acceptance”. This takes place in the context of a Sunday Mass in the Fall of each year. Candidates and catechumens are called forward onto the altar and welcomed by the entire congregation.
Now, the candidates and catechumens enter the catechumenate phase. They attend Sunday Mass as a group, gathering to hear the Word of God with the entire congregation. After the homily, the group repairs to a separate location to reflect on the Scriptures they have just heard and allow the Lord to speak to their hearts. They discuss the meaning of the Gospel reading and reflect on its application within their own lives. The group continues to meet during the week to read and discuss Scripture and to learn about Catholic teaching.
After the catechumenate phase, the candidates and catechumens take part in a special ceremony, which is held on the first Sunday of Lent. The Rite of Election/Call to Continuing Conversion gathers all the candidates and catechumens from the Archdiocese of Washington together at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to mark their entrance into the next phase.
The catechumens and candidates enter into the third phase, called Purification and Enlightenment. This phase takes place during the entire six weeks of Lent. It is a time of intense prayer and spiritual preparation for the liturgies of Holy Week, especially the Easter Vigil. Catechumens (now called “the elect”) and candidates continue to meet weekly and to attend Sunday Mass as a group.
At the end of Lent, on the Saturday before Easter, the elect and the candidates are welcomed into fully communion with Christ and his Church at the Easter Vigil. During the liturgy, the unbaptized will receive the Sacrament of Baptism and those who have not been confirmed will receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation. All will receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Now, they have completed all of the Sacraments of Initiation offered by the Church for their salvation and therefore, the fulfillment of their humanity.
Finally, the newly initiated, now called “neophytes” continue to meet during the final stage of the RCIA process. This phase is called mystagogia (mis-ta-go-gia). From Easter until Pentecost forty days later, the neophytes continue to meet weekly to reflect on the experience of Easter, to share and celebrate their new life with Christ in the Church, and to prepare for their new life of full discipleship.
In communion with Pope Francis, Cardinal Wuerl, and the whole universal Church we welcome all who seek after the Lord with a sincere heart and look forward to sharing their journey of faith. There are many resources and many open hearts ready to assist you at SJE. Please join us at Community Sunday after the Masses on the third Sunday of every month to meet some of those who can accompany you along the way. As Fr. Calis said at the Christmas Eve Mass to those who were visiting – “we love you and we are not whole if you are not here!” Take the first step today, and contact one of the parish priests or Sr. Roberta Harding at 301-681-7634.