Becoming a Catholic
Welcome to the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults at St. Bernard Parish. Although programs of initiation vary from parish to parish, the RCIA is conducted in most, if not all, Catholic parishes in the United States. We recommend contacting the parish church closest to your home about their availability.
Here is this year’s Schedule in PDF format which you can download. RCIA participants attend the 10:00 am Mass each Sunday to hear the Word of God, and then gather to reflect and discuss the bible readings.
Here is the RCIA 2016- 2017Calendar which you can Download
Be sure to check out current news from the RCIA in our RCIA Blog Category
- What is the R.C.I.A.?
- How does a person become a Catholic?
- Who is involved in the process?
- What is the first step?
- Who is an inquirer?
- What is conversion?
- Who is a sponsor?
- Who is a catechumen?
- Who are candidates?
- What is the catechumenate?
- Who are the “elect”?
- What is a neophyte?
- What are the Rites?
- Stage 1: Inquiry
- Stage 2: The Catechumenate
- Stage 3: Purification and Enlightenment
- Stage 4: Post-Easter Reflection or “Mystagogy”
R.C.I.A. is an acronym commonly used for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. It is the name given to the entire catechumenate or the process from inquiring about Christianity to the celebration of the Initiation Sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist at Easter. (See catechumenate).
In general RCIA is a world-wide process of becoming a follower of Jesus Christ. It involves several aspects: a period of inquiry (asking questions and getting some answers); a period of time for those who have decided to ask for baptism (the catechumenate); a period of more intense preparation and prayer for entrance into the Church (during Lent); and.a period of reflection upon the experience of being a baptized follower of Jesus Christ
People move from one stage to the next if and when they are ready. Here at St. Bernard, persons involved in the process of Christian Initiation gather weekly for input, prayer and discussion, join in Sunday Mass, and have several opportunities for retreats. They are also gradually introduced to the outreach programs in the parish. The normal time of inquiry begins when a person presents him/herself to a parish staff member and begins a series of informal, individual conversations. Formal inquiry with others begins in the fall (mid-September) and goes on for as long as an individual needs.
For those who have received sufficient answers to their questions and possess a desire to have a relationship with Christ, the next step is the period of the catechumenate. It begins with the RITE OF ACCEPTANCE by the Church in late November. It is a time to learn about Jesus’ life and resurrection, his teachings, and how we live them as Catholics. If the person has fostered a relationship with Jesus Christ and holds to his teachings as understood by the Catholic Church, the person is ELECTED by God for Baptism. Forty days before Easter Sunday a more intense period of scrutiny and prayer begins for those chosen and for the parish community. On the evening before Easter Sunday the Sacraments of Initiation are celebrated. Following Easter, a period of about 50 days called “Mystagogy” complete the RCIA process for the newly baptized to reflect back on the meaning of their baptism, reception of the Eucharist, and Confirmation.
The process of spiritual renewal should not be hasty, especially for those who are not accustomed to the fasts and feasts, Sundays and seasons of the church year the way Catholics observe them. Spiritual growth is a very individual matter; thus, each participant meets with their sponsor or parish companion periodically to assess their growth in prayer and readiness to continue their journey.
Christians from other faith traditions seeking entrance into the Catholic Church are invited to participate in the R.C.I.A. to share their experience of Jesus Christ with those seeking baptism. However, Christians already baptized and who now seek the fullness of truth and communion in the Church follow another initiation process and timeline.
First and foremost, God is the initiator of a call to Baptism. Coordinators of the RCIA, teachers (catechists), sponsors, and parish companions are all here to assist a person in the process of understanding that call for their life. Over the course of a year or more both candidates and catechists form a community based on their mutual calling by God.
The purpose of any process of Christian Initiation is to allow people the opportunity to deepen their encounter with God in Jesus Christ and the Catholic community. More is involved than merely knowing facts or learning a creed. In this initiation process, candidates are invited to share in the beliefs, life, liturgy and works of service of the Church. In this way, they come to know and experience Jesus Christ in the entire parish community.
Generally, the entire RCIA process beginning with one’s initial contact of inquiry to the reception of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist at Easter is one year.
Anyone who is seriously thinking about becoming a Catholic Christian or would simply like more information can contact Deacon Ray DiMascio. He can be reached at the Parish Office at 330-253-5161
An inquirer may be any person who desires to know more about the Catholic faith. They may begin this inquiry through informal discussions with a member of the parish staff, a friend or relative who is Catholic, or through reading Catholic literature. Or, they may begin by attending a RCIA Information Night or by coming to the inquiry classes, which begin each September. Inquirers are under no obligation to become Catholic, and their period of inquiry may take as long as they need.
The term “conversion” is often used to describe the process that each of us undergoes in changing our hearts, minds and spirits in order to deepen our relationship with God in some way. The word comes from the Latin “Conversio” meaning to “Turn Around”. Personal growth in faith is the result of answering the call to continuing conversion.
A sponsor is a baptized and practicing Catholic who has been Confirmed and receives the Eucharist regularly. The term “sponsor” is sometimes used for a godparent, parish companion, or a person chosen to walk with and guide the candidate on their spiritual journey. Sometimes the sponsor is the same person as the parish companion. In other circumstances (e.g., if the chosen godparent lives at a distance), the sponsor accompanies the candidate in place of the godparent. Sponsors, who are chosen at the beginning of the catechumenate period, are expected to be active participants in the catechumenate process (that is, attends Mass and sessions with the catechumen).
A CATECHUMEN is one who has never been baptized and who has affirmed that they wish to become a Catholic. Such a person is called a catechumen after the Rite of Acceptance during the period of the catechumenate. Catechumens, by virtue of their acceptance, are considered members of the Catholic Church, yet not full members. They have the right to be married in the church and buried with a Catholic funeral. They also have an obligation to continue to prepare dutifully for their baptism and full initiation into the church.
Candidates are those persons who have been baptized in another Christian tradition (e.g., Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, etc.) and who now wish to become Catholic. After the initial period of inquiry, these individuals are called “candidates” until they profess their faith publicly acknowledging acceptance of Christ’s teaching revealed in the Catholic Church, are confirmed and receive the Eucharist for the first time. The term “candidate” can also refer to baptized Catholics who are preparing to receive the Sacraments of Confirmation and/or Eucharist.
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, often called the catechumenate, is a process of faith development and religious instruction which culminates in full membership in the Catholic community of Christians. This includes the reception of the “sacraments of initiation” –Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Eucharist.
This faith journey is similar to the one people made when joining the early church communities in the first centuries of Christianity. Today’s revised process –promulgated in the church in 1972 and in the Cleveland Diocese in 1987, calls on the entire parish community for involvement and parish support.
The catechumenate provides a structure for the proclamation of the gospel: catechesis (passing on the of the church’s teachings); public and private prayer; spiritual direction; the observance of feasts, fasts, Sundays and seasons of the church calendar year; direct contact with members of the parish community; and participation in the work of the church for justice and peace.
During this time, each catechumen or candidate is paired with a sponsor who can serve as a spiritual companion and offer support and encouragement.
When catechumens take part in the Rite of Election, usually on the First Sunday of Lent, the bishop officially proclaims as “elect” those who are deemed ready to be baptized and fully initiated at the next Easter Vigil. The elect enter into the period of Purification and Enlightenment, the 6 weeks of Lent, as one of more intense spiritual preparation for the Sacraments.
The term “neophyte” comes from the Greek meaning “newly planted”, and refers specifically to the newly baptized. At times, the term is used to include all those who have recently been initiated fully into the church. Neophytes remain so for a year following their initiation.
Steps in the Process
Through the various rites or ceremonies of the catechumenate, the church marks a person’s journey toward full membership. These rites reflect a person’s spiritual growth and the community’s loving concern. The preparation time between each of the rites.
The first part of a candidate’s journey is called the stage of Inquiry. Sometimes called the “pre-catechumenate” or period of evangelization, it is a time for raising questions and for reflecting on one’s journey in life. The Inquirer meets individually with members of the formation team, as well as other inquirers and team members in a group. Wednesday sessions are informal, with life stories shared and curiosities about “things Catholic” answered. When a decision to continue in the process is made, inquirers obtain sponsors or godparents to mentor them along the way. Then, the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens is celebrated within the community’s Sunday Mass.
In mid-November, inquirers who have never been baptized and have made the decision to enter the Church become catechumens. The baptized who have decided to pursue becoming Catholic, along with those baptized Catholics who wish to complete their initiation are called candidates. The catechumens and candidates are then called upon to reflect on their own lives in light of the Gospel, and they are given a sponsor. Sponsors play a vital role. They are members of the Church who offer to accompany the catechumens on their journey of faith. With them they share their own experience, questions, and faith life. There will be weekly gatherings for prayer, presentations, and frank discussion. Wednesday sessions will be more instructional with an emphasis on learning specifics of the Catholic faith, especially the Mass and sacraments. Catechumens and candidates will be invited to worship on Sunday with the faith community at St. Basil. They will be introduced to the Liturgy of the Word, and will be invited to “break open” that Word after the homily at each Mass.
For catechumens and candidates who are ready, Lent inaugurates an intense period of preparation known as the Period of Purification and Enlightenment. On the first Sunday of Lent, the catechumens join others from around the Cleveland Diocese for a special liturgy at the Cleveland convention Center with Bishop Pilla. Through this ceremony, called the RITE OF ELECTION AND CALL TO CONTINUING CONVERSION, the Church reaches out to welcome the catechumens as they intensify their journey. Lent finds its origins in the tradition of the early Church when all members of the community would join with the catechumens in rededicating their lives to Christ. For the catechumens, or the elect as they are now called, Lent is a time to deepen one’s practice of prayer, sacrifice, and works of service as a prelude to the life one desires to take on. Besides the weekly gatherings for discussion and prayer, this period of preparation will be marked by special ceremonies and an all-day retreat.
Easter is the high point in one’s journey of faith. At the Easter Vigil celebrating the Lord’s death and resurrection, the elect are baptized and confirmed, and share for the first time in the Eucharist. Those baptized in other Christian communities are received into full communion with the Catholic Church.
While Easter is the high point of one’s journey, it is only a beginning and a sign post of the road ahead. This is formally recognized in that those who were received into the Church are asked to participate in one last stage of formation during the fifty days following Easter and leading up to Pentecost. This is a chance to reflect upon what one has taken on and to settle into one’s new home in the Church community. New church members, or “neophytes” are also reminded that the initiation process is just the beginning of a life-long journey of conversion. The four or five weeks between Easter and Pentecost concentrate on helping the neophytes learn practical ways of carrying out their commitment in specific church ministries.
Anyone in the community who is interested in learning more about membership in the Catholic Church is welcome to contact the Parish Office, so that you may be put in touch with the correct Staff member. Spouses or other companions are most welcome to accompany an inquirer.