Becoming a Catholic
Welcome to the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults at St. Bernard-St. Mary Parish. Here is this year’s Schedule in PDF format which you can download. RCIA participants should meet at the 9:30 am Mass each week, and the group meets at the Newman Center following Mass.
Here is the RCIA 2010- 2011Calendar which you can Download
Be sure to check out current news from the RCIA in our RCIA Blog Category
- How does a person become a Catholic?
- What is the R.C.I.A.?
- 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”
Although programs of initiation vary from place to place, in general the process involves several aspects: a stage of inquiry or period of evangelization; a stage for those who have decided to ask for baptism (the catechumenate); and a stage of more intense preparation for entrance into the church (during Lent).
People move from one stage to the next if and when they are ready. Here at St. Bernard-St. Mary’s, 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 conversations. Formal inquiry begins in the fall (mid-September) and goes on for as long as an individual needs.
For those who are ready, the next step the RITE OF ACCEPTANCE begins the period of the catechumenate (basic teachings about Catholicism) in late November through February or March. The Lenten preparation (about 6 weeks) begins with the RITE OF ELECTION where the church officially declares the readiness of the candidates to be received into the church at the EASTER VIGIL, on the evening of Holy Saturday. Following Easter, a period of about 50 days called “Mystagogy” are provided for the newly received to reflect back on the meaning of their baptism or their 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 candidate with their sponsor or parish companion periodically to assess their growth in prayer and readiness to continue their journey.
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 inquiry to the celebration of the Initiation Sacraments at the Easter Vigil. (See catechumenate).
People involved in the process include coordinators, catechists, of course the candidates themselves and their sponsors and/or parish companions. They learn from each other and over the course of the year form a close community.
The purpose of any process of Christian Initiation is to allow people the opportunity to deepen their encounter with Christ and the Catholic community. More is involved than merely learning a creed. In this process, candidates are invited to share in the beliefs, life, liturgy and works of service of the church. In this way, the entire parish community is involved in the process by their witness and activity as well as their welcoming stature towards the prospective new members.
The normal time for persons seeking baptism to receive this sacrament is at the Easter Vigil. Christians from other faith traditions seeking entrance into the Catholic Church are invited to full communion at this time as well. However, in certain circumstances, these Christians may make their profession of faith in the Catholic Church at another time.
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.
“Convert” is a term that normally was used to describe a person who had become a Catholic after practicing another religious tradition. Although that term is not used as much anymore, 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 practicing Catholic chosen to be an official witness at a person’s baptism (otherwise known as a “godparent”), or an official witness at one’s Confirmation. The term “sponsor” is sometimes used for a parish companion, or that person chosen, either by the candidate or by the team for the candidate, to walk with and guide the candidate on their spiritual journey. Sometimes the godparent/sponsor is the same person as the parish companion. In other circumstances (e.g., if the chosen godparent lives at a distance), the parish companion accompanies the candidate in place of the sponsor. Sponsors/companions, who are chosen at the beginning of the catechumenate period, are expected to be active participants in the catechumenate process.
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 Roman Catholic. After the initial period of inquiry, these individuals are called “candidates” after the Rite of Welcome during the period of the catechumenate and until they profess their faith, are confirmed in the Catholic Church and receive the Eucharist for the first time. The term “candidate” can also refer to baptized Catholics who are preparing to celebrate 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 Roman 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.