The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults shortened to “RCIA” is the Church’s process of welcoming newcomers into full communion with the Catholic Church. The RCIA program involves not just the newcomer or “inquirer” but all the members of the community who by prayer and personal example help the inquirer find his or her place in the Church.

RCIA is for those persons who have never been baptized and seek to join the community of believers. These men and women are called “Catechumens.”
RCIA is for those who have been baptized in another Christian faith, but are seeking to join the Catholic Church. These men and women are called “Candidates.”
RCIA is for those who have been baptized in the Catholic faith but who have never been fully initiated, through the Sacraments of Eucharist/Confirmation. These are also called “Candidates.”

Others who participate in RCIA are: Catholic adults who serve as sponsors for the catechumens and candidates. These people have a very important role in helping to nurture and introduce the catechumens and candidates to the Church community by providing support, example and prayer.

The RCIA process has 4 distinct stages. Here’s a quick summary of each:

1.    Inquiry- The initial period which may last anywhere from a few weeks to several months during which newcomers are able to ask questions, share their stories, and reflect on the place of God in their lives. Your main task here is to explore and develop your faith enough so you can make an informed initial decision about entering the Catholic Church. The final decision is made by the first Sunday of Lent. You will actually enter the Church at Easter and receive the sacraments of initiation.

2.    Catechumenate – A lengthy period of formation and reflection on the Word of God. In the catechumenate, your faith has begun to develop. Now you need to learn and grow more. You focus on catechesis in this stage: learning about the faith, how to live as a Christian, and developing your interior life. Your job now is to come into closer contact with the Living God and learn more about the Catholic Faith.

3.    Purification and Enlightenment- This period of purification and enlightenment begins the first Sunday of Lent and is the final stage before receiving the Easter sacraments of initiation into the Church: baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist. (Those already baptized with a valid baptism in another Christian church aren’t baptized again.) This stage of intense reflection calls you to deeper conversion in preparation for your renewal at Easter. This is what the season of Lent is for, but it has a special intensity for you as you’re entering the Church and receiving the sacraments of initiation. The Church uses three profound and beautiful passages from the Gospel of John to focus this preparation effort.

4.    Mystagogia – The time after the catechumens and candidates have been received into full communion with the Church. This stage of mystagogy during Easter is for continued reflection on the sacraments you have received at Easter, especially the Eucharist. Specific catechesis on the mission of the Church and the various ministries of the parish are the focus of this stage. The Mass and the Eucharist are the “source and summit” of the Christian life in the Catholic Church, and this period is designed to help you understand, appreciate, and live more deeply this center of Catholicism.