Thinking of Becoming Catholic?
Rite Of Christian Initiation Of Adults (RCIA)
Becoming a Catholic is a big step; it is literally a life changing experience, and one which shouldn’t be entered into lightly, nor should anyone ever feel pushed or coerced into becoming a Catholic because their fiancée is Catholic, or their in-laws expect it, or because it is easier to enrol children into Catholic schools. Like any family, it is always exciting and a great privilege to have new members arriving, thus there is no doubt that you are joyfully welcome into our Catholic family community, but this needs to be something that you believe God is calling you to, and should also be something that you desire for yourself as well.
You are becoming a part of a faith community and the journey you undertake is one that takes place within our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish community and involves many parishioners whose own faith experiences have led them to share their time, faith stories, talent and resources with you. Every person is treated as an individual and your journey is tailored to best support you as you choose to move forward along each stage.
There is a different pathway to being initiated as a Catholic depending on whether you are unbaptised or are already baptised into a different Christian Church and the length of time it takes depends on your previous faith experiences and knowledge of Catholicism.
The Rite of Christian Initiation program is aimed at those who, as adults or older children, are interested in becoming a fully initiated Catholic. ie: they may or may not have already received the sacrament of Baptism. After initial inquiry and seeking God in faith, a form (found in the Church foyer) can be completed and left with the parish office.
Individually designed programs support those inquiring and their sponsors to grow in understanding of Catholic beliefs, sacraments, rites and traditions through group sessions where members of the parish and clergy share their understandings and faith. It is a faith journey and the timing of these sessions vary each year depending on the needs of those seeking to become Catholic.
Following a period of preparation dependent on personal experiences of Jesus, understanding of the Catholic faith and readiness, those already baptised are welcomed into full communion with the Catholic Church by the reception of the sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Eucharist. This is usually done during a Sunday Mass celebration and can take place at any time during the year.
Contact: Diane Redmayne
For the Unbaptised: The Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA)
Following a period of initial exploration of faith and conversion experiences, where any concerns are addressed and questions answered, a personal commitment to enter a more formal period of preparation takes place. This formal period of time is usually a year and is called the Catechumenate. This time includes some interspersed periods of formal instruction and discussions being mindful of the busy lives we all lead, and importantly, regular participation in parish worship and activities. Children who are of an age and maturity to be able to decide for themselves are included in a similar process targeted to meet their needs.
Once the catechumen is ready, the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and First Eucharist (First holy Communion) are celebrated within the Easter Vigil Mass before the whole parish community. The process may at first seem long and perhaps even complicated, but every support is given and those who have been through it before will agree that the fruits of a less rushed journey are abundant and the journey itself is really a great joy. It will undoubtedly be a special time in your spiritual life.
If you have any questions, please contact me, the RCIA Coordinator, Diane Redmayne, through the parish office.
What is involved?
There are several stages and ritual steps leading up to the reception of the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist at Easter.
First Stage: The Pre-Catechumenate
Second Stage: The Catechumenate
The Third Stage: The Period of Purification & Enlightenment
The Fourth Stage: Period of Mystagogy
The pre-Catechumenate has no fixed duration and is the least formal and structured of all the phases. The main purpose is to give the inquirer an opportunity to question and explore many different aspects of the Catholic faith, while introducing some of the Gospel values. Within this phase, the beginnings of Christian faith start to become evident.
At Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish, we offer the Alpha experience to assist those enquiring to find out more in a relaxed group setting (Find out more on the Alpha page of this website).As well, there are interviews and discussions with the RCIA coordinator to determine individual needs and setting of goals and assistance in planning each stage.
First Ritual Step: Once initial conversion is experienced, and the unbaptised enquirer is interested in making a more formal commitment to systematically learning about the Catholic faith, then the enquirer is accepted into the Church as a catechumen. This is done through a simple public rite called Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens at a Sunday Mass. The enquirer expresses his/her interest and the Church accepts his/her intention to respond to God’s call to follow the way of Christ.
Second Stage: The Catechumenate
This part of the process can be equated to an apprenticeship and its duration varies but most usually it is about 10 months to a year. During this phase the catechumen is expected to participate with the whole Catholic community in their Sunday celebrations. The catechumen participates by sharing in the Liturgy of the Word. Through prayer, learning and coming to know and join in activities with other Catholic Christians, catechumens discover the love and power of God in their lives and in the church.
This phase is meant to be one not only of intellectual and faith formation, but also one of great delight and opportunity to contribute to and benefit from the parish community. The focus clearly is on a conversion of heart, through prayer and good works, but also of conversion of the mind, in which we start to see through the eyes of God, to think, perceive and act as Christ desires.
Second Ritual StepThe Rite of Election is an acknowledgment on behalf of the priest, the RCIA team, and the sponsors, that the catechumen is adequately formed and ready to receive the Sacraments of Initiation. The catechumen’s request to be fully received into the Catholic Church is formally accepted by the Bishop of our Diocese on behalf of the Church. The catechumen too, formally declares that he / she has believed and accepted all that was presented to them during the Catechumenate. This is a formal declaration that it is their desire to become a fully active participant within the Catholic faith community. This Rite takes place on the first Sunday of Lent and from this time, until they are baptised, the catechumens are called the Elect.
The Third Stage: The Period of Purification & Enlightenment:
The Period of Purification and Enlightenmentand is marked by 3 community celebrations known as Scrutinies. During Lent (6 weeks before Easter), the elect and the parish community together focus on conversion and scrutinize their lives in light of the gospel. These scrutinies coincide with the 3rd, 4th and 5th Sunday’s of Lent, and they ask God for healing and forgiveness of the elect. During this time, catechumens receive anointings, participate in prayers and blessings, which assists this conversion. The gathered assembly of faithful encourage the members of the Elect, who stand out the front, by joining in the Blessing given by Father Shane.
Third Ritual Step: At the Easter Vigil Mass the elect become full members of the Body of Christ, the Church,by Baptism, Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist. From this time until the end of the period of mystagogy, they are known as neophytes, “new sprouts.”
Fourth Stage: Period of Mystagogy (6 weeks from Easter to Pentecost)
This is an important period of reflection by the newly initiated with their parish community. The formation and teaching continues less formally during this time, in order to help the neophytes become incorporated into the full life of the Christian community.
It is important to note that the fourth stage may be the end or final stage of the RCIA process, but it is only the first stage of the rest of their lives as a fully active and participating member of the Catholic Church. Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish celebrates the end of the formal RCIA journey with a parish celebration at Pentecost.
Who will accompany you on the Journey?
The whole parish has a responsibility for the gathering and nurturing of new members. The entire community welcomes them and delegates some from among its members to accompany them on their journey of faith.
The bishop as part of his overall pastoral care of the diocese, personally and actively promotes the Catechumenate and normally welcomes the new members himself by presiding at the Rite of Election and at a Mass of Thanksgiving after Easter.
The priest plays a special role in ministering to the pastoral and spiritual care of those on the journey and those accompanying them.
Sponsors are delegated by the parish family to take an active and supportive role as companions, witnesses and guides for those seeking to join the Catholic Church.
A team of catechists is responsible for guiding the formation process of the members of the group. As those in formation share their experience of God in their own lives, catechists guide them to a deeper reflection on the Word of God and greater understanding of the faith of the Church.