The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is the process through which interested adults and older children are gradually introduced to the Catholic faith and way of life. St. Patrick’s has organized a “program” for adults, and makes special provision for older children.
RCIA is programmatic in that it systematically takes an individual through the major teachings and practices of the Church in a group-learning format. However, it is not a “course” and should not be approached as simply an instance of adult learning. Rather, it combines learning, discussion, prayer and discernment.
The program itself usually runs from late September or early October through the Easter Season, and it is marked by several stages. At each stage, participants have the option of continuing in the process or leaving.
The first stage is called Inquiry, and it is time for asking general questions and gaining an overview of Catholicism. Participants then progress into what is referred to as the Pre-Catechumenate when subjects of greater depth are gone into by the instructor/catechist who leads the sessions.
The next major step in the process is Enrolment in the Catechumenate (for unbaptized persons) or Candidacy (for baptized Christians from other faith communities). This usually happens during Advent, the weeks leading up to Christmas, and is a commitment made by each person to complete the program of sessions from then until the end of Lent (a period of six weeks prior to Easter).
As the group sessions draw close to Holy Week, the commemorative celebration of the events immediately leading up to the Resurrection of Easter, participants are again asked if they will continue. Those who choose to do so are then initiated into full membership in the Church at the Easter Vigil, theSaturday night before Easter Sunday. There are then a small number of post-Easter gatherings of the RCIA group.