What is RCIA? — The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is the process through which persons inquire into and determine if they are called to live out their faith life as a member of the Roman Catholic Community. Typically, groups consist of people who are:
baptized into other Christian faiths (candidates)
baptized in the Catholic Church, but have not received the sacrament(s) of Eucharist and/or
Confirmation. (CCI – Catholics Completing Initiation)
How long does it take to become Catholic? – Fully becoming a Catholic Christian is a lifelong journey, of which the RCIA process is a short piece. The journey to full initiation into the Catholic Church usually takes at least nine months. At St. Matthew Church, we offer two opportunities to join the Period of Inquiry, the first step in the RCIA process – one session begins after Easter, and another session begins in September. This is to best serve the needs of inquirers who long to begin the journey.
For those who have never been baptized, “the period of catechumenate, beginning at acceptance into the order of catechumens…should extend for at least one year of formation and instruction. Ordinarily this period should go from at least the Easter season of one year until the next.” (National Statutes for the Catechumenate 6). For this reason, catechumens should plan to begin their Period of Inquiry in the session following Easter.
That’s a really long time. Why? – Becoming a Catholic is not something to be taken lightly. Though the knowledge gained through RCIA will be only a snapshot of the depth of the faith, the decision to enter into the Catholic Church must include a sufficient understanding of what Catholics believe. More importantly, each person must take the knowledge and use it to develop a deeper relationship with Christ, allowing him/her to joyfully commit to discipleship and a new way of life. While it seems long at the outset, most people find it to be time well spent, and are sad to see it come to a close. Really!
So when can I start? – Those who are not baptized are brought into the Church through the sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil each year. Since a full year of formation is required, it is best to start in the session beginning after Easter, though it is possible to begin in September and receive sacraments after eighteen months. Those who were baptized in another faith can be brought into the Church during Advent or at the Easter Vigil. The RCIA Coordinator will discuss your situation at your first individual meeting.
I am divorced and remarried. Can I still come to RCIA? –Yes! However, there may be a need for an annulment of the previous marriage(s), even if neither spouse was Catholic. The annulment process can be lengthy – please talk with the RCIA Director about any divorce or remarriage as soon as possible. Initiation into the Catholic Church will be delayed until the annulment has been granted and the current marriage recognized.
I want to learn about Catholicism but I’m not sure I’m ready to actually become Catholic. What should I do? – Come to RCIA. You can attend the sessions for as long and as many times as you like without participating in the Rites leading up to the reception of sacraments. YOU decide when you are ready for the next step. We do not pressure you and we expect deep discernment. We meet you where you are and try to help on YOUR journey in YOUR time.
RCIA for Children
Children who have reached the age of reason (usually age 7) who are unbaptized follow the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) for reception of the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and First Communion). Children who are baptized in another Christian faith who desire full communion with the Catholic Church are also enrolled in the RCIA process. Classes are held for one school year on Tuesday evenings from 6:00- 8:00 p.m., and the sacraments are usually conferred at the Easter Vigil.
Ready to register yourself or your child(ren) for RCIA?
To register for our RCIA program: RCIA Registration
To register for our RCIA program Adapted for Children of Catechetical Age: RCIA for Children Registration
Are you interested in becoming a Sponsor?
Sponsors are a vital part of the RCIA process. Each candidate and catechumen has a parishioner who walks the faith journey of the RCIA with him or her. Sponsors strengthen the RCIA and the parish community by becoming the personal connection for our candidates and catechumens to the larger church.
To be a sponsor (or godparent) one needs to be a practicing Catholic in good standing with the Church who has already received the sacrament of Confirmation. Sponsors are active, practicing Catholic adults who are members of St. Matthew Church. They are prayerful people who participate in the sacraments and in the liturgical life of the parish. Sponsors are representatives of the Catholic community. They are companions, listeners, and mentors. Sponsors are not teachers or catechists and there is no requirement to “know the answers.” The most important role of sponsors is to be there – to attend RCIA sessions with the candidates and to participate in the Rites with them. Often, sponsors are learning right along with the candidates. Great sponsors are aware of their own needs for faith growth and development.
A sponsor has a privileged opportunity to walk side by side with those who are discerning and preparing to join the Catholic Church. The sponsor’s (or godparent’s) role is primarily to:
- witness their own faith to their designated candidate or catechumen by modeling the Christian life;
- assist them at the weekly sessions and help them get acquainted with Catholic life and practices;
- accompany them every Tuesday and on certain Sundays for special Rites
- give testimony of their candidate’s or catechumen’s readiness to be received into the Church.
Training, assistance, and support is provided all along the way!
Understanding that sponsors may need to miss a few sessions due to illness, family, or work obligations, sponsors must be able to commit to attending (or to supplying a substitute when necessary):
- every Tuesday evening RCIA session
- designated Sunday mornings for the 10am Mass (up to 5 depending on whether the person sponsored is a candidate or a catechumen
- the Rite of Election on the 1st Sunday of Lent in the evening
- all day Holy Saturday (retreat in the morning, followed by rehearsal, and the Easter Vigil in the evening)
- various events during the Easter season (depending on the needs of the catechumen or candidate)
- Neophyte Mass and last RCIA session on Pentecost Sunday
Yes, being an RCIA sponsor is a big commitment! But it is well worth the effort! Former sponsors have these comments to share:
Although I was initially “drafted” as a sponsor, RCIA has been a rewarding experience. Not only have I re-learned my faith, but have also grown in it. My recent candidate’s enthusiasm for the faith challenged me and we grew together. The RCIA experience is a process of mutual growth and I wish every “cradle Catholic” could participate. – Pat Martin
I became a sponsor because I wanted to get more involved in the church and share the joy of my faith with the new members. I was surprised to find that the experience actually strengthened my own faith as I learned more about the church and its teachings. Becoming a sponsor is a very meaningful and worthwhile experience. – Mary Lewis
I have sponsored more than once and each experience has been different. What is always the same though, is the appreciation of the “Christian to be” for my support and presence in his or her journey. Sponsorship has increased my own faith and spirituality. – Carol Ann Lombardi
Sponsoring is a great way to grow in your faith while welcoming others into the Catholic Church. You’ll learn the names and stories behind the faces you see weekly at mass and you will make many new friends in the process. Don’t miss out on your opportunity to discover more about our faith and the wonderful people who make up our St. Matthew family. – Michael Springer
Going through the RCIA sponsor process as a cradle Catholic made me realize all the wonderful teachings and traditions of the church that I had forgotten. It was a great way to renew my faith while becoming more involved in the church. – Mary Gilliland
It was nice to see that people were excited about becoming Catholic. And that they chose it on their own for themselves. I grew more in my faith by being a sponsor. I would do it again in a heartbeat. – Cathy Rose
If you are ready to make the commitment to being an RCIA sponsor or have questions? Contact Jennifer Cabe.