The process of becoming Catholic is formally known as the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). It is a gradual process of spiritual formation that includes prayer, sharing, and study and occurs in the context of the parish community. It is intended for adults who:
1. are unbaptized and would like to be fully initiated and welcomed into the Catholic Church through the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist
2. were baptized in another Christian community/tradition* and seek to be received into the full communion of the Catholic Church through the sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist
3. were baptized as Catholics* as infants/children but have not received the sacraments of Confirmation and Eucharist
*Proof of valid Christian baptism is required (by way of certificate or letter of verification from one’s church of baptism).
Discerning the call to become Catholic requires time, reflection, and prayer. Presuming at least a one-year commitment, RCIA is a four-phase process with special ceremonies between each phase. Participation in all four phases of the process is typical.
1. Precatechumenate (pre-cat-a-cume-men-et): Beginning in June, Inquirers who have decided on the path to becoming Catholic or completing their initiation in the Catholic Church meet weekly on Wednesday evenings with the Director of Faith Formation and a team of parishioners to continue to learn about and discuss the “basics” of Catholic life, prayers, teachings, and worship.
Rite of Acceptance Into the Order of Catechumens/Rite of Welcoming (occurs at a Sunday Mass in the fall months at the Cathedral)
2. Catechumenate: After three to four months, Inquirers begin to attend Sunday Mass as a group. During this phase, Inquirers who are unbaptized become known as catechumens. Inquirers who have been baptized become known as candidates. Following the homily, the group is “dismissed” to reflect on the Scriptures for that day, discussing their meaning as well as their real-life application. They also continue to meet on Wednesday evenings to spend more time with the Scriptures and to learn about Catholic teaching.
Rite of Election/Call to Continuing Conversion (occurs at a special ceremony on the first Sunday of Lent at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception)
3. Purification and Enlightenment: The six weeks of Lent are a time of more intense prayer and spiritual preparation for the liturgies of Holy Week, especially the Easter Vigil. Catechumens, now called the elect, and candidates continue to meet on Wednesday evenings and attend Sunday Mass as a group during this phase.
Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist (occur at the Easter Vigil – the Saturday evening before Easter Sunday – at the Cathedral)
4. Mystagogia (mis-ta-go-gia): In the weeks following Easter until Pentecost, the newly initiated, who are called neophytes, continue to meet on Wednesday evenings to reflect on the experience of Easter, sharing and celebrating their new life in the Church and preparing f