FOR ANYONE CONSIDERING ENTERING THE CHURCH:
What do I do first?
- Present yourself to the pastor and tell him your intentions. You can make an appointment with him by calling the parish office at (301) 373-2281.
What will happen next?
-The pastor or a representative will ask you some questions to determine your religious history and your level of knowledge and spiritual formation. Don't worry! This isn't to judge or condemn you. It is just to help us discern how we can best accompany and assist you on your journey into full communion with the Church.
If you have already received some instruction in the Christian faith, you may be able to proceed directly to taking classes starting in September. If September is still a long way away, then we can pair you with a one-on-one instructor or small group to provide you with some instruction and spiritual formation until the classes start up again.
If you have a high level of knowledge of Catholic doctrine, have been living a life of prayer and virtue, and simply have not yet received the sacraments of initiation, then you may only need to receive some brief additional catechesis and liturgical formation on a one-on-one basis.
If you have no Christian background, we will pair you with an individual instructor or small group to give you some introductory teaching and formation in Sacred Scripture, prayer, and liturgy, and help you to learn to know Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of mankind. After that, you will be ready to begin the September classes.
RCIA stands for Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults.
We often associate RCIA with the catechesis that takes place in the catechumenate phase. This is only one aspect of RCIA (albeit an important one). Everyone is invited to the evening classes where this catechesis happens; by coming to the classes, you are not making any kind of binding commitment to becoming Catholic. Our classes take place on Sunday afternoons from 1:30-3:00pm from September through Easter Vigil in the St. Jude Room of the Msgr. Harris Center.
RCIA is the process by which people enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. "Full communion" means that a person has received all of the sacraments of initiation: Baptism, First Reconciliation, First Communion, and Confirmation.
RCIA is designed for five different types of people:
1. People of no religious background who want to become Catholic
2. People of a non-Christian religious background who want to become Catholic
3. Members of other Christian denominations who want to become Catholic
4. Baptized Catholics who never received First Reconciliation and First Communion
5. Baptized Catholics who were never confirmed
People from the first two categories are called "catechumens." This is a name that goes back to the earliest days of the Church. It comes from a Greek word meaning "a person being instructed." (Greek was the common language in the very early Church.) Catechumens receive at least a year of formation before entering the Church and receive their sacraments of baptism, first Communion, and confirmation at the Easter Vigil.
People from categories 3 - 5 are called "candidates for full reception into the Church." Their RCIA process can be quite different from that for catechumens, depending upon their prior level of instruction in the Christian faith, prior formation in the life of prayer and virtue, and prior practice of their Christian faith. They may require very little additional catechesis and may be fully initiated into the Church at any Sunday liturgy.
RCIA for catechumens is divided into 4 phases:
1. Inquiry phase: This is when a person initially presents him/herself as a catechumen. It is a time for the catechumen to become acquainted with the parish community and begin formation as a Christian. He/she chooses a sponsor to present him/her to the parish and give support, receives some basic instruction about the Christian faith, and begins receiving pastoral care from the pastor and parish community.
2. Pre-catechumenate: This phase involves learning more about parish life, receiving some instruction about the Catholic sacraments, and becoming more deeply incorporated into the life of the Catholic community.
3. Catechumenate: Here is where one really begins to delve deeply into the truths of the Catholic faith. In this phase, catechumens begin to receive advanced instruction in the Catholic faith and participate more fully and regularly in the Mass. They choose godparents who will accompany them along the rest of their journey toward receiving the sacraments, supporting and guiding them along the way. They also become more fully formed in prayer and the spiritual life.
4. Initiation: Catechumens are fully initiated into the life of the Church and receive the sacraments. This usually takes place at the Easter Vigil. However, the Easter Vigil isn't really the end goal. The end goal is reaching the point where one is intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually ready to enter the Church fully. This will happen at a different time for everyone. The pastor and other associates can help each catechumen discern when they have reached this point.
If you have any questions regarding RCIA or any aspect of the process of becoming Catholic, please contact Pat Younger at (240) 434-6176 or Diana Huber at (301) 373-2281.
In the meantime, please see this very good article on the subject of becoming Catholic from Catholic Answers.