Q: How do I become a Catholic?
A: Through a process called the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, or RCIA, for short. It is not program (rigidly structured with fixed time limits), it is a process -- a process of faith formation that recognizes the uniqueness of each individual's faith journey.
Q: So the RCIA process is unique for me?
A: Yes! However, it is not a totally free-form, unstructured experience. And although many factors influence your faith formation in subtle ways, there are a few key aspects of your faith journey that determine, in broad strokes, the way in which your RCIA ministers will assist you. The first important determinant is whether or not have you been baptized into the Christian faith.
If you have had a valid baptism, you are on the path to becoming a Candidate; if you have not, you are on the path to becoming a Catechumen. In either case, the path leads to becoming Catholic -- in full communion with the Roman Catholic Church.
The second important determinant is the amount of formal Christian faith formation you previously received. (This is called catechesis.)
Q: How long does the RCIA process take?
A: Because the process respects you as an individual, it is difficult to give a time frame at the outset. You do not want to rush your faith journey. One person's time frame is a little different from another's.
If you have not been baptized, the process usually takes a year, beginning at Easter of one year, and ending at the Easter Vigil of the next year.
If you have already been baptized into another Christian faith tradition, you may require less time, depending on the amount of faith formation (catechesis) you have already received, though this, too, culminates with the Easter Vigil liturgy.
St. Patrick's parish wants to listen to both your needs and desires; it also does not want to deprive you of the opportunity to discern God's gifts to you at this important moment in your life. Time is needed for your faith formation as an adult.
Q: How do I know if my baptism was valid?
A: Baptisms in Christian Religions who baptize in the name of the Triune Majesty are most probably considered a valid baptism. Additional information and explanation can be given on an individual basis.
The validity of one's baptism is of critical importance to the church, so documents or records -- or, in some cases, witnesses -- must be checked.
Q: What if I am unsure if my baptism was valid?
A: In cases where all reasonable attempts to verify the validity of a baptism fail to confirm or deny the validity of a person's baptism, the Church does allow a conditional baptism.
Q: What is the Catechumen's path like?
A: The process is composed of five stages:
The Pre-catechumenate, or inquiry period, consists of informal meetings to explain the process and answer questions about the Roman Catholic Church and the local parish. This is a time for Inquirers to follow their heart's desire and decide whether they wish to continue.
The instruction period, also called the Catechumenate, begins with The Rite of Acceptance. At this time, Inquirers are formally welcomed by the Parish community and become Catechumens. They enter a period of more structured faith formation; they attend Sunday Mass every week, and, after listening to the scripture readings, the psalm, and the homily, they are dismissed from the assembly to reconvene outside Mass to join their Sponsors and RCIA Catechists to discuss the scripture readings they have just heard. Additional catechetical sessions are offered during which important faith based subjects are discussed such as the Sacraments, the meaning of the Mass, and Catholic morality and social actions.
✞These Catechist (instructor) led discussions are called Breaking Open the Word. Roughly halfway through Sunday Mass, Catechumens are sent by the Presider to study and reflect upon the day's readings and homily they have just heard. They are then led by their RCIA Catechist and their Sponsor out of the church to do so.
The Rites of Sending and Election (First Sunday in Lent), in which the Parish sends the Catechumens to the Bishop who, on the part of the entire Catholic Church, accepts them as the Elect who will be received into the Church at Easter. At this time the Church enters the Lenten period in preparation for the Christ's death, and Resurrection. For the Elect this is a period of spiritual enlightenment and preparation. The name of a catechumen who is sent to the Bishop to be accepted in the order of the Elect, signs the book of the Elect.
At the Church's greatest feast, the Vigil of Easter, the Elect will receive the sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist).
Mystagogy, the fifty day period between Easter and Pentecost, the new members of the Church community, called neophytes, begin a time of reflection and commitment to live out their sacramental call to service in the community. Mystagogia continues for 1 full year after the sacraments are received.
Q: What is the Candidate's path like?
A: The process is composed of three stages:
The inquiry period, which consists of informal meetings to explain the process and answer questions about the Roman Catholic Church. This is a time for Inquirers to follow their heart's desire and decide whether they wish to continue.
The instruction period (or catechesis), in which inquirers are formally welcomed by the Parish community and become Candidates. through a liturgical celebration called the Rite of Welcoming.
Candidates will be fully initiated – welcomed into full communion with the Catholic Church (if they are not Catholic)- receiving Eucharist and Confirmation or, if they are uncatechized Catholics – Eucharist and/or Confirmation as part of the Easter Celebration (the reception of the Easter Sacraments).
Mystagogy begins immediately after the sacraments of initiation. It is a time for new members of the Church community, called neophytes, to reflect upon their initiation experience and commitment to live out their sacramental call to service in the community. Ideally, this period lasts for 1 full year.
Q: How much of a time commitment is it?
A: Once an Inquirer becomes Catechumen, he or she must be willing to attend a Sunday Mass and a Breaking Open the Word (dismissal) session immediately thereafter every week. This takes about an hour and a half. If several people are in the RCIA process at the time, they are encouraged to attend Mass with the group, but it is not as vital to the process. Both candidates and catechumens also attend a catechetical session weekly to learn the dogma of the catholic church.
Q: Are there any costs associated with RCIA?
A: No. There are no fees, tuition, or charges of any kind.
Q: I am engaged to a Catholic. Can I become Catholic in time for our wedding?
A: If you are engaged, the deepening of your relationship with your fiancee and the preparation for your wedding take time. The deepening of your relationship with the Church community and the preparation for your baptism or full membership in that community also take time. The faith journey to become a Catholic takes time and energy. It may or may not be possible for both journeys to arrive at a particular calendar date at the same time.
Q: Can my children be baptized (or received) into the Church when I am baptized (or received) into the Church?
A: The Catholic Church prepares school-age children for Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist in a process similar to the one that adults take part in. Children have a sponsor and participate in the same stages and celebrations that adults participate in. Special age-appropriate sessions are available for children. Children who have not yet reached school age may be baptized; or, if already baptized, they may be received into the Church along with their parents.
Q: I (or my spouse) have been married before. Does that present a problem to my becoming a Catholic?
A: Ordinarily the Catholic Church assumes that a person's first marriage is a valid marriage. If you (or your spouse or fiancé) have been previously married, it is important to talk your situation over with either the pastor, Father Bob, or the RCIA director, Deb, who is informed of particular marriage laws of the Church. Every marriage situation is different. Sometimes an annulment may be necessary. The annulment is a formal procedure of the Catholic Church. It looks for evidence that some essential dimension of a valid Christian marriage was missing from the beginning. It does not say that a civil marriage never occurred, or the children born of that marriage are illegitimate. Because the annulment process takes some time to complete, begin talking with someone as soon as you sense you are truly drawn to the Catholic Church.
Q: I understand that I need a sponsor, is this true?
A: Yes, each RCIA candidate needs a sponsor. As Jesus taught his disciples the importance of community, it is significant that we walk this faith journey with companions, who participate in the process and help you find the resources and answers that you may have on your journey.
Q: What is a sponsor?
A: A sponsor is a practicing Catholic who has received the three Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation), who is a spiritual companion and support on the journey, and serves as a mentor in the Christian life.
Ideally, your sponsor would not be your spouse or fiancé. The intensity of that relationship makes it difficult to relate to the other person as a sponsor or candidate.
Q: What do sponsors do?
A: Ideally, a sponsor actively participates in the Breaking Open the Word and helps the RCIA candidate to become familiar with the Mass as they attend together.
The sponsor converses regularly with the RCIA participant about his or her ongoing process of faith development. The sponsor should be a good listener and should help a candidate to know where God is leading without being a salesman.
At the Easter Vigil where the Sacraments of Initiation are celebrated, the sponsor has a particular role in the liturgy. A sponsor likewise takes part in the ceremonies that occur in the course of the RCIA process.
Q: How do I get a sponsor?
A: Some people who come to enter the Church have done so because of the example and influence of a Catholic relative or friend. It would be very appropriate to ask such a person to be your sponsor.
You are free to ask any confirmed and practicing Catholic to be your sponsor.
However, a spouse or fiancé is, in most cases, probably too intensely invested in being a spouse or fiancé to act in the capacity of a sponsor.
If you don’t have a Catholic friend who can serve as your sponsor, we supply one for you by matching you with a member of the parish.
Q: Whom do I contact to begin Inquiry?
A: Inquiry sessions are frequently held after Mass on Sunday. You can check the parish bulletin, or make a note of when an invitation to such a session is made during the announcements at the end of Mass or you can contact Dr. Deborah Kuzma.