RCIA PATH FOR UNBAPTIZED CANDIDATES
The RCIA process is divided into four periods that correspond to an individual’s progress in Christian formation. Here is the usual path by which an adult who has not been baptized would join our community of faith. Children over the age of six and teens receive preparation suitable to their ages.*
The Four Periods of RCIA:
Period of Inquiry or the Pre-Catechumenate: The pre-catechumenate is a preliminary step in the journey of faith. At Assumption, inquirers meet with a member of the Inquiry Team who will listen to their story and answer any questions. When the inquirers are ready to proceed to the next phase, the Catechumenate, a ritual called the "Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens" takes place during a Sunday Mass, so that the community can welcome the inquirers to the second step of their journey of faith.
Period of the Catechumenate: The inquirers are now catechumens. "Catechumen" refers to someone who is preparing for Baptism. The catechumens usually meet once a week in a group with sponsors and members of the parish to explore what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and to learn about the teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church. These sessions are inspired by the portions of the Bible proclaimed at Sunday Masses. The Period of the Catechumenate may last from several months to a year or more. Those catechumens who are ready for initiation into the Church at the beginning of Lent celebrate the Rite of Election with the diocesan bishop and catechumens from neighboring parishes.
Period of Enlightenment: Beginning with the first Sunday of Lent, the catechumens, now called the elect, enter into their "40 day retreat" to focus on deepening their awareness of God's grace through prayer. During the time the Church also celebrates rituals called "Scrutinies" with the elect. These are prayers of healing, prayed by the community on the Third, Fourth and Fifth Sundays of Lent. The Church prayes that the elect will have the strength to withstand evil and remain free from sin as they journey toward initiation and growth in faith. While we minister to the elect, they provide a visible reminder to each of us of the meaning and purpose of Lent, and minister to us through their presence. Finally the night of the Easter Vigil arrives, at which the Sacraments of Initiation are celebrated and the elect are made one with the Body of Christ called the Church. The community says, "Now you belong, for you have been born again of water the the Spirit. Come, you are welcome at the table of the Lord."
Period of Mystagogy: The concluding period of the RCIA is called "Mystagogy", which comes from the word, mystery. In the early Church it was the time when the community explained the mystery of the sacraments the elect had experienced. Today, this step is seen more as a time for the newly initiated and the community to move forward together toward a closer relationship with each other and toward a deeper understanding of God’s Word, the sacraments, and everyday Christian living. The period of Mystagogy takes place during the Easter Season (the 50 days between Easter and Pentecost), but this step in the journey of faith continues for the rest of a Christian’s life.
*Baptism alone is for infants and young children in the Catholic Church. Children who are seven years or older and who have not been baptized are fully initiated into the Church. Because preparation for Baptism, Confirmation and First Communion takes several months at minimum, we recommend that any unbaptized child over the age of six enter the RCIA.