Become a Catholic

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What is the R.C.I.A. (Religious Christian Initiation of Adults)?

Many parishes throughout the world have adopted the R.C.I.A. program as the instrument of bringing those wishing to become Catholic into the Church. At once ancient and new, this Rite expresses the essential mission and purpose of the Church: to draw all people to the Father through Christ Jesus the Son, in the Holy Spirit.

The Second Vatican Council in 1965 called for reinstating the catechumenate process. The Latin Rite’s final revision was promulgated by a decree from the Congregation for Worship on January 6, 1972. The American translation was approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops on November 11, 1986 and confirmed by the Congregation for Divine Worship on February 19, 1987. “From 1 September 1988 the use of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is mandatory in the dioceses of the United States of America. From that day forward no other English version may be used” (Decree issued on March 18, 1988 by the NCCB).

The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults draws extensively on the past, simply by opening up the treasures that the Church has long possessed. Through the primary focus of the Rite is the would-be Catholic, it encourages entire parishes to ask: How can we become a warm, welcoming, hospitable community in which our brothers and sisters can hear the Good News?

New members of St. John the Baptist Catholic Church are led, by stages and at their own pace, into full participation with the community of the faithful alongside whom they have traveled. That community develops its proper identity as an evangelizing, welcoming, faith-sustaining body.

To this end, the parish leaders at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church , catechists, and Sponsors reach out to Catechumens and Candidates with renewed enthusiasm and joy by offering the classes that cover the basic tenets of the Faith. Topics covered include Jesus the Christ, The Old and New Testaments, the Church’s Story, Catholic Sacraments, the Place of Prayer, and much more.

Who is the R.C.I.A. for?

Unbaptized people seeking to become informed about Catholicism before deciding whether to become Catholic.

Those baptized in another faith and seeking to become informed about Catholicism or who have already decided to become Roman Catholic.

Baptized Catholics who want to participate in the life of the Church through Holy Communion and/or Confirmation.

Individuals in these groups are referred to as Catechumens, Candidates and Inquirers. Catechumens are people who have never been baptized by any Christian Church. Candidates are individuals who have been baptized in any Christian church (including Roman Catholics) but have not been confirmed in the Catholic Church.  Inquirers are simply those who want to know more about the Roman Catholic Church.

What are the Requirements of R.C.I.A.?

Other than a sincere desire to seek one’s relationship with God and with the people of God, and a desire to possibly become Catholic, there are no requirements.

What should I Expect?

Evening meetings are held weekly on Mondays, from 7:30 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. There are also Sunday morning meetings after the homily (dismissal)

Reflective discussion and open forum type question and answer sessions

Scripture based faith-sharing and familiarity with Catholic doctrine

Instructional sessions regarding the basics of Catholicism

Participation in various rituals and liturgical or prayer experiences

Afternoon retreat at St. Michael’s Abbey

Support from our Norbertine Fathers, the R.C.I.A. team leaders, and your sponsors throughout the process

What are the Stages?

There are four unequal periods, or stages in R.C.I.A. process:

  1. Pre-catechumenate
  2. Catechumenate
  3. Purification and Enlightenment
  4. Mystagogy of Postbaptismal.

Stage One (pre-catechumenate) may take years. It applies to all who express any degree of interest or inquiry. They are called inquires and can simply observe and question. Should they feel drawn to find out in more depth how Catholics “tick”, with the view to becoming Catholic themselves, they are welcomed into the catechumenate at an appropriate liturgical Rite of Acceptance and Welcome.

Stage two (Catechumenate) may well take months or years. It all depends on the catechumen or Candidate and the community into which he or she wishes to be initiated. Catechumens (person not baptized) will journey at least a year in the catechumenate period. Candidates (persons who have already been baptized in a Christian denomination) may take less time, Supported by the prayers and companionship of the community (and especially the Sponsor), the catechumen or candidate follows the sort of process of learning and sharing sessions in the R.C.I.A. program. The next step is for the catechumen or candidate to make a serious commitment at the beginning of Lent with the Rite of Election

Stage Three (period of purification, enlightenment) takes place over the period of Lent. Prayer, reflection, and liturgical support all help to prepare for the big moment. This comes at Easter Vigil, when all the rites of initiation are experienced or completed.

Stage Four (mystagogia) is the “follow up” to the events at Easter. It is, most intensively, the period from Easter to Pentecost, when the Easter Vigil experience is reflected upon, and the life of the community has begun to be shared more fully. This period never really ends, as a lifetime is too short to do justice to the task of growing and developing as a Christian. The benefits to those who have traveled this path are immeasurable.

Please contact Tom Grebel (714) 557-1640

The following are responses to several frequently asked questions

  1. What is R.C.I.A.?
  2. How Does a Person Become a Catholic?
  3. Why is R.C.I.A. important?
  4. What if I want to learn more about my faith even though I am already a Catholic?
  5. Will I be baptized again?
  6. I am engaged to a Catholic.  Can I become Catholic in time for our wedding?
  7. Can my children be baptized (or received) into the Church when I am baptized (or received) into the Church?
  8. I (or my spouse) have been married before. Does that present a problem to my becoming a Catholic?
  9. What is a sponsor?
  10. How long does it take to become a Catholic?
  11. What am I expected to know?
  12. How Can I Get More Information?

What is R.C.I.A.?

R.C.I.A., the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, is the process by which adults become members of the Roman Catholic Church. It is a process of prayer, discussion, study, and celebration for:

  • Unbaptized adults who wish to learn more about the Catholic faith with a possibility of becoming Catholic.
  • Baptized Christians from other denominations who would like to learn more about and possibly join the Catholic Church.
  • Baptized Catholics who have not received their First Communion or been confirmed or who would like further Catholic experience and training.

Most members of the Catholic Church were baptized as infants. At an older age they received their First Communion and were confirmed. Others, those who were previously baptized in other Christian traditions, become Catholics after making a solemn profession of faith, receiving Communion and Confirmation. This can be done at any time of the year, but in imitation of the early Church, it is customary for people to be received into the Church at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday.

The word Catechumen refers to a person who has never been baptized. A person who has already been baptized in another Christian denomination, either Protestant or Eastern Orthodox, is called a Candidate.

R.C.I.A. is the Church’s way of helping people become members of the Roman Catholic Church. It is concerned with the formation of a person into a total understanding and belief in the Church community, so that he or she can comfortably pray and serve with that community. It is a gradual process which culminates with the sacraments of initiation, baptism for those not already baptized, Confirmation, and First Communion at Easter time.

This should not be confused with adult education or parish renewal programs. It is a way of assimilating people into a Catholic way of life, by coming to an understanding of the Church and its doctrines, beliefs, and practices. It is not a hurried process, but a deliberate, personal process of growth and understanding that takes as long as it takes. For many, the time is 12 months; while some will be more comfortable extending that period to one, two, or more years.

It is a Parish community process in the sense that the rites or celebrations that occur throughout the process always take place in the presence of the Church community. The preparation of persons for the initiation rites is the responsibility of the entire Parish, represented by the R.C.I.A. team.

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How does a person become Catholic?

The Church wants to welcome all adults who are interested in the Roman Catholic Faith. The R.C.I.A. is designed to assist you in learning Catholic Christian teaching, accepting Catholic values and morality, developing a life of prayer, and becoming active members of the local faith community.
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. This is a time for inquirers to decide whether they wish to continue with the process.
  • At the beginning of the Catechumenate or instruction period (First Sunday in Advent), inquirers are formally welcomed by the Parish community and enter a period of more structured preparation listening to presentations and joining in discussions based on scripture readings and other topics of importance such as the Sacraments, the meaning of the Mass, and Catholic morality and social actions.
  • For the Rites of Sending and Election (First Sunday in Lent), the Parish sends the candidates to the Archbishop who, on the part of the entire Catholic Church, accepts the candidates 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 candidates this is a period of spiritual enlightenment and preparation.

At the Church’s greatest feast, the Vigil of Easter, the “elect” will receive the sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and First Communion) at the Parish Community’s greatest liturgical celebration.

Mystagogy, the fifty day period between Easter and Pentecost, the new members of the Church community, called neophytes, begin a time of reflection and begin to live out their sacramental call to service.

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Why is R.C.I.A. Important?

The R.C.I.A. is important to those considering membership in the Catholic Church because it enables them to begin to learn about the Church as it lives, prays, serves, and worships in a modern world before having to make a commitment to becoming Catholic. It is important to the Parish community because it is a most important aspect of the community’s evangelization mission.

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What if I want to learn more about my faith even though I am already a Catholic?

At St. John the Baptist our R.C.I.A. group meets on Mondays from 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Those interested are welcome to start at any time. It is never too late to start. We meet in classroom 6-B of the school. You are welcome regardless of where you might be in your relationship with God.

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Will I be baptized again?

The Catholic Church does not re-baptize those from another Christian faith community who have been baptized with water in the words, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

If you are not sure that you were baptized, ask any of your older relatives. They will remember. The Catholic Church respects your Christian upbringing and the faith experiences that are part of your life. Becoming Catholic does not mean rejecting your previous faith background. God is now inviting you to live out your faith in Christ as a member of the Catholic community.

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I am engaged to a Catholic. Can I become Catholic in time for our wedding?

Maybe yes, and maybe no. The journey to baptism or full membership in the Catholic Church takes time. The timeline of a faith journey does not always coincide with that of a wedding.

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.

For example, the Catholic Church suggests that a person spend a year in the Catechumenate to prepare for baptism or full initiation into the Church. The sacramental celebration of this initiation occurs once yearly at the Easter Vigil. Even if you begin inquiring about the Catholic faith a year before your marriage, your baptism may not occur before the date of your wedding. The Church wants to work with you. But sometimes working such a conflict out is beyond the Church’s control – and not what is ultimately best for you. At times it is helpful to wait until after marriage to begin your inquiry into becoming Catholic to be sure this desire is out of your personal conviction. Becoming Catholic should not come from the pressure of an impending wedding.

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Can my children be baptized (or received) into the Church when I am baptized (or received) into the Church?

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. In most parishes, 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 without the need for a special process.

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I (or my spouse) have been married before. Does that present a problem to my becoming a Catholic?

Ordinarily the Catholic Church assumes that a person’s first marriage is a valid marriage. If you (or your spouse or your fiancee) have been previously married, it is important to talk your situation over with someone 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 a pastoral minister as soon as you sense you are truly drawn to the Catholic Church.

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What is a sponsor?

A sponsor is a member of the parish community who will support you, share faith with you, help answer your questions, and share in all your celebrations and sessions.

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How long does it take to become a Catholic?

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 or more. Because adult baptisms are celebrated at the Easter Vigil, your baptism could take place at the Easter Vigil following the coming celebration of Easter.
If you have already been baptized into another Christian faith tradition, you may require less time, depending on the faith formation you previously received and your present involvement in the practice of your faith.

This 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.

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What am I expected to know?

Your faith journey is a time of formation that is much more than education.  Faith formation is a time for you to grow in the awareness of your relationship with Christ, with God, and with the Catholic Church. There are no tests; there are no grades.

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How Can I Get More Information?

Please call Tom Grebel at 714-557-1640 or the Parish Office at (714) 540-2214.

These responses may have raised more questions and feelings within you. Talk about those questions and feelings with the initiation coordinator or a staff member. The St. John the Baptist wants to know what you are thinking and feeling.  Each parish varies in some of the aspects of this initiation process.  It is always better to bring up your concerns than to keep them inside you. Finally, get ready for one of the greatest blessings of your life. St. John the Baptist looks forward to sharing in the gifts you bring and the journey ahead of you.

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