Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (R.C.I.A.)

The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, commonly referred to as the RCIA, is a process of periods and steps for those (typically adults, or children past catechetical age – 7 years old) seeking to be initiated (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist) into the Christian community.  An open ended process, which when done well brings life to the Easter Vigil and to the Sunday Eucharist in parishes, the RCIA understands the way to apprentice your faith is by living it.

Different from traditional catechesis, the RCIA is a process, not a program, and involves constant change to ensure the needs of those journeying through it are met.  New people of differing ages and experiences enter the process all the time, which may necessitate using different techniques from year to year, or group to group, to encourages the growth of faith for all in the process.

The RCIA is about conversion and discipleship; it’s about transformation.  Leaders of the RCIA constantly ask themselves: how can we strengthen the faith of those with whom we are journeying?  Because it is the community who is initiating these people, there is a deep connection with it.  No connection with community means those coming for initiation will not stay; therefore, many efforts are made to involve the people in the community.

Catechists of the RCIA must be aware that those who come have already had an experience of God which has led them to us.  It is imperative that this experience be respected.  Attempts are made to help people understand their faith through the events of their lives.  This takes time, a valuable concept of the RCIA.  People need to be able to enter the process as they feel called which makes a pre-determined timeline ill advised. 

Every community’s RCIA will look different.  It is about initiating people into particular communities, each with its own charism.  Generally, the process looks like this:




Person referred to as…





Rite of Acceptance






Rite of Election


Purification & Enlightenment




Sacraments of Initiation


















The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults has four periods and three rites, marking the transition moments between the periods. Rites prepare the person for the next period.

  1. Period of Inquiry

  • initial period, continues indefinitely

  • those questioning life or seeking meaning, purpose, faith come and are welcomed

  • explore together basic questions – allow people to share their story and be introduced to Christ in and through the Christian community

  • person is called an inquirer

  • important that adequate time is given to enable inquirers to become comfortable with the public steps which will follow

  1. Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens

  • celebrated once the community and the inquirer discern that the time is right -  when there is evidence of first faith, the beginning of a prayer life and signs of a personal relationship with Christ and his people, the Church

  • formally introduces the inquirers to the community

  • the community accepts the responsibility of accompanying inquirers on the journey

  • following the rite, the inquirer becomes a catechumen

  1. Period of the Catechumenate

  • main catechesis of the process

  • no fixed duration, although at least a year (could be several years) because the entire story of salvation is told in each year of the lectionary cycle (the liturgical year) and the catechumens need time to explore the whole story 

  • catechumens are converted more and more to Christ and experience him in four principal elements: in the Word, in the witnessing community, in prayer and liturgy, and in service and mission to others (sometimes summarized as: Word, Witness, Worship and Mission)

  • catechumens are part of our Sunday liturgy, but “should be kindly dismissed before the liturgy of the Eucharist begins ... for they must await their baptism, which will join them to God’s priestly people and empower them to participate in Christ’s new worship” (RCIA#75.3) Dismissal provides opportunity to concentrate more on the Word of God, so that it becomes more significant and better understood by them

  1. Rite of Election

  • once the catechumen has lived among the People of God, worshipped God with them, grown in love and relationship with Jesus Christ and come to understand the centrality of service in the Christian life, they often come to express a desire for Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist. This may mean that he or she has moved into a state of readiness for Christian Initiation

  • together catechumen and community discern readiness before celebrating the rite

  • always takes place on the First Sunday of Lent

  • always a diocesan celebration, as this enables an awareness to develop within the catechumen that they are being initiated into a universal church, which is much broader than their faith community

  • become known as the Elect and enter a different period

  1. Period of Purification and Enlightenment

  • only period in the entire process that has a fixed duration

  • occurs during Lent, coinciding with the community’s preparation for Easter and renewal of their baptism

  • an extended retreat, as the Elect prepare for the sacraments of initiation

  1. The Rites of Initiation

  • celebrated at the Easter Vigil

  • newly initiated are called neophytes and for the first time join the Christian community for the Liturgy of the Eucharist

  1. Period of Mystagogy

  • an endless period entered following celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation

  • formal period ends at Pentecost, the initial phase of their Christian life

  • a time during which the neophytes need to be surrounded and buoyed up by the love, guidance and support of the entire Christian community

  • neophytes are in need of ongoing catechesis as they experience life, worship and service as new Christians.

  • communities may choose to accompany neophytes for varying periods, some for a month or two, and some for as long as a year after Christian Initiation



  1. Overview of the RCIA by Mary Joshi

  2. Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults