By Claire Couche, Guest Contributor
I love the Catholic Faith. I love the richness of its history and the courage of its Saints. There are so many inspiring stories of men and women who have accomplished great things and embody the spirit of beauty, truth, and goodness. Some of my favorite Saints are those who experience the deep call from Christ later in life through the gift of conversion.
I recently watched the new movie Paul, Apostle of Christ and was struck by the beauty of his conversion experience. I wept as I watched the courage, humility, and bravery of St. Paul as he transformed into Christ’s disciple. We are all called to have moments of “daily conversion,” where we draw closer to Christ in our everyday moments. Yet some people are invited by Christ in a very special way to enter into full communion with the Church, much like St. Paul.
How to Join the Catholic Church
My dear friend, Father Sam Giangreco, recently sat down with me to explain the process of the R.C.I.A. R.C.I.A. stands for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults—a beautiful process for men and women to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church. Father Sam is an incredible priest who consistently shows me the beauty of the mercy and love of God. If you’re wondering how to join the Catholic Church, start with the information from our conversation below.
What is R.C.I.A.?
The R.C.I.A. (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) is a process that engages prospective converts to Catholicism who are beyond the age of reason (older than seven years, but often older than 18). It is designed specifically for those who are unbaptized, but often and legitimately used for those who are baptized (Catholic or non-Catholic), but un-catechized.
For example, some R.C.I.A. candidates were baptized Catholic, but were never raised in the Faith. Other candidates may be baptized non-Catholic Christian and never catechized as a Catholic. For those who have been baptized Catholic and raised in the Faith at home, through religious education, or Catholic schooling, a Confirmation program may be a more fitting program.
What does the process look like?
Often, the R.C.I.A. program is organized and run by lay members of a parish and overseen by its pastor. The R.C.I.A. team members (those who run the program) and candidates (those wishing to become Catholic and/or fully initiated) typically gather in a room around a table on the parish grounds.
These are usually weekly meetings that begin late summer or fall, and conclude at or shortly after Easter Sunday. Each meeting will involve a different lesson about the Catholic Faith.
During the Season of Lent, in the few weeks before the Easter Vigil Mass, candidates undergo what are called “scrutinies.” It’s a scary word, but it simply involves the candidate making a progressively deeper commitment to the Faith that they are about to profess.
It does not involve any type of speech, but simply standing before the congregation at a Sunday Mass for a brief moment as the priest recites a few prayers on your behalf and asks you to affirm your decision with very simple responses.
How do I join?
If a person who wishes to become Catholic, or fully initiated (i.e., Confirmed), the first thing they should do is to call their local Catholic parish.
Often, parishes already have their own R.C.I.A. programs. If your parish doesn’t, they should easily be able to direct you to a neighboring parish to enroll. Sometimes, the pastor may even be willing to tutor candidates if there isn’t a nearby R.C.I.A. program. Joining R.C.I.A. requires effort, especially (and unfortunately) if a parish does not call you back or “leaves you hanging,” waiting for them to direct you to a nearby program.
Please do not be discouraged; just move forward and find another Catholic parish.
What if I enroll, but then realize I’m not ready to join the Catholic Church?
It is not uncommon that candidates enroll in the program, attend a session or two, and drop out. There is no pressure to remain in the program. The R.C.I.A. team is usually seasoned enough to respect and expect all persons who approach the R.C.I.A. program.
What happens after R.C.I.A.?
If you have remained in the R.C.I.A. through Easter, it should be a time of great joy, because you have learned, prayed, and grown a lot in the Faith. Depending on which Sacraments you have yet to celebrate, you might receive Baptism, profess your faith in the Catholic Church, be Confirmed, and receive Our Lord in Holy Communion at the Easter Vigil Mass, which is the evening Mass prior to Easter Sunday morning.
What do I do now?
Many R.C.I.A. programs start in this month of August. If it has been pressed upon your heart to learn more about the Catholic Church—and if you have a desire to join the Catholic Church—let this month be the time!
The R.C.I.A. program will help you to practice your faith and use the gifts God has given you. You have an important place, you have a home, within the Catholic Church.
Are you hoping to join the Church? Ask a friend or talk to a priest – there are no silly questions! See you at Church!
Claire is a wife and mother. She graduated from Franciscan University of Steubenville where she studied history and theology. She later received her B.S.N. and worked as an oncology nurse before becoming a stay-at-home mother. You can find more writings from Claire and her husband, Michael at www.findingphilothea.com.