RCIA Programme

The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is the official way of welcoming and receiving new members into the Catholic Church. The old idea of Church membership being just a private affair between the individual and God has been given the added dimension of the whole Catholic community.

A little background

The origins of the RCIA could be said to come from Jesus' own words when He said: "Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them My disciples; baptise them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you." There's very little in the New Testament about the early rites of initiation although it was, of course, made clear that it is through Baptism that we enter into the Christian community.

It was about 180 AD that the Catechumenate came into being. This was the way that new converts were prepared for membership of the Church for Baptism. At that time it was very much a missionary Church and all its members were involved in evangelisation. At the beginning of the third century, the Catechumenate was much more structured and preparation often lasted for 3 years. Admission was a serious step and involved a complete transformation of life. By the fourth century the Catechumenate was widely practised and the period is known as the "golden age" of the Catechumenate. When it was judged that the catechumens were ready, they began a period of prayer and fasting leading up to the great feast of Easter.

However, when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire and almost all adults were Christian, the Catechumenate went into decline. Infant Baptism became the norm.

In fact, it was only in the twentieth century that it was revived, mainly in Africa and France. In 1962 the Sacred Congregation of Rites published a decree restoring the Rite of Baptism in stages and Vatican 11 restored the RCIA in 1964. It put the responsibility for the faith life and growth of the Catechumenate squarely on the shoulders of the whole parish community - not just the priest.

Our Programme

We have been celebrating the RCIA for over 20 years in St Edmund's Parish. The programme starts, generally, in September/October and lasts until Easter.

Stage 1 is a period of Enquiry.

Stage 2, Catechesis, starts with the Rite of Acceptance when the enquirer becomes a Catechumen (if not already baptised) or a Candidate. They are asked to choose a Sponsor - a parishioner who will provide them with support and guidance. Each week, they attend a meeting to explore a particular aspect of the Faith including: the Trinity, Scripture, Church history (2000 years in one evening!), prayer, the Sacraments, the Catechism and Catholic social teaching.

There's even a session on "what's different about the Catholic Church?" This covers, Mary, the Saints, the Rosary, Litanies & Novenas and much else besides. Lay members of the parish lead all these sessions - although Fr Michael, the Parish priest, sometimes gets involved too! They are fairly informal and encourage plenty of questions and (hopefully) answers. Often they are held in peoples' homes. Feedback over the years suggests that they are lively and enjoyable.

Stage 3, the period of Enlightenment, starts with the Rite of Election at Arundel Cathedral when Catechumens and Candidates from all over the Diocese come together and meet the Bishop. On the 3rd, 4th & 5th Sundays of Lent we celebrate the Scrutinies, a rite for self-searching and strengthening based on the Gospel stories. They involve the whole community as we hold each one at a different Mass centre in the Parish.

The climax of the RCIA is the Easter Vigil when Catechumens and Candidates are received into the Church assuming they are ready. Not all are. Some may be received months or even years later - if at all. There are no strings attached to following the programme - no forced conversions!

If you are interested in finding out more about the Catholic Faith perhaps with a view to becoming a Catholic, then contact the RCIA Organiser for St Edmund's, Ian Honeysett. He is on 01483 429615 and can also be emailed via our contact form.

RCIA Candidates 2017 and their sponsors with Bishop Richard

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