The RCIA and associated program educates, then initiates adults to become a Catholic as an adult.
You may be aware that in the past people wanting to become Catholic were required to participate in a program of private instruction with the parish priest, consisting of a set number of weekly ‘lessons’ on Catholic doctrine. After the instructions were completed, the ‘convert’ was baptised (if necessary) and confirmed in a private ceremony with only the priest and a sponsor present.
This changed after the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. The current process by which new members are brought into the Catholic Church is called the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, or the RCIA.Becoming a Catholic
Becoming a Catholic
The RCIA is best described as a journey of faith which passes through a number of different phases and focuses on conversion of heart and mind to Christ. It is a gradual journey tailored to the needs of the individual – no ‘one-size-fits-all’ any longer!
The process is more public than the older ‘Instruction’ program. Candidates meet regularly with a group of people from the parish to learn about Catholic belief and practice. Various rituals are held in the church at important points along the journey.
Local Catholic Parishes hold regular enquiry sessions for those who want to know more about the Catholic Church or who may be interested in becoming a Catholic. After this period of enquiry, some people choose to embark on the RCIA journey. From the moment someone is received into the ‘catechumenate’ as it is called, he or she becomes part of the Catholic Christian community.
If you are interested in finding out more about becoming a Catholic Christian, the first step is to make contact with your local Catholic Parish, or another Catholic Parish which you are likely to attend, by going along to Mass and asking to speak to the Parish Priest or Pastoral Associate, or by phoning the parish office to make an appointment.
More information regarding parishes in the Archdiocese of Brisbane is available through our parish search.
For further information, contact the Archdiocesan Catechumenate Committee on:
Ph: 07 3324 3314
Two people’s stories
For Nicole, preparation for RCIA took around nine months. It involved weekly meetings and prayer, and the study of scriptures and Catholic traditions. Whilst for many, the spiritual journey can be drawn out by questions, reflection and doubt, Nicole describes the process of preparation as an intensely enriching experience that served to deepen her faith.
‘I think you actually feel closer to God … because you’re surrounded by people with really deep faith: people you can talk about it with all the time,’ she says.
Although the stages of RCIA follow the Liturgical calendar, according to Beverley (RCIA team member) the journey can take years. While there is a structure to the RCIA, the point of taking the sacraments of Baptism, Communion and Confirmation is not pushed upon those who aren’t ready.
‘If people aren’t ready, they can journey a little bit further’, Beverley clarifies. Conversion is a life-altering decision, so it’s important that participants proceed at a comfortable pace.
There are many catalysts that prompt people to enquire about RCIA. They might be influenced by Catholics they know, and wish to emulate the structure and values they recognise in their friends’ lives, or they may have found love with a Catholic. Even if love is the catalyst, Beverley is adamant that ultimately the call to the church is something that must be undertaken for oneself.
Frequently Asked Questions
Joining the Community
When you ask for Baptism you are asking to become a member of the Catholic Church. You will be expected to take part in the life of that community on a regular basis.
Committing your life to God
Baptism is the sacrament in which we commit ourselves to God. We proclaim our faith in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit and we promise to avoid evil and to do good.
The baptism ceremony for adults is similar to baptism of children except that you make the baptismal promises yourself. Instead of godparents, adults have sponsors whose role it is to encourage you in the Catholic faith.
Traditionally adult baptisms take place during the ceremony of the Easter Vigil. In some parishes, therefore, you might be asked to wait for Easter for Baptism.
Can a person who has been baptised in one church be baptised again in the Catholic Church?
A person may only be baptised once. To appreciate this, you might consider the effects of baptism. When you were baptised you became an adopted child of God, a new creature, and were given a share in God’s nature. You became a member of Christ, a co-heir with Christ. This great gift is permanent and cannot be repeated. Therefore baptism cannot be repeated.
When is baptism celebrated?
When we are baptised, we are joined with Christ, united with Him in his death and resurrection. The Church celebrates Christ’s resurrection, firstly at the Easter Vigil, when the celebrant blesses the Baptismal water. The Easter Vigil is the very best time for the celebration of baptism. Certainly this is the most suitable time for the baptism of adults.
The Church also celebrates the death and resurrection of Christ on each Sunday. Therefore the Church encourages baptism to be celebrated on a Sunday.