The Pre-RCIA Experience
When we hear about RCIA, what exactly does that mean to the average Catholic? For those who are cradle Catholics, and have not really been in touch with bringing those outside the church in, it may be a totally foreign experience. Some may not even know or really understand what the process is. They may not even know that RCIA stands for Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults.
However, for those who have been through RCIA, they may be found wanting in some way because their experience was left a little bit to be desired. For some, the experience of RCIA may catapult them into service and evangelization far reaching. Each experience is truly up to the individual who is going through the process.
There are some that are going through RCIA just to fulfill a commitment to marriage for their partner. There are some that are doing it because they are searching and think that the Catholic Church may be able to give them an experience they did not achieve with other denominations, because they are already Christian. For the sake of this article, we will focus on just those who have not been part of any other faith, and need baptism, confirmation, and communion.
How Does It Start?
So just how does it start that someone who has not had any faith, or has shunned faith, become interested in the church and wanting to be in full communion with it? I know I can speak from my own experience on this, as I was running from church and God because of personal reasons which you can find on my about me page. I got to a point where I could no longer do it alone, and needed something more in my life. Not saying that the people around me weren’t supportive, it was a very personal decision for me, and one that I suspect is personal for many who enter into RCIA.
As I said before, many do it for their own reasons. I know having been through the process as a catechumen, and as a sponsor, I have been able to talk to many who have gone through the process. Each brought their own reason for doing so. Some are doing it so they can be a good example to the child growing within them and feel the need to bring faith into the family. Some are doing it so they can have a marriage that does include God and faith, and also help their family grow. Some do it because they want to get married, and their partner is Catholic already. Some enter with questions in their hearts and heads. Each do it for their own reason. I know that the reason I did it was because I was truly ready for God to be a part of my life, and needed to have that foundation in my life.
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So for those who have decided to go through the RCIA process, and have talked to someone at the parish they chose to attend, what is next? I know I had a few questions regarding this when I met the Director of Adult Faith Formation at my own parish on Good Friday of 2013. I didn’t necessarily know how the process was going to work, even though I had done my fair share of research online to know exactly how the process was going to work. I didn’t know if they would just contact us, or if we would need to contact them, or how it would be coordinated. It’s somewhat of a trying time for someone who is beginning to grow the seed of faith they were given at the moment they decided to enter into the church. It’s also a tenuous time, as that seed it really very small, and could fail to grow if not tended properly.
This is why I feel it is so important that if someone who has decided to enter into RCIA and gives the person that needs to know that their information, that there should be a follow up with that person to help them understand that they are not alone, that they can be sure to know there is a support system in place to help them with the best success they can have to become fully Catholic.
As the subject states, yes, there are going to be a lot of questions that you may have entering into the RCIA process. Fortunately for my parish, there were two get-together’s during the late part of the summer to have those who are interested in going through RCIA to meet the team, and to also meet those who are going to go through the process with them. Each meeting lasted about an hour, and the pastor of the church also likes to be at these meetings. He wants to be sure to welcome you into the church, as a person and also as a member of his flock.
What type of questions did I have? Here’s a list of questions I had that were answered at these meetings.
- How long will the process take?
- When and where will we meet?
- How long is each session?
- If I don’t have a sponsor, will one be provided?
- Do I have to pay anything?
- What should I bring?
Many of these questions seem to be easy to answer, which they were, because they were sure to tell you when you were going to meet, where you meet, and roughly how long each session, or class, was going to be.
I had to ask about if we needed to pay, because I had some preconceived notions about the Catholic Church going into this process that it was a church about money, and found that they didn’t necessarily want money, they wanted you to be faithful members of the church.
I also asked about the sponsor, because I had read that you had to have a sponsor, and one of the first things they tell you is that if you do not have a sponsor lined up, you will be assigned one as they get to know you. I know that they were able to get me an awesome sponsor, one that I call a friend, not just someone that helped me through the process.
At the end of the get together, where they were sure to get your information such as name, phone number, and email address, they tell you that they will be starting on a certain date, and to where to meet and when. But each member of the team is there to meet you, talk with you, and to try to get to know you in that short window they have. Some of the people in the room stay to talk and meet with the others going through the process.
And some may leave without coming back. The challenge of those who decide that is to have a follow up process for them. Perhaps the timing wasn’t right? Maybe something happened in their life and they cannot devote the time right now to go through the process. Maybe they have had a change of heart? The follow up is important, not just to let that person know that they are cared for, but also so the team can know if they did something to turn that person away.
So once the meeting is fully concluded, they let you know you will be contacted and they send you on your way. There is usually a gap of about two months or less between these informal meetings and the first session of RCIA, so the individual is sort of left to go to church and get to know the process a bit on their own, at least from my experience.
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I think some informational handouts at these meetings may help those who are inquiring about the church. Such information that may help those coming in are:
- A basic rundown of how the mass goes
- Proper responses (“And With Your Spirit…”)
- The Apostles and Nicene Creed
- The Gloria
- The Lord’s Prayer
- How to get in line for communion without taking Eucharist
- The proper way to genuflect
- The proper way to cross yourself
Because these are vital to those just entering the church, especially those who have no knowledge of how the liturgy of the Catholic Mass goes, I am providing a PDF for this information, which will have a link at the end of this post. I will also be providing this for those who subscribe to the newsletter, so please take the time to click the link to sign up for the newsletter. Each week on Saturday mornings there are the Sunday readings, links to the latest podcast, as well as links to other useful information here at Go Live Your Faith. I thank you for your signing up.
In our next post on this series, we will discuss the early stages of the RCIA process, what one can expect in those first few sessions of RCIA as one enters into the Inquiry stage. Thank you for reading, and remember: The journey doesn’t end when you accept Jesus into your life, it begins. Go Live Your Faith today!