The underlying principles of the RCIA Programme are:
- the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (or Catechumenate) is the process by which an adult person is initiated into the Catholic Church;
- the Rite is a parish-based process adapted to the spiritual journey and needs of the person(s) involved;
- the initiation of all people is the responsibility of all the baptized;
- people seeking to become Catholics meet regularly with the RCIA team and sponsors for discussion, reflection and prayer;
- the initiation of new members is a gradual process which may take one to two years;
- ‘Candidates’ are people who are already baptized as Catholics but have not completed the other sacraments of initiation, or are baptized in another Christian denomination;
- ‘Catechumens’ are people who have not been baptized in the Christian faith.
There are four stages in the RCIA process:
Stage 1: Inquiry
This is a time of inquiry, an opportunity to become acquainted with life in a Catholic community.
The ‘Rite of Acceptance’ marks the end of this period of inquiry.
Stage 2: Catechumenate
This stage is usually the longest part of the journey.
It is a time for:
- formation in faith by means of hearing and reflecting on the Scripture readings of the Sunday Eucharist and by learning about the tradition of the Church
- growth in spiritual life through personal, communal and liturgical prayer
- participation in the worship of the community
- sharing in the life and service of the local parish groups
The ‘Rite of Election’ marks the end of the Catechumenate.
Stage 3: Election
This stage normally takes place during Lent.
It is a time of retreat, a more intense spiritual preparation for Christian initiation at the Easter Vigil.
The celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation, Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist at the Easter Vigil are the culmination and highlight of the Catechumenate journey.
Stage 4: Mystagogy
This stage takes place after Easter.
It is a time for reflecting on the Easter experience and preparing to participate more fully in the life and mission of the Catholic community.
Throughout these four stages, there are times when the RCIA team and those seeking to become Catholics join with others in the Archdiocese of Melbourne for liturgical celebrations at a diocesan level.