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 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinFebruary 11, 2005 Issue 

Families can help new Catholics

RCI - what? RCIA or the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults

By Patti Christensen

photo of Patti Christensen
Patti Christensen

In the 1980s the DRE at the parish I belonged to in West Bend called together a core team to look into beginning an RCIA program at our parish. All of us were "cradle Catholics" - baptized as infants and growing up in the Catholic Church attending grade school religion classes and religious education programs.

We had no idea what RCIA stood for much less what it was about. As we learned, the Second Vatican Council recommended that the church renew its way of receiving adults. In 1972, Pope Paul VI approved a revised rite inspired by the way candidates in the early church were received. It was called the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults or RCIA. RCIA focuses on formation in doctrine, liturgy, church life, and service. Our core team began to plan for the new process of RCIA.

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Those people who have expressed an interest in becoming a member of the Catholic Church go through the first step of the RCIA process called Inquiry. During Inquiry, folks gather and share their faith stories and their questions. Some people decide to stay and others for a variety of reasons, choose not to continue.

Some people in our first session were young adults who were getting married and wanted to join their future spouse on their faith journey. A young mother of two children who attended the day school was inspired and desired more for her as the children shared their faith with Mom. There were also several middleagers who had just put off formalizing their faith commitment to the Catholic Church.

Those people who decide to continue in the RCIA process celebrate the Rite of Election during Mass on the First Sunday of Lent. They come to Mass each Sunday and are dismissed before the Liturgy of the Word to study the weekly readings with RCIA team members. This weekly sharing and study is where I spent most of my time. It was a wonderful faith experience. My faith grew as I listened to folks share their own faith journey and God's presence in their lives.

An important part of the process for RCIA candidates is the prayer support families can offer. Get to know the RCIA candidates in your parish and choose to pray for one particular person. Our family even sent a note of encouragement to our candidate. My children always felt connected to the person we prayed for and it created anticipation to see them each Sunday at Mass and finally, at the Easter Vigil.

The RCIA candidates (who receive the Sacraments of Eucharist and Confirmation) or catechumens (who receive the Sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation) are received into the church at the Easter Vigil. There is great excitement as families gather round to celebrate with them. The children and families who have been praying for a particular person these weeks of Lent are happy to see their candidate receive the sacraments and be welcomed into the church. The celebration continues in the parish hall after Mass. Tears of joy and hugging express the delight and welcome extended to the new members of the church.

Jesus calls all of us to lead the way in creating hospitality for the RCIA candidates.

(Christensen is the Green Bay Diocese's consultant for Family Ministry. She lives in Menasha and has a degree in communications from UW-Milwaukee and a master's in pastoral studies from St. Francis Seminary, Milwaukee.)

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