First Step: Inquiry
Are you seeking a spiritual home? Has your search led you to the Catholic Church? Maybe you've attended Mass a few times and the experience has awakened in you a desire to learn more about us--about our prayer, our beliefs, our community--and although Google has been of help, a personal contact might be better.
Sometimes seekers hesitate to call to find out how they can go about learning more about the Catholic Church and the process of becoming Catholic because they're not yet ready to commit to joining the Church. You don't have to wait until you're sure this is the path you'll follow before making an initial inquiry. In fact, we hope you will call while you are engaged in this discernment so that you can benefit from the opportunity of meeting members of our community and asking the questions that are certain to arise. Whether or not your journey leads you into our community, we welcome the opportunity to walk with you as you explore this possibility.
Next Steps: The RCIA
If you were to begin the inquiry process and found that you did, in fact, wish to engage in the process of becoming Catholic, what would come next?
The inquiry process is actually the first step in a process of initiation called the Rites of Christian Initiation of Adults. For some non-Catholics (and indeed for some Catholic as well!) this name and the steps it involves can seem somewhat intimidating but almost 40 years of its implementation has shown those of us involved in this work that it is truly God's work and the grace received by all those who are touched by its transformative power continues to inspire us in our journey of faith.
So what exactly is involved in the RCIA? The exact length of the process varies according to the candidate's formation when entering the process; the exact rites that are celebrated vary according to whether the inquirer is unbaptized or has been baptized in another Christian tradition. That said, this is the general movement that is followed in the process of becoming Catholic:
Period of Inquiry: period of no pre-set length (ie. it will vary according to the needs of the inquirer), during which a person inquiring into the Catholic faith receives an initial explanation of the Gospel and the nurturing of faith. The setting is informal and presents the opportunity to answer questions, to meet the community and learn of its mission and work through its members.
Period of Catechesis: when an inquirer is ready to "express and the Church accepts their intention to respond to God's call to follow the way of Christ", this significant step is celebrated through a liturgical rite and so begins a period of catechesis. "This is the time, in duration corresponding to the progress of the individual, for the nurturing and growth of ... faith and conversion to God." The setting offers the opportunity for a more extensive presentation of the teachings and practices of the Church in order to foster such growth in discipleship.
Period of Immediate Preparation for the Celebration of the Sacraments: when a candidate expresses the will to receive the Sacraments, the Church recognizes this call and the candidate's readiness through another liturgical rite. With this celebration begins a final period of intense prayer and reflection not unlike a retreat, marked by additional rituals.
Celebration of the Sacraments: the final period of preparation culminates in the celebration of the Sacraments through which the candidate is welcomed into and completes their initiation into the Catholic Church.
Period of Mystagogy: this period following the celebration of the Sacraments offers the newly initiated the opportunity to reflect back on their journey, deepen their experience of the celebration of the Sacraments, and explore further their response to the Gospel in the context of the Catholic Christian community.