July 21, 2006

Go and Make Disciples / John Valenti

How do I become a Catholic?

The Archdiocese of Indianapolis and the North American Forum on the Catechumenate recently sponsored an institute for those interested in learning more about how people become Catholic.

The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is a process of conversion, a gradual process that marks the stages along the path to full commitment in the Roman Catholic Church.

The institute presented the compelling vision and pastoral skills to implement the initiation process, and emphasized the relationship of good liturgy to good catechesis.

You may be wondering what is involved in RCIA. Perhaps someone has asked you, “How do I become a Catholic?”

The formation process is two-fold: First, a focus on the inner transformation of the individual and their call to discipleship by exploring the lectionary of Scripture readings and, secondly, to the gradual transformation of the person as an active member of the local Church.

The RCIA process is meant to help people recognize their experiences of God in all aspects of their lives. When the catechumens share their life stories, it includes their struggles, hopes, fears, dreams and ideals. It is in all of this that they are invited to recognize and to name their experiences of God.

When catechumens reflect on Scripture, they are called to broaden this experience. Through our telling of our story, we make it a part of the Good News that can now be shared with the world.

RCIA also recognizes that in order to become a fully mature Christian, the catechumen must become an active and conscious participant in liturgy and have a vibrant life of prayer. Finally, the mature Christian should also be one who lives out his commitment through actions which reflect Gospel values.

There are several periods in this process which may take anywhere from one to three years. The beginning period is called Pre-Catechumenate, a time for the inquirers to ask questions. The other periods are called the Catechumenate, Purification and Enlightenment, and Mystagogy. These periods of the process are all preceded by formal rites with the assembly that will be an affirmation to the community as well as the individual moving on their journey toward the Easter vigil, where they are welcomed and initiated into our Catholic community.

An interesting byproduct of RCIA is the transformation that happens to sponsors of candidates and catechumens. Time and time again, sponsors realize how much they learn about the Catholic faith by helping others through the initiation process.

What is the first step? Invite someone to explore the Catholic faith. One of the best evangelization suggestions came from a priest in Mississippi, who simply asks people, “Surely you know someone you love that’s not going to church? I want to talk with them and invite them to Mass.” Now that we have been trained, we’re ready to welcome people to the Catholic faith.

Anyone who is seriously considering becoming a Roman Catholic or who would simply like more information can contact any Catholic parish office.

(John Valenti is associate director of evangelization and faith formation for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.) †


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