Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) on RCIA
The RCIA is a process of initiation into the Catholic Church for adults. This process prepares adults to receive the sacraments of Christian initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist). While the formal RCIA process tends to end some time after initiation, the RCIA journey continues where as a baptised Catholic, you will continue to be lifelong and joyful disciples of Jesus Christ.
The RCIA process is broken up into four periods:
I. Evangelisation and Pre-catechumenate
As an Inquirer, this is a time for you to ask questions, be introduced to Gospel values, and experience the beginnings of faith. If you feel that you are ready and would like to take the next step, this period concludes with the celebration of the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens.
As a Catechumen, this is a time for your faith to be nurtured. You will be participating in celebrations of the Word and attending sessions to learn about Catholic faith and teachings. If you feel that you are ready and would like to take the next step towards initiation, this period concludes with the celebration of the Rite of Election/Enrollment of Names where there will be a diocesan-wide celebration of Catechumens.
III. Purification and Enlightenment
As an Elect, this period (usually during Lent) preceding your initiation is meant to be a time of reflection, intensely centered on conversion, marked by the celebration of the scrutinies and preparation for the rites of the Sacraments of Initiation. During this time, you are still free to make a final decision whether you wish to be fully initiated into the church.
IV. Mystagogy/Postbaptismal Catechesis
Now that you have been initiated, as a neophyte, you are fully a part of the community. This is a time for deepening of your faith.
RCIA journeys have varying lengths. As a general guide, the journey is about a year – from your time of inquiry till a couple of weeks after baptism the following Easter.
If you find that you need more time to figure out if you really have the desire to join the Catholic Church, please do not feel that you need to rush the decision as the duration of the catechumenate should be long enough for the conversion and faith of the catechumens to become strong.
No. You are welcome to attend RCIA to simply find out more about Jesus and the Catholic Church. There is no obligation to get baptized and you are free to leave (and return!) anytime.
Children below the age of 7 years may be baptized at the Rite of Infant Baptism offered monthly at most parishes, and then attend catechism together with their peers in the parish.
A child aged 7 and up needs to undergo catechesis before making an informed decision to be baptized (just like you!). Most parishes offer age-appropriate programmes called RCIC/Y (Rite of Christian Initiation for Children/Youths). The Archdiocese also offers “Bridging”, a one-year formation for children aged 9-13 to prepare them for baptism and the other sacraments.
The Catholic Church recognizes baptisms of Christian communities which are carried out with water, “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”. If your baptism is considered valid, you will not be re-baptized. Instead, you will undergo the RCIA programme as a “candidate”, preparing for the other two Sacraments of Christian Initiation: Confirmation and Holy Communion. If your baptism was not valid (e.g. “in the name of Jesus”), you will be baptized. If there is doubt about the validity of your baptism (e.g. if you do not know what words were used), you will be baptized conditionally.
This depends on when your RCIA programme concludes, and when you intend to marry. Please take your time to come to know Jesus and discern your calling to join the Church instead of rushing into baptism. If you already have a deep familiarity with Christ and the Catholic Church, and wish to enter the Church ahead of schedule, please discuss this with your parish priest and RCIA co-ordinator.
Do note that if you and/or your fiancé(e) is divorced (whether from a civil or religious marriage), the wedding will need to be delayed until the Catholic Church has established that you are free to marry (e.g. by dissolving a previous marriage).
The Catechumenate is a time of formal catechesis and immersion in the life of the church. It is helpful for you to join in with the catechumens as they are also being prepared to receive the sacraments of initiation.
Divorce is no impediment to joining the Catholic Church. But since the Church does not recognize civil divorce, your entry to the Church may be delayed if you re-married while your original spouse is still living. Since the Church has the power to regularize the situation of some divorcees (e.g. by dissolving or declaring null a previous marriage), please highlight all previous marriages (of you and/or your spouse) to your RCIA co-ordinator as early as possible. The administrative process takes some months to complete, and cannot be speeded up simply to let you be baptized/received together with your RCIA cohort. During this time, you are still welcome to begin the RCIA programme.
Since a godparent accompanies you in your faith journey, s/he must be a baptised and confirmed Catholic in good standing with the Church. You could ask a Catholic relative or friend whose faith you find mature and strong. You may not ask your biological parent; a non-Catholic; or anyone under the age of 16, to be your godparent. You can have one godmother and/or one godfather, but no more than that.
There is no charge for the RCIA programme or the sacraments. However, your parish may ask for voluntary offerings to defray the costs (e.g. of food and facilities), or request payment for the materials used. Should finances be a issue, do speak privately to your RCIA coordinator as the Church will not turn anyone away due to an inability to pay.