RCIA process welcomes adults into the church

Catechumens are baptized on Holy Saturday — Bishop Michael O. Jackels baptizes a young woman during Holy Saturday services last year at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Wichita. Nearly 400 persons are enrolled in the RCIA process this year in the Diocese of Wichita and, God-willing, will be baptized Catholics or received into the church on Saturday, April 3. (Advance photo by Don McClane)

By Rhonda Lohkamp
Joining the Catholic Church is as easy as, well, R-C-I-A.
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults is the process through which newcomers, called inquirers, are welcomed into the church.
The rite is designed to help those interested in the Catholic faith in their journey to become active members of the church community. At the same time, it revives the missionary spirit of the faith community.
The process includes several stages marked by study, prayer, rites of the Mass, and participation in community and service. Participants undergo conversion as they study the Gospel, profess faith in Jesus and the Catholic Church, and receive the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.
Last year more than 400 persons in the Wichita Diocese entered the Church.
Andrea Mueller, who went through the process three years ago, still remembers the calling she felt to become Catholic.
“I had been dating Darren (now her husband), and his family was Catholic. I was around them a lot and saw them praying. I had questions, and eventually went through RCIA to find the answers.
“Going through the process changed my view on everything – life issues, marriage,” she said. “It changed how I act.”
The RCIA process follows the ancient practice of the church, where members would present and testify on behalf of persons interested in joining the church. The faith community would welcome and accept these persons forming them for faith and life. By the third century, this formation process became the catechumenate, preparing individuals for initiation (baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist) over a period of several years.
In the early Middle Ages, the catechumenate eventually disappeared as the vast majority of individuals being baptized at this time were infants. At the Second Vatican Council, the bishops asked that the catechumenate be restored to the church as an appropriate model for forming Christians in the contemporary world. In 1972, the Vatican promulgated the Latin text of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. In 1988, a final English translation of the RCIA was approved for use in the United States.
While Catechumens look forward to the coming of the grace that Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist will bestow, Candidates and Catholics mentioned above reflect on the grace of the Baptism they have already received and how they are empowered to live it more authentically.
For Mueller, the experience is on-going. Every year since she entered the Church she has sponsored an inquirer. “I feel attached to it,” she said. “It’s a part of me. I don’t want to let go of it.”
Lohkamp is diocesan director of Religious Education.