**There is no obligation to move forward after the designated time frame for each period. One may stay in any period for as long as one wishes. These are very important steps that should be prayerfully and carefully discerned. Please take advantage of the RCIA Team, Religious Education Staff, Priests and Deacons to help you through this time of reflection. Each step is an increase in the knowledge and understanding of the Catholic Faith, your life, God's will for your life, and an increase in a relationship with Christ.
First Step: Period of Inquiry
During this time, Inquirers explore the idea of becoming Catholic. They raise questions about the Catholic Faith and Life, and connect their own lives to God's will for them.
How Long? The Period of Inquiry is offered year round and usually lasts from 6 weeks to a few months or more, whatever is needed for each individual Inquirer.
Second Step: Catechumenate (time of learning)
Some Inquirers decide to commit themselves and continue the initiation journey. Inquirers who have not been baptized enter through a ceremony called the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens. They publicly declare their faith, and the Church symbolically claims them for Christ by signing them with the cross. They are now called Catechumens (which means "one who is learning"). Those who are already baptized Christians seeking to become Catholic enter the Rite of Welcome and are called Candidates for Full Communion. From this point, a sponsor is given to each Catechumen and Candidate who supports him/her on the journey. Adults involved in RCIA participate each Sunday at Mass, and are blessed and dismissed after the homily to reflect on the Scripture readings they have heard. Following Mass, they have catechesis on the teachings of the Church as passed down to us from the Apostles. These sessions are open to all interested adults.
How Long? The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has stated that this period is to last at least one year for Catechumens, and at least 6 to 9 months for a Candidate.
Third Step: Period of Purification and Enlightenment
During the season of Lent, Candidates and Catechumens take this opportunity by means of prayer to reflect deeply on their lives, the effects of personal sin, and ways to grow in personal holiness. With the help of sponsors and the RCIA team, Catechumens and Candidates discern their readiness for celebrating the Sacraments. Catechumens are called to the Rite of Election, and are now members of “The Elect.” Candidates celebrate the Rite of the Call to Continuing Conversion, and later the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
How long? This period is a time of intense prayer lasting six weeks, coinciding with the season of Lent.
Fourth Step: Initiation and Mystagogia
The Easter Vigil on the night of Holy Saturday is the primary celebration of the Lord's resurrection and is the occasion for the celebration of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist with the Elect and Candidates. Elect celebrate the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist).The newly initiated are called Neophytes as they are the "new plants" in the faith. At the same time, Candidates are brought into full communion through Profession of Faith, Confirmation and Eucharist.
The period of Mystagogia is the time for the "unfolding of the mysteries" of the Sacraments just celebrated. Neophytes participate fully in the Mass and seek a means of fellowship or service in the parish community.
How Long? The new Catholics continue to meet weekly during the Easter Season. The journey of faith lasts a lifetime in ongoing Mystagogia.