Rites of Acceptance & Welcome
Journeys have beginnings, middles, and ends. They also have certain threshold or signposts that signal the steps or stages along the way which help us get from one point to another in our travels. The four-step journey to faith embarked upon by the inquirers of RCIA has such a structure.
For an unspecified period of time, our inquirers look at the RCIA process and have an opportunity to ask questions about what entering the process will entail. They look closely at their lives and priorities as well as their relationships with God and the people around them. During this period, called the “precatechumenate,” each individual begins to see how conversion is a life-long process – not a one-time event. By the end of this period, the Inquirers, with assistance from their sponsors and the RCIA team, have had an opportunity to reflect on where God wants them and what they need from God and the Christian community. Through all of this, they have been discerning whether they are being called to look more closely at the Catholic Church and its teaching in the next phase, the Catechumenate.
Just as our warm hearts and inviting spirits need some type of accompanying physical gestures, such as a handshake or hug when we welcome someone into our home, so the welcoming community called Church needs some rituals to welcome its inquirers to itself during this process of initiation. The RCIA process has two combined rituals, the Rite of Acceptance for those who are not baptized and the Rite of Welcome for those who have been baptized in another Christian tradition, for those inquirers who are ready to move to the period of the Catechumenate. This is the first time the inquirers will publicly declare their intention to the Church and the Church, in turn, accepts them as people who intend to become its members. Therefore, these Rites are celebrated within the community of believers so the community can welcome the inquirers to the second step of their journey to faith.
With their welcome to the Catechumenate phase of the RCIA, the inquirers are referred to as Catechumens (those to be baptized) and Candidates (those already one with us in baptism, who will be received into the Church at the Easter Vigil). Please welcome your catechumens and candidates, embrace, encourage and pray for them during the period of the Catechumenate until they become one with us at the table.