LEARNING ABOUT THE CATHOLIC FAITH
AND BECOMING A MEMBER (RCIA)
What is the RCIA? It is an acronym for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Simply, it is the process by which adult persons become members of the Catholic Church. It is also known as Catechumenate.
Before the reforms of the second Vatican Council, adults were initiated into the Catholic Church after a period of instruction by the priest. Those who had not been baptised previously were baptised in private, using the ritual used for infants. Later they were confirmed and received communion, and little else was done for the convert after that, except they were accepted as new members of the church.
Today, the Church has made a special ministry in which interested parishioners offer to assist candidates to decide whether or not they wish to become members of the Catholic faith. Their role is purely to befriend and support Enquirers.
The new way of initiating candidates takes many of its ideas from the manner in which the first Christians learnt what Jesus taught by forming a community and living with those who had already adopted the faith. They celebrated each Sunday in much the same way as The Last Supper occurred, by breaking bread together and drinking wine. If anyone was not present through illness, they elected a member to take the bread and wine to them.
The modern Church tries to copy this simple ceremony, in which the taking of the bread and wine is the most important part since it is a commemoration of what Jesus did at The Last Supper. “Jesus took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it, gave it to the disciples and said: “Take, eat, this is my body”. Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks, he gave it to them saying: “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”. (Matt. 26:26-28) Of course, other rituals have been adopted throughout the centuries but the fundamentals are still there, with the emphasis on new candidates learning from the established members of the community.
Regular meetings are organised and the candidate learns from these meetings by observation and sharing as well as instructions. Questions are encouraged and answered by long established Catholics who have been exposed to all this information throughout their lifetime.
If the candidate feels that this faith is what they want to embrace, the whole community brings them into the fold.
The reasons people decide to convert or express an interest in knowing more about a particular faith are many and varied. To mention some, there are those baptised in another Christian faith; those who have been brought up in a non-Christian faith; those who have never been baptised or committed in any way, and finally, those who were christened Catholic but later lapsed and now wish to return to their original status.
Maybe you are someone who lives in the Catholic environment. Your spouse is a Catholic and so are your children. You are surrounded by ‘believers’ and may even attend Mass with the family on a regular basis.
Perhaps if asked what is your faith? You might even answer “Nothing really”. However, deep inside you there is a niggling feeling that somehow you are missing out on something. Maybe that is God speaking to you.
Again, these are difficult times and a lot is happening that makes the future seem uncertain. None of us knows what tomorrow might bring and most of us feel the need for something or someone we can rely on.
Maybe you’re just curious as to what Catholics are about and what they do in the privacy of their churches, their schools, and even their homes. That’s alright, we understand that and have nothing to hide. We would welcome your enquiries.
If you have been thinking about these sorts of issues and feel that there has to be something MORE than what you are now experiencing, you can speak to a person who is trained in such matters, even if it is only to ask a few questions about what it really means to be a Catholic. The first step is to contact the parish office and arrange to talk to someone or look for the cream coloured booklet entitled “How to Become a Catholic” at the back of Sacred Heart, Mosman or St. Joseph’s, Neutral Bay.
The “how” is simplicity itself. If it’s just curiosity, there are pamphlets at the back of the churches in the parish and in a display unit at the Parish Office which is situated within the school complex in a section of its own. There is no cost and they are there for anyone who wants to know more.
The address and telephone number is:
23 Cardinal Street, Mosman, NSW 2088
Ph 8969 3200.