R.C.I.A. (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults)
What We Believe
The Catholic Church is the Universal Church of Christ. For 2,000 years the Church has been striving to teach, preach and live the instruction given to us by Jesus. Jesus was born into a marginal Jewish family in Israel under the rule of the Roman Empire. Being truly human, Jesus saw suffering, injustice and poverty every day of his human life on earth. Having learned the teachings on social justice in his Jewish faith, and by his deep union with God, Jesus cared for the most vulnerable members of his society. He taught the Word of God, healed the sick and gave hope to the poor. He charged his followers, by word and example, to accept the great dignity that God has given to every human being, and to work for the dignity and well being of others. Being truly divine, Jesus offered us the most perfect way to worship God, to have full union with God in the Eucharist, which we celebrate each Sunday, and every day if one desires.
This is who we are - who we strive to be as a community and as individuals - a people of faith, rooted in hope, working for the good of all.
One who would like to become a member of the Catholic Church unites the journey that brought them here with a new journey, more deliberately walking with Christ.
On this journey:
- We go to Mass together to hear the Word of God (the Scriptures).
- We learn and understand what the Scriptures mean, and how they relate to our lives.
- We come to know more deeply the unbreakable love that God has for each of us.
- We recognize that same love that God has for others, and try to love them with God’s heart.
- We see more clearly how God has already been working in our lives, where God is present now, and how we can invite God more fully into our hearts.
- We learn the teachings and traditions that have been handed down for centuries through the Bishops of the Church.
- We serve our community and learn to pray.
- We live what we have learned in every part of our lives: family, work, school, with friends, in our community, and beyond.
- We seek to be reconciled where we have been hurt or hurt others.
- We become initiated into the Church through the Sacraments, participating fully in the life of the Church.
How does one become a Catholic?
To begin the process of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), you may call the parish office (732-370-0500), Deacon Al (ext.208), or Joey (ext. 202) to sign up in attending an informal “Inquiry” Session. “Inquiry” sessions are held on Wednesdays at 6-7pm in the parish office.
They are a great opportunity to get some basic information about the Catholic Church, some of our foundational beliefs, and why we do what we do. Our team will be there to answer any questions you may have. If you choose to continue, having been attending our Inquiry sessions, you will be brought, through stages marked by rituals, to full initiation in the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist at an appropriate time.
Who may become a Catholic?
Any person who was never baptized and who thinks that they might like to become Catholic and anyone who was baptized in another Christian tradition may come into the process to make further inquiries and become a fully initiated Catholics.
If I or my spouse was married before and divorced, can I become a Catholic?
Oftentimes, our inquirers come to us with this concern. Most of the time, marriage issues can be dealt with rather quickly, not delaying the RCIA process too much. Since the RCIA process should not be rushed through, and is not on a school-year schedule, it is not a problem even if there is a delay. We have trained staff members and parishioners who will help you get through an annulment or marriage convalidation with great sensitivity and care. If there is a situation with a former marriage, it is worth the effort and should not stop you from inquiring about becoming Catholic. Any attention needed to this previous marriage, may well be handled during your period of Inquiry. Until the marriage issue is settled however, the Inquirer must not expect to be admitted to the Catechumenate in the Diocese of Trenton.
If I am a baptized Catholic, but did not receive First Holy Communion or Confirmation, do I belong in RCIA?
Yes. The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults considers you an ‘uncatechized’ Catholic and welcomes you to be part of the RCIA Process.
If I am a baptized Catholic who did receive First Holy Communion, do I belong in RCIA?
No. As a ‘catechized’ Catholic, you are only required to once again, make a sincere confession in the Sacrament of Penance and prepare fully for the Sacrament of Confirmation. Confirmation classes for adults are held on Wednesdays at 7-8:30pm.
The Catholic Church has a rite called the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. (RCIA). This RITE is the Church’s process to form new Catholics, 7 years of age or older. There are separate RCIA groups for children and teens. Please contact the Parish Office for the Children’s Catechumenate. The heart of RCIA is the stage known as the ‘Catechumenate’. Each person is given the time needed to notice actual conversion - that is, taking on the mind of Jesus Christ, making choices in keeping with His values and developing a deep desire to become Catholic. This often happens after participating in several Liturgical Seasons and many weekly catechetical sessions, prayer experiences, and opportunities for service and community building. The duration may be anywhere from several months, to one, two or three years.
- First time is spent for about one hour, once a week as an “Inquirer” in the Evangelization/ Pre-Catechumenate / Stage; each stage takes as long as it takes. This period of Inquiry does not have a designated time-frame. We schedule the Rite of Acceptance (or Welcome) a few times a year, this being the ritual by which one moves into the Catechumenate (see below).
- When ready, the Rite of Acceptance or Rite of Welcoming is celebrated in the Community, with a sponsor to enter into the Catechumenate.
Time is then spent in this stage as a “Candidate” (baptized) or “Catechumen” (unbaptized) Sunday sessions which are a study of the Sunday Scriptures from which Catholic doctrines, traditions, etc. are gleaned and explained. Persons validly baptized in other Christian traditions, and the unbaptized alike, take part. There are some sessions on Tuesday nights, as well, that are more experiential in nature. When it is time to move to the third stage, the Call to Continuing Conversion takes place in the parish for the baptized, and the Rite of Election with the Bishop, takes place at the Cathedral for the unbaptized.
- The third stage, Purification and Enlightenment is usually held during Lent, as all prepare for their initiation to take place at Easter. Through the celebration of major rites, called the Scrutinies, and minor rites, we focus our attention on letting go of that which keeps us from full union with Christ, and embracing that which will make us more free to accept Him in every area of life. The unbaptized are received into the Church at the Easter Vigil through the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and First Holy Communion. Candidates may actually be received at any time during the year.
- The final stage or Period of Mystagogy follows for a time after the Sacraments are received to discuss the Mysteries of God who is and who was at work in each person during all four stages of the RCIA Process.
What must I know about the Bible to become a Catholic?
To start, nothing, except that in it, we find the inspired Word of God. The RCIA process is an opportunity for you to hear the Sunday Scriptures week by week, to reflect on them, share with those who gather with you, and to meet God in them. The Bible is our Primary Text, and we have supplemental reading for more in-depth exploration of Catholic teaching.
Is the RCIA a good place for parishioners or people who have been away from the Church to learn more about their faith?
No. The RCIA is not an appropriate place for already initiated persons to come to learn more. Our parish offers many courses for continuing formation and enrichment for adults. If you have been away from the Church and would like to come back, we have a program called “Catholics Returning Home” (CRH) which is run by Catholics who have also left the Church and come back. It is designed to give voice to hurts and grievances that one may have experienced, and to offer the beginnings of healing and reconciliation with the Church, if through the process, you find that, that is what you want.