The Rite of Christian Initiation is a restoration of the ancient practice of initiation into the church: a process of discerning and ritualizing stages of conversion, leading to sacramental initiation through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist, celebrated at the Easter vigil, thus empowering men and women for lives of service, charity, and justice, as witnesses to the reign of God. It is the parish community, through its witness, worship, service, and catechesis, that offers the invitation and support necessary for men and women to be initiated into the church.
The RCIA is one rite. However, it is divided into various periods that respect the individual’s journey of faith. These periods of initiation formation are marked by community celebrations that serve as transitions or steps throughout the rite. The periods of the RCIA and their accompanying transition celebrations are: the Period of Evangelization or Precatechumenate, the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens, the Period of the Catechumenate, the Rite of Election, the Period of Illumination or Purification, the Celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation, the Period of Postbaptismal Catechesis or Mystagogy.
These various periods are a process of formation to the gospel. The RCIA helps facilitate the experience of God for those seeking full initiation into the community. This formation to the gospel becomes the seed for renewal in the parish community. Not only because there are new members in the community, but because the actual formation team for the RCIA is the parish community. The catechumens challenge the parish by asking the hard questions. Why are you a catholic? What do you believe? Why do you believe? Why would I be happier of I were to join your community? How is God alive here? The parish needs to ask and answer these questions of itself over and over again. As the parish members witness to their sense of being ambassadors for God, they deepen their appreciation and use of God’s gifts in the community.
An active RCIA keeps the winds of renewal always current in the parish!
(Please note-this materiel taken directly from THE RCIA TRANSFORMING THE CHURCH A Resource For Pastoral Implementation, Morris, Thomas A., Paulist Press 1989)