Understanding the OC.I.A. (formerly RCIA)
O.C.I.A. (new title) is the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults. It is the process by which the Catholic Church welcomes new members. Beginning with the Apostles and continuing on through the ages, the Church has continually sought to share the Good News with the world.
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Mt 28:19-20
How does it work?
There are four periods in the process, for which there is no time limit. Many who wish to become Catholic are able to do so in less than a year. For others, the process will be longer. Although people from all different backgrounds attend the same classes, all participants are on their own personal journey
During this period, Inquirers share their backgrounds, their stories, and ask questions. Church members answer questions and share the Gospel, explaining what the Church believes and why.
If you decide to move closer to receiving the Sacraments, you will participate in a “Rite” of Welcoming. During this period you will need a sponsor. Your sponsor can be the friend or relative who invited you to come to church or a parishioner who can answer your questions about Catholic living. Your sponsor will be with you through the rest of the process and will be at your side for the handful of “Rites” that are part of this period. You will be encouraged to participate in parish activities, and to come to Mass every week.
You will only enter this period after discernment. You need to be ready to move forward, and the Church needs to determine that you are ready. This is a special time for those who are getting close to receiving Sacraments. Reflection and prayer are emphasized. During this time the community continues to pray for you. You will also attend a Rite in which the Bishop formally declares you “Elect” or “Candidate”.
At the end of this period you will receive the Sacraments of Initiation; Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist (previously baptized Christians will receive Confirmation and Eucharist)
“for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the holy Spirit.” Acts 1:5
The Sacraments are received during the Easter Vigil. The Vigil Mass is beautiful and consists of several parts. The most joyful part of this mass is when the community receives you into full communion through the Sacraments!
After you receive the Sacraments you are in full communion with the Church. You will continue to meet for a few more weeks with members of the parish. The emphasis will be the social teaching of the Church, and people from various ministries will be given opportunities to meet you and describe their ministries. You may want to join a ministry, or sign up for a bible study. The richness of the Catholic Church never ceases to unfold.
Glossary of Terms
Parish: A community of the faithful entrusted to a pastor
Catechumen: One who has not been baptized.
Candidate: Previously baptized in a Christian faith tradition.
Sacrament: The unique signs instituted by Christ through which we receive grace.
Rite: Ceremonies surrounding the Sacred Liturgy and the Sacraments
Liturgy: The public worship of the church
Elect: Those who have not been baptized but have been received by the Bishop as the “Elect of God”