HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE?
As long as it needs to.
The R.C.I.A. is not a program with a set starting and ending time. As Tertullian, a theologian of the second century said, "Christians are made, not born." It just does not happen. Rather, slowly and gradually one is opened to the work of God in his or her life and to God’s call to share that life in community. This process of becoming Christian is a lifelong process we call conversion. Conversion is a turning to God in the person of Jesus Christ by the grace of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit’s working in our lives is sometimes messy and certainly doesn’t respect our calendars.
In the RCIA, your unique journey is respected and accommodated. At St. Theresa, we have inquiry sessions on Wednesday evenings, 7:30 PM to 9:30 PM. You may begin your journey with us at any of these sessions beginning at any time during the year. An inquirer remains until he or she is evangelized and ready to publicly declare his or her intention to become a fully initiated member of the Catholic Christian community.
The rite is very explicit in determining the length of time spent in the Catechumenate. The National Statute # 6 says, "The period of the Catechumenate…should extend for at least one year of formation, instruction and probation." The Catechumenate lasts for at least one liturgical cycle (one full year) for uncatechized, unbaptized persons as well as for those who are uncatechized but baptized.
Why? In one full liturgical year, the church proclaims and celebrates the entire mystery of Christ. Persons incorporated into the church are incorporated into that mystery. Those in the Catechumenate meet every Sunday morning for the 9:45 AM Mass where they celebrate the Liturgy of the Word with the assembly. They are dismissed to further reflect on that Word. After Mass, their Sponsors join them to share their insights, learn the teachings of the church and experience different ways to pray.
The baptized, catechized person’s journey can be somewhat shorter, depending on the degree to which that person is catechized. When it is discerned that the person is sufficiently catechized in the areas of catechesis defined by Catholic tradition, the church celebrates the Rite of Full Reception of the Catholic Church. This rite may be celebrated more than once a year and at any time during the year.
The Catechumenate ends when "on the basis of the testimony of godparents and catechists and of the catechumens’ reaffirmation of their intention, the Church judges their state of readiness and decides on their advancement toward the sacraments of initiation." (RCIA #120)
This leads to the Period of Purification and Enlightenment for the Catechumens and the period of Spiritual Formation for the Candidates. This period lasts from four to six weeks at St. Theresa and prepares us for initiation. The Catechumens will celebrate three scrutinizes with the assembly while the Candidates will reflect on their baptism and prepare for and celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Catechumens are baptized, confirmed and receive eucharist at the Easter Vigil. Candidates will make a profession of faith, receive confirmation and eucharist at a Sunday Mass.
The period of Mystagogy is a time to grow more deeply into the paschal mystery and reflect on being eucharistic people. This period lasts one year until the Neophytes celebrate their one year anniversary.