“Jesus said to him, ‘Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed’” (John 21: 29).
St. Margaret welcomes new adult Catholics and children over the age of seven into full communion every year on Holy Saturday through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). RCIA is a catechetical process that begins long before communal catechesis. An individual comes, in some way, to a knowledge of Jesus Christ and considers his or her relationship with Christ first; this ultimately leads the person to the Catholic Church. This Period of Evangelization (also known as the Pre-Catechumenate) involves a long period of searching for some. Often, contact with people of other faith traditions lead individuals to inquire about the Catholic Church.
These “inquirers” eventually seek acceptance into the Order of Catechumens through the Rite of Acceptance. It is at this time that the inquirer stands before the Parish Community and states that he or she would like to become a member of the Catholic Church; the community affirms this desire!
The Catechumenate Period lasts for as long as the person desires. He or she grows in faith, stumbles across many questions, a discerns how God leads them on this journey. Catechumens reflect on what God is saying in the Scriptures, what changes in their life need to be made to respond to God’s inspiration, and what full communion with the Church really means. Some time during this period, a person asks to enter full communion officially. These Catechumens participate in the Rite of Election – the enrollment of names of all the Catechumens seeking baptism for the upcoming Easter. Typically, on the First Sunday of Lent, Catechumens, their sponsors and families gather at St. Joseph Cathedral in Baton Rouge where they publicly express their desire for full communion to the diocesan bishop; their names are recorded and they are called “the Elect.”
The days of Lent mark the final period of Purification and Enlightenment leading up to Easter. Lent is a period of prayer and study for the Elect. This culminates with the celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation during the Easter Vigil where persons are fully initiated into the Catholic Church.
Coming into full communion with the Catholic Church describes the process for entrance into the Catholic Church for already baptized Christians. In most cases, these individuals make a profession of faith but are not baptized again. To prepare for this reception, Candidates usually participate in the same RCIA formation program to help them understand and experience the teachings and practices of the Catholic Church. These Candidates are received into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil or at another Sunday during the year depending on pastoral circumstances and readiness of the Candidate.