If you are an adult who is curious about the Catholic Faith or wish to become Catholic, this is accomplished through the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults).
This is a process of discovery and self reflection, in which you explore the meaning of Christ in your life, and how that works with the Catholic Faith. So it is not to be so much an educational process, but one of transformation.
If you are curious, call your local parish and talk with them. Click here to find a parish near you.
RCIA is for those above the age of 7 years of age. Those who journey through the RCIA are to receive ALL the sacaments that are needed at the EASTER VIGIL.
RCIA is not a place for Catholics to learn about their faith, and it is a good practice to NOT have Catholics attend for their own edification.
The RCIA follows a general pattern:
1. Inquiry--which a person comes to ask questions and receive the very basics of the faith. If there is a desire for more, then the Inquirer moves onto the next phase
2. Rite of Acceptance--when an Inquirer is formally accepted by the community as a Catechumen/Candidate; this is celebrated any time of the year during the Mass
3. Catechumemate--a period of conversion and transformation that can last as long as needed. The Catechumen/Candidate meets regularly with the RCIA team, attends Sunday Mass, and learns about themselves and the faith. At some point the catechumen/candidate reaches a decision point to become a full member of the Catholic Church, and they move onto the next phase.
4. Rite of Election--when a Catechumen is received the the local Bishop and renamed an Elect. This rite only happens on the first Sunday of Lent. It is ritual in which all catechumens and candidates from the diocese join together.
5. Purification and Enlightenment--This period lasts 6 weeks, during the season of Lent. The Elect and Candidates enter into a more deliberate mode of prayer in preparation for reception and celebration of the Sacraments at the Easter Vigil.
6. Sacraments of Initiation--The Elect celebrate baptism, confirmation and first Communion at the Easter Vigil (the great liturgy of the Church held the Saturday night before Easter Sunday). Candidates are received into the church and are confirmed and receive first communion. The Elect and Candidates are now called Neophytes.
7. Mystagogy--Period after Easter until Pentecost in which the neophytes continue to explore and live the Catholic Faith.