The Rite of Christian Initiation/RCIA is a gradually deepening process of exploring God's call to a life of faith, coming to know the person of Jesus, and becoming one with his community of believers, the Church. This process unfolds in stages.
SEEKERS GROUP - Formally called "inquiry," this initial stage is a "getting to know you" time. Seekers ask questions and begin to take a closer look at their relationship with God. Depending on the individual, this stage may last for several months or longer. When you decide you are ready, you move forward to the ---
CATECHUMENATE - This second stage begins with the Rite of Acceptance and the Rite of Welcoming. During this stage, the unbaptized are formally called catechumens; those already baptized are called candidates. It is a time of catechesis, of learning more intentionally about what the Church teaches and believes. It is also a time to discover how to live as a Catholic Christian, supported by the parish community.
This period ends when the catechumens and candidates express their desire to receive the Sacraments of Initiation and the parish community acknowledges their readiness. This usually coincides with the beginning of Lent, when the Rite of Election is celebrated with the local bishop at the cathedral and the catechumens become the "elect."
PURIFICATION AND ENLIGHTENMENT - This third stage coincides with the liturgical season of Lent. It is a period of intense preparation and prayer, including the celebration of the three scrutinies in which the elect search their hearts and souls so they may more fully receive the grace of the Sacraments. For the elect, this period ends with the celebration of Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist at the Easter Vigil. Candidates may be received into full communion with the Church at the Vigil, or at other times during the year.
MYSTAGOGY - This fourth stage is the period of post-baptismal catechesis. The newly initiated explore their experience through participation with all the faithful at Sunday Eucharist, participation in the faith community, and appropriate catechesis. They reflect on how they are called to best exercise the gifts of new life. The period formally lasts through the Easter season.