“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, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” [Mt. 28:19-20]
We are all called to evangelize in response to this great commission of Jesus. To evangelize as a Catholic in the world today means to be a living example by sharing and witnessing to others regarding our faith in Jesus and our love for Him.
The Order of Christian Initiation of Adults (O.C.I.A.), is the process, established for the universal Church, for individuals to become Catholic and receive the Sacraments of Initiation–Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist. This initiation process also involves a parish community experiencing a renewal in faith as it prepares and welcomes new members into the Church. The O.C.I.A. speaks of conversion as a “spiritual journey.” Centered on fostering a deep relationship with Jesus and the Church He founded, this journey takes place through distinct stages, each marked by distinct liturgical rites, over a period of time suitable to bring about a thorough catechesis, significant experience of the parish community, and commitment to the liturgical and moral life of the Catholic faithful.
STEPS OF THE PROCESS
1. Period of Evangelization and Pre-Catechumenate: This is a time for inquiry and evangelization, an opportunity for the beginnings of faith. Here the seed is planted through the proclamation of the Gospel and the story of salvation history.
- Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens/Rite of Welcoming: The first formal step on the road to becoming a Catholic takes place with the Rite of Acceptance into the Order of Catechumens, in which the unbaptized express their desire and intention to become Christians, and are placed into a formal relationship with the universal Church. During this period, the Catechumen’s faith is nurtured through celebrations of prayers and blessings, and through a course of study and formation.
- The Rite of Welcoming is for Inquirers who have been previously baptized and are ready to publicly declare their intention to continue their journey toward full communion with the Catholic Church. At this Rite, they are asked if they are ready to listen to the apostles’ instruction, gather with the worshipping community in prayer, and join that community in the love and service of others.
2. Period of the Catechumenate: This is an extended period for pastoral formation and guidance aimed at training participants in the Christian life; it includes a thoroughly comprehensive catechesis on the truths of Catholic doctrine and moral life.
- Rite of Sending and Rite of Election/Call to Continuing Conversion: When people are ready to enter the Church, they begin a period of purification and enlightenment that normally takes place during Lent. On the First Sunday of Lent, those seeking to become Catholics usually participate in the Rite of Election with their Bishop. During this period, the Catechumens, now called the Elect, are prayed for publicly during Mass each Sunday as they go through an intense period of conversion where they spend much time in fasting and prayer, and living out the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.
- The Call to Continuing Conversion is for the Candidates, who have been baptized. The Candidates are “called to continuing conversion,” and thus their intention to be fully initiated and share in the Eucharist is recognized. This Rite also takes place before the Bishop.
3. Period of Purification and Enlightenment: Coinciding with Lent, this period consists more in interior reflection than in instruction. It is intended to enlighten the minds and hearts of participants with a deep knowledge of Christ the Savior.
- Celebration of the Sacraments of Initiation: This is the liturgical rite, usually integrated into the Easter Vigil, by which the Elect are initiated through Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist, and the Candidates receive whatever Sacraments of Initiation that they have yet to receive.
4. Period of Post-Baptismal Catechesis or Mystagogy: Following the Easter Vigil, these new Catholics—now called neophytes—enter into their final period of formation, called the Mystagogy, a period of post-baptismal catechesis that lasts for the six weeks of the Easter season. During this time they reflect on their experience of receiving the sacraments and gather together each Sunday with all the faithful at Mass. They are now fully initiated members of the Church with all the rights and responsibilities that go with it. We as a parish community pledge to help them grow and mature in the Christian life and to develop a genuine Catholic world view. Calling All Seekers!!