(From the St. Isidore Parish Stewardship series)

What does RCIA stand for and what is your part?

RCIA stands for Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. RCIA is a relatively new, dynamic, and intense process that is also as old as Christianity itself. Like many things that brought renewed life to the Church after Vatican II, its roots are found in the very early Church.

In the time after Christ's death and Resurrection, the Church was persecuted and the Christians were established as small communities. Only adults were baptized after living in the small community from one to three years or even longer. In that environment, the community was responsible to set example and teach the catechumens and to discern if they were ready to accept the responsibility of the Christian life. This life included involvement in the work of the Church and the possibility of imprisonment or death! Becoming a Christian was a sobering decision.

Around 313, the Emperor Constantine converted and persecutions stopped. People started joining the Church for political reasons as well as spiritual. Standards for acceptance were relaxed and, eventually, people were simply baptized.

By the time of the Vatican II Council, people wishing to be Catholic had a six-weeks study with a priest and were baptized. In its wisdom, the Church realized we needed to do a better job. The Catholic Church in Africa went back to the early Church and implemented the original preparation process. It was so successful, the Bishops mandated its use in all parishes.

Today catechumens have a one-year process for acceptance into the Church (some parishes have longer). The result is new members of the Body of Christ who are better educated in the facts of the faith, but more importantly, have lived an experience of parish community, ministry and responsibility.

Like the early Church, we also have a responsibility. We may not have a catechumen living in our home, or following us around, but we are still responsible to set a good example in being an active member of the Church, and to pray for them and reach out to them and encourage them.

The catechumens have learned that being Catholic is not a spectator sport. It requires our time, talent, and treasure. Those of us who are cradle Catholics may need to remind ourselves of that on occasion, and to remember to be a model to the catechumens.

From the "Did You Know" Parish Stewardship series, a collaboration of Fr. Manuel Soria and Monique Figlietti, Chair of Stewardship Ministry in response to a request from the Pastoral Council.