Every year tens of thousands of people join the Catholic Church, usually on the Saturday night before Easter Sunday. On that night, the church holds the most important celebration of the whole year: the Easter Vigil, on the day we call Holy Saturday.
Catholic parishes welcome these new members through a process of education, faith sharing, and rituals known as the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).
Those who have already been baptized in a Christian church are called candidates; those who have not been baptized are known as catechumens.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) describes RCIA as a process in which participants “undergo . . . conversion as they study the Gospel, profess faith in Jesus and the Catholic Church, and receive the sacraments . . . The RCIA process follows the ancient practice of the church and was restored by the Second Vatican Council as the normal way adults prepare for baptism.”
In many parishes the RCIA program begins in the fall and includes a series of weekly meetings, often with members of the parish who are serving as sponsors (mentors for people who have already been baptized) or godparents (for those who have not been baptized).
For more information, call a nearby parish and ask to speak with the pastor or the person who coordinates the RCIA program. Taking part in RCIA will give you an opportunity to learn more: there is no obligation.
To read a series of questions and answers about RCIA, visit the U.S. bishops’ website.