St. Matthew

Catholic Church

Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults

CrucifixWe welcome all seekers & inquirers!

The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) names the process by which interested persons gradually become members of the Roman Catholic Church.

The R.C.I.A. is primarily a journey of faith: "From the awareness of stirring of faith and curiosity within one's heart through all those stages of asking and seeking, through beginning involvement with Roman Catholic people, through hearing the Gospel proclaimed and by faithful reflection and prayer on this Word of God, through study and discussion about the Catholic experience, through doubts and hesitations, through discernment of God's call for them as individuals, through the steps of commitment, through the sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist) to a life of faith, love, and justice lived in communion with Catholics throughout the world.

"If I had realized how good it would be, I would have done it years ago" (2005 RCIA Participant)

To learn more about the Catholic Faith, join the Church or complete sacraments, contact the parish office at 727-393-1288.

What is R.C.I.A.?


The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) names the process by which interested persons gradually become members of the Catholic Church. The RCIA is primarily a journey. It begins with the first stirrings of faith and curiosity. It may culminate in a life of faith, love, service, and continued spiritual growth lived in communion with Catholics throughout the world.

The RCIA contains five main stages or phases, during which participants meet weekly on Thursday evenings at St. Matthew at 7:00pm for an hour to an hour and one half. These five stages are:

Period of Inquiry, also known as the time of Evangelization or Precatechumenate

This is a time to become acquainted with the Catholic Church; to learn about the Gospel values of Jesus Christ; to look within one’s own life story and make connections. This period lasts as long as the person needs it to last. Be assured that inquirers will never be pressured to join the church and if they decide this is not the right time, they will always be welcome to come back later or continue in RCIA for additional sessions if they need to.

  • Catechumenate Period

After the Inquiry Period, those seeking to join the Church participate in the “Rite of Acceptance” at a Sunday mass. This is the first stage of commitment leading to full membership. In the Rite, inquirers express and the Church accepts their intention to respond to God’s call to follow the way of Christ. Those entering the Catechumenate who have not been previously baptized are referred to as Catechumens.

Persons entering the Catechumenate who have been previously baptized are referred to as Candidates. Candidates baptized in many Protestant faith traditions will generally not be re-baptized, although there are exceptions.

During this period, the Catechumens will join the Catholic community on Sundays for the first part of the mass. After the reading of the Scriptures, and before the Priest’s homily, they will be dismissed with their Catechist (teacher) and will reflect on the Scriptures and how they apply to their own lives. The Candidates will not be dismissed along with the Catechumens. The Catechumenate period, too, can last as long as the person needs it to last.

  • Period of Purification and Enlightenment

This period corresponds to the Period of Lent, which is the forty day period prior to Easter. The second step of commitment in becoming a member is participation in the “Enrollment of Names” and the “Rite of Election”, normally on the first Sunday of Lent. Those seeking membership sign their names in the Book of the Elect at the parish church mass and are referred to thereafter as the Elect. Later, on the same day, the Elect meet with the Diocesan Bishop at the Cathedral Church. The Bishop accepts them as candidates for the Sacraments in a liturgical service along with others from parishes throughout the Diocese.

Throughout Lent, the Elect engage in reflection and prayer and deepen their conversion as they are prepared for their initiation rites on Holy Saturday, at the Easter Vigil Mass. Special prayers, called Scrutinies, are offered at Sunday Mass for the Elect. Scrutinies are for strengthening in grace and virtue and for purification from all past evil and from any bonds which hinder them from experiencing the love of God.
During Lent, the Elect are invited to join with the whole Church in a deeper practice of works of charity and in the practice of fasting. The dismissal at mass for the Catechumens, for reflection of the Scriptures, continues as in the Catechumenate period.
The Elect are given copies of the Creed (the summary of our faith) and the Lord’s Prayer. Candidates (but not Catechumens) receive the Sacrament of Penance (Confession) before the Easter Vigil.

  • The Paschal Triduum with the Sacraments of Initiation - Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharis

Catechumens will be baptized and may also be confirmed and receive first Eucharist. At the Vigil mass, the Candidates who were earlier Baptized in another faith tradition besides Catholic, will affirm their belief in the Creed of the Catholic Church and may be confirmed and receive First Eucharist. Candidates who were previously baptized in the Catholic Church, will now be confirmed and receive First Eucharist if they have not previously done so.

  • Period of Mystagogy

The Period of Mystagogy lasts from Easter Sunday until the completion of the Easter season fifty days later on Pentecost Sunday and completes the initiation process. Those who have shared in the sacraments of initiation are called Neophytes during this period. The Neophytes continue to meet with their catechists during mystagogy. They can experience fully being a part of the Christian community and will participate with all the faithful in the Sunday Eucharistic celebration. They can begin to think of new ways to share in the mission of Christ.

Although we may have completed the official cycle of initiation into the Catholic Church, we need to remember that the journey of faith is a lifelong endeavor.