Open Arms: An RCIA Program for St. Edith
As we move towards the opening of a new session of the Rites of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), we understand that this term may not be familiar either to those who seek entrance into the Catholic Church or even to those who are already members of St Edith Parish. So we have targeted a new name for the Program which is more in line with how we wish to welcome those who do not know Christ or those who were baptized Christian but wish to become Catholic.. . . we, like Jesus , welcome them with “OPEN ARMS”.
Who is our Becoming Catholic with "Open Arms" Program for?
The simple answer is “all of us”. The primary focus of the program is to share our faith with any unbaptized person who wants to know Jesus, any validly baptized Christian of another faith who is interested in full initiation in the Catholic Church, or any Catholic who has not received all of the sacraments. Additionally, anyone who is interested in being a companion to one of these seekers or anyone who just wants to learn more about their own faith is welcome to join us. But that is not the entire focus, this program is for the entire congregation. It is an opportunity for all of us to join in the journey of our Catechumens (unbaptized) and Candidates (validly baptized in another Christian faith). We can all renew our faith by an active participation in their journey with them.
What exactly is the Open Arms Program?
After Vatican II, the process of bringing new converts into the Catholic faith was revised. Actually, the Church fathers took it back to the way it was in the early days of the Church. It is a journey undertaken by a person who is responding to God’s call to know Him. It is not a series of classes regarding the “how-to’s” of being Catholic. Yes, the doctrines of the Church, the sacraments, and liturgical practices are all explained. But primarily, it is a process of conversion of the heart to respond to God’s graces and an initiation into the life of the community of the Mystical Body of Christ. It is really more of an apprentice experience where, by example and sharing of our experiences and faith with them, they learn what it is to have and live a relationship with Jesus Christ.
What is involved?
There are four periods of study for the persons who want to learn about the Church. The first is the Period of Inquiry (from October to the 1st Sunday of Advent) where interested people are given the opportunity to seek information, ask questions, and listen to stories of how knowing Jesus has affected our lives. There is no expectation of commitment on their part during this period. If they decide to continue, they will next enter the Period of the Catechumenate (1st Sunday of Advent to the 1st Sunday of Lent). This period concentrates on giving them the information on Church doctrines, philosophy, sacraments, liturgies and prayer life. At the end of this period, they enter into the Period of Enlightenment (1st Sunday of Lent to Easter Vigil). This Period is a time for intense internal evaluation and individual seeking of how sin affects their lives and how the love of Jesus can change their hearts. The final period is the Period of Mystoggia (from Easter Vigil to Pentecost) where they experience entry into the community and living life as an adopted child of God. For the entire year after that they are considered Neophytes and require our prayers and support as they live their new life in Christ.
What Rituals are celebrated?
Rituals are important in the life of the Church and there are a number of “Rites” through which the seekers (or Inquirers) progress as they are ready to move from one period to the next. The Rites of Acceptance (1st Sunday of Advent), Sending /Election (1st Sunday of Lent), and the Scrutinies (3rd, 4th, and 5th Sundays of Lent), as they all lead to the culmination of full initiation at the Easter Vigil. The Rites are designed to include the support of the parish and wider support of the entire Church for these persons as they progress on their journey. . Throughout the entire journey, the parish congregation has a critical role. Evaluation of their own life in Christ as they serve as examples to those learning about the faith, support and prayers for them, and invitations to join with them in parish activities are all ways that parishioners can share in their (and indeed our own) spiritual journey.
Prayerfully consider Becoming Catholic. We meet on Wednesdays beginning in early October from 7 - 8:30 p.m. in the Parish Office Fireside Room. If you have any questions please call, or send an email. We'll be happy to talk with you!
Contact: Pat Bondie