Glossary of Terms for the RCIA

Inquirer - those who have not been baptized and desire to know more about Christ and the Church

  • Have been led by the grace of the Holy Spirit
  • Welcomed with a listening ear, open heart, friendly welcome
  • Time for inquirer to share his or her story
  • Can serve as a time for people to discover or rediscover faith in Christ
  • Time to seek and question
  • About evangelization and not doctrinal teaching
  • Time for listening and discovery
  • May have some knowledge of Christ
  • Appropriate to answer particular questions on doctrine but not primary focus
  • Year-round activity
  • Time for them to become familiar with patterns of common prayer
  • To move to catechumenate must express their initial conversion
    • Have they met the living Christ in the Gospel and community
    • Have they been moved to turn their lives toward Christ and become part of the Community

Catechumen - one who has taken the initial step of conversion and desires to grow in and fully develop a life of faith in Jesus Christ in the context of the community of faith.

  • No longer an inquirer but not yet a Chriatian
  • Have accepted faith in Christ
  • Are part of the household of Christ – have certain rights
  • Journey of conversion
  • Gradual change in outlook and conduct centered in Christ
  • Take active role in church’s mission
  • Admitted by means of liturgical ceremony
  • Must be properly initiated into the mystery of salvation and practice of gospel living
  • Led gradually into the ways of faith, liturgy and charity of the people of God
  • Supported by liturgical rites and the community as a whole on the journey

Elect - one who has been chosen by the Bishop to go forward to celebrate the sacraments of initiation.

  • Time of intense spiritual preparation
  • Celebration of pertinent liturgical rites in a full way is important
  • Element of purification as preparation for initiation
  • Open themselves to Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit
  • Receive strength from Christ and faithful

Neophyte - one who has recently been baptized.

  • Received the sacraments of initiation (Baptism, Confirmation and First Eucharist)
  • Now immersed in a life centered in the Paschal Mystery
  • As one begins this new life they must still be supported by the whole community particularly in the early stages
  • The time of mystagogy is particular centered on them

Candidate for full Communion - one who has been baptized and seeks full communion with the Catholic Church; such a person is not to be considered a convert.  Rather the person is fulfilling a life of conversion centered in Christ that all the baptized must live; he or she must be supported and the person should be helped to grow in that life.  When dealing with people in this group it is important to pastorally consider their life story in order to appreciate how best to approach the level of formation they may require as they are fully initiated into the life of the Church.

Orthodox - anyone who has been initiated in an Orthodox church is fully initiated and is required only to give a profession of faith.  They are initiated into the equivalent Eastern rite Catholic Church; they are not Latin rite Catholics.

Catechized - through the faith life they already are living as a member of another Christian tradition and they have already been formed at some level into a life with Christ; the degree of continuing formation that might be needed must be determined on an individual basis; the biggest issue is adherence to the Church and her teachings; bridging the gap between doctrinal differences of their previous community and the Church; recommit his or her life to continuing conversion to Christ

Un-Catechized (Non-Catholic or Catholic who has not received first communion) – Has no formation in a life with Christ and needs to develop it; there are similarities to the catechumens but they should not be treated as catechumens; it is important that they are given the appropriate time to develop and be formed in the Christian faith; they must be formed spiritually, morally and intellectually.

Conversion - (metanoia from Greek) radical turning around of the whole person towards Christ; a radical reorientation of one’s desires thought processes and actions centered in the Paschal Mystery; never accomplished in a single moment but rather is a process of transformation; it is a striving for holiness that is centered in God and supported by the community; conversion must bring about change in all levels of our person and way of thinking spiritually, morally, intellectually; any such change is always at the initiation of God.

Conversion involves “both the personal and collective consciences of people, the activities in which they engage, and the lives and the concrete milieux which are theirs.” Evangelii Nuntiandi 18

  • Necessary because sinful humanity is alienated from God
  • Primarily it is God’s initiative
  • Requires a response on the part of humanity
  • It is a sense a spiritual maturation process
  • Conversion is Cognitive, Relational, Affective, Commitment
  • Conversion changes the answers we give to the events and the world around us
  • Ongoing process it never really ends
  • It is individual in nature and cannot be rushed

(Conversion excerpted from James J Walter “Conversion” The New Dictionary of Theology,   233-235)

Catechesis - is about formation of the entire person spiritually, morally, and intellectually and therefore it is not simply about intellectual education or curiosity (catechesis ≠ adult education); formation of the person regarding one's relationship to God, Church, society, neighbor, and self; how one is responsible to live out the Gospel imperatives and directives at all levels of our being; it is an holistic approach to Christian living.

"[is] not only [about] an appropriate acquaintance with dogmas and precepts but also [the person] is brought to a profound sense of the mystery of salvation in which they desire to participate." (RCIA, no 75.1)

  • About personal communication of faith
  • It is as much about experiencing faith as learning how to intellectually express that faith
  • The Church’s teachings are about someone (Jesus) not something
  • The truth expressed in dogma is the Church’s expression of the Church’s experience of the risen Christ; this truth cannot change because Christ does not change
  • The content then of catechesis is founded upon this dogma and is tied into helping the person learn the truth of who
  • Christ is and what that means to the life the person is called to live
  • Six Basic tasks (National Directory for Catechesis)
    • Promote knowledge of the faith
    • Promote meaningful participation in liturgical worship and the sacramental life of the Church
    • To integrate moral formation into a Christian way of life
    • Teach Christians how to pray with Christ, in Christ, and in communion with the Church
    • Initiate the Christian into the life of the local church community and foster active participation in the mission of the Church
    • Promote a missionary spirit that prepares Christians to witness Christ in society

Evangelization - is aimed at bringing others into a true relationship with Christ and his Church.  It is the duty of all the baptized and entails the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ in word and action. It also calls us to personally invite others to know God through Christ in the context of the community formed by the Holy Spirit.

"Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize." Evangelii Nuntiandi 18

  • The mission of the Church is the continuation of the mission of Christ
  • Aims at drawing others into the life and mission of the Church
  • Bring the message of Christ to modern culture
  • It is primarily about proclamation of Jesus Christ
  • Incorporating others into the body of Christ by their encountering Christ through us
  • It is about leading others to a conversion of Christ through our own conversion in Christ
  • Essential part of every parish’s life