Parishes welcome new members into the Catholic Church through a process of education, faith sharing, and rituals known as the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). This process includes several stages marked by prayer, study, and discussion. Included in the process are several Rites, which take place within the context of the Mass. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) describes the 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.”
The RCIA process has several distinct stages. These Catholic RCIA stages are a good model of faith development itself, so this article will fit you whether or not you're actually in the RCIA process.
Inquiry: the initial period before you decide to enter the Catholic Church. You're asking questions and checking it out, but aren't yet ready to commit.
Catechumenate: those who decide to enter the Church and are being trained for a life in Christ are called , an ancient name from the early Church. In this stage, you're developing your faith and are being "catechized" — learning catechism, or the basic points about Catholic faith and life.
Purification and preparation: The Church will help you focus and intensify your faith as you prepare you to commit your life to Christ and be received into the Church at Easter. If you're following the RCIA process, you'll go through a beautiful series of Gospel-based meditations during Lent, which is the time frame of this period.
Initiation itself, the culmination of the whole process! You're received into the Church during the Easter Vigil Mass, where you'll receive the sacraments of initiation: baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist. (If you've already been baptized, you won't be baptized again.)
Mystagogy: after reception into the Church at Easter, this period lets you reflect and learn more about the mysteries of the Mass and the Sacraments that you now participate in fully.
This combined liturgy always takes place on the First Sunday of Lent, most often at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Superior. It is an important event for those in the parish RCIA process: first, because it ritually highlights the beginning stages of their journey toward baptism and/or full initiation/communion and second, through Bishop’s presence as celebrant, this liturgy helps its participants see how they are connected beyond their local parish to the Universal Church, which is manifested by our particular Church of the Diocese of Superior.
RCIA Helpful Documents:
Parish registration forms (DOC) (PDF)
Preview of liturgical instructions contained in worship booklet